PORTLAND, Ore. — A South Snohomish softball team in the thick of a major league-sized scandal has been eliminated from the Little League Softball World Series after losing a mandated one-game playoff.
South Snohomish lost a rematch Tuesday against Central Iowa, 3-2, ESPN reports. The single-game playoff followed regular pool play -- where South Snohomish went undefeated -- and was required after Central Iowa levied accusations of game-throwing against the local team.
On Monday, the previously unbeaten team of girls from South Snohomish lost 8-0 in pool play to a team from North Carolina at the world series tournament in Portland. In complicated play rules, the loss in the final game of pool play bumped the tough Central Iowa squad from the tournament, while still allowing Snohomish to move on.
But early into South Snohomish’s loss Monday, officials from other teams suspected something was up.
According to the Des Moines Register, the South Snohomish team didn’t only lose to North Carolina, they lost badly. The previously hard-to beat team didn’t get a hit, and they allegedly hardly tried to swing. When they did swing, they allegedly tried to bunt on two strikes or swung at balls in the dirt.
The Snohomish team’s four best players were also benched during the game, the Des Moines Register reported.
For a Central Iowa team that needed Snohomish to win in order to move on, the loss looked suspicious. It seemed the Snohomish team was losing on purpose in order to not have to face the Central Iowa team — widely considered to be one of the tournament’s favorites — later on.
“It’s clear to everyone that they basically threw the game,” Chris Chadd, the president of the Central Iowa Little League, told the Register.
Heartbroken girls on the Central Iowa team quickly realized what was going on while they watched the Snohomish v. North Carolina game, WHOTV.com reports.
“It took about a half inning for the girls to catch on,” Central Iowa Coach Charlie Husak told WHOTV.com. “We were trying to keep it from them, but you could see when they caught on that the tears started to pile up. It was pretty emotional.”
South Snohomish Little League president Jeff Taylor denies any wrongdoing, the Everett Herald reports.
The Central Iowa team filed a protest with the league. A ruling in their favor was issued, and Iowa played Snohomish in a one-game playoff. Holly Rowe of ESPN called Tuesday's game "the most dramatic game I've ever witnessed here."
When Snohomish lost, Rowe said, the players were very gracious, and stood in line to shake the hands of the Central Iowa players. Rowe said it was a tough exit for a Snohomish team that played well throughout the tournament.
Parents from Snohomish allegedly said their decision was not to purposefully lose Monday, and it was just a strategic play.
The South Snohomish Little League released the following statement Tuesday:
The South Snohomish Little League would first like to thank our community and our families that have continued to provide support and encouragement to our young softball girls. They have been through a gauntlet the last 24 hours and have had a very difficult and emotional time.
First and foremost, we want to restate that our league upholds the standards set forth in the Little League pledge, and we expect our teams, coaches and board members to do so as well.
For all the volunteers at the South Snohomish Little League, the most troubling aspect of yesterday’s event is that it diminished the accomplishments of our fantastic softball team.
Our coach was faced with a decision that, in the bubble of intense competition, appeared to him to be in the best interest of our team. In hindsight, it is very likely he would have made a different choice. Though the decision that Coach Miller made did not violate the letter of the rules, I can see abundant evidence that it was not in line with the spirit of the game.
Once we have an opportunity to examine what transpired, we will be able to learn from these events in Portland. We will make sure that we are doing all that we can to provide our players with the opportunity to compete in a way that honors their commitment to fair play and open competition.
Finally, we hope that everyone remembers that the decisions that have placed our team under scrutiny were decisions made by the coach. Our young ladies had no role in that. In fact, they have fought their hearts out to be in the World Series and nothing should take away from that accomplishment.