UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - On a rain-plagued day that offered multiple ways for the New York State American Legion Tournament to end at Murnane Field, the worst-case scenario came true as the semifinal and championship games were canceled and Melvin Roads was declared the champion over Smith by a narrow statistical tiebreaker.
Because three teams remained on the final day--Smith, Melvin Roads and Jurek--the first tiebreaker used was the lowest average number of runs allowed per inning played in the tournament. Melvin Roads edged out Smith by decimal points (14 runs in 35 innings for a .400 average to 16 runs in 36 innings for .444) even though Smith had beaten Melvin Roads head-to-head the night before. Had Smith won the semifinal against Jurek and only the championship had been canceled, Smith would have been declared the champion based on the head-to-head result, which is the first tiebreaker when only two teams remain.
The decision brings a disappointing end to the season for Smith, which had won three elimination games this week to make it to Sunday after losing its tournament opener. Smith finishes as state runner-up for the third straight year.
"I feel so bad for [the kids]," said Smith head coach Tony Abone, Jr. of the result. "I would have rather lost by 10 runs than have it end this way. And the final-year players in here didn't get a chance to finish what they started; that's what I feel bad about.
The state committee wanted to declare a champion by midnight in order to give the winning team time to prepare for the regional tournament beginning this week in West Virginia. And despite a great forecast for Monday and the precedent of having a Sunday tournament finale moved to a Monday before due to rain, the state committee stuck to its Sunday-or-else plan.
"There's no reason it has to end this way. It could have been played [Monday]," said Abone. "Honestly, there's not good leadership at the top [of the state committee].
"It's not about what team wins, it's [that] the kids get hurt. They're here to play, they give it their all, all the teams out here have given it their all all week long, and to have it end like this is just a shame."