Johns Creek’s baseball team won an appeal Monday before the GHSA’s board of trustees to overturn a Game 2 state-playoff loss to Lee County last week.
In a rare move by any state high school association, the GHSA trustees voted 5-2 to overrule a judgment call and change the outcome of a game.
Instead of being swept 2-0 in the Class AAAAAA semifinal series, Johns Creek now will play Lee County in a deciding Game 3 at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Leesburg with the series tied 1-1.
The winner will advance to the championship series, which will begin Friday in Rome.
GHSA board of trustees president Glenn White, citing 20 years of experience on the GHSA's executive committee, called it the hardest decision on a GHSA matter that he had ever made.
“Normally I would support our baseball officials, and I’ve done that for years, but in this situation after listening to both Johns Creek and Lee County and their administrators and coaches, and then the summary from the GHSA office, it swayed me to believe that the wrong call was made and that it was not in the best interest of students to support that call,'' White said. ''The bottom line is what’s right and what’s wrong, and I thought it was right for Johns Creek to go back to Lee County and play a third game.’’
Lee County won the opening game of the best-of-three series 7-5, and Game 2 was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh and final regulation inning. Both games were played Wednesday.
Johns Creek received a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. Lee County coach Brandon Brock contended to umpires that Johns Creek’s runner on second base never touched third base to complete the play. Umpires agreed and disallowed the run, and the score remained 3-3.
Lee County scored two runs in the top of the eighth and won.
National federation rules require that base-runners touch all bases that are awarded, including third and not just home and first. Video produced by fans seemed to indicate that the runner did touch third base. However, following national federation rules, the GHSA does not consider video when considering appeals. The trustees did not view video evidence, nor did those who ruled before them.
On Thursday, GHSA executive director Gary Phillips stated that the game must stand. Lee County was granted an appeal of Phillips’ decision by GHSA counsel Alan Connell. That appeal was heard Friday morning at the GHSA’s offices in Thomaston. That panel voted 3-1 against Johns Creek.
Johns Creek appealed again to the board of trustees, the final arbitrator.
White acknowledged that overturning a judgment call sets an uneasy precedent. It's not unusual for the GHSA to alter results based on the failure of officials to apply rules correctly. But in this case, the board of trustees effectively changed the outcome of a game based on the belief that umpires misjudged whether the runner touched third.
‘’It’s just not practical to review every missed call and every kid that was (called) safe but was actually out,’’ White said. ‘’We have set a precedent, so we need to get ready because there will probably be other people coming to see us.’’
But White argued that the Johns Creek-Lee County situation was highly unusual because consequences of the call, if wrong, were clear-cut – Johns Creek wins the game if the runner is ruled to have reached third. That would have been the final play of a 4-3 Johns Creek victory.
"If it’s the second inning of a baseball game or second quarter of a football game, you’ve got plenty of time to overcome a bad call,’’ White said. ‘’This situation is a different. It’s a semifinal state playoff game in baseball, and it’s the end of the game. I just see that differently. That had lot to do with swaying my opinion."
The AAAAAA final was scheduled to begin Wednesday, but was moved back two days to accommodate the newly added third and deciding game. Pope of Marietta will meet the Johns Creek/Lee County winner.
Here is the schedule for the baseball state finals:
Team on the right is home.
Game 1 – 5 p.m. (Etowah vs. Woodstock)
Game 2 – 8 p.m. (Woodstock vs. Etowah)
Class A Public
Game 1 – 11 a.m. (Schley County vs. Gordon Lee)
Game 2 – 2 p.m. (Gordon Lee vs. Schley County)
Game 1 – 5 p.m. (Blessed Trinity vs. Marist)
Game 2 – 8 p.m. (Marist vs. Blessed Trinity)
Game 1 – 11 a.m. (Pierce County vs. North Hall)
Game 2 – 2 p.m. (North Hall vs. Pierce County)
Game 1 – 5 p.m. (Wayne County vs. Loganville)
Game 2 – 8 p.m. (Loganville vs. Wayne County)
Game 1 – 11 a.m. (Pope vs. Lee County/Johns Creek winner)
Game 2 – 2 p.m. (Johns Creek/Lee County vs. Pope)
Game 1 – 10 a.m. (Jeff Davis vs. Elbert County)
Game 2 – ` p.m. (Elbert County vs. Jeff Davis)
Class A Private
Game 1 – 4 p.m. (Savannah Christian vs. Tattnall Square)
Game 2 – 7 p.m. (Tattnall Square vs. Savannah Christian)
All "if-necessary’’ games, schedule to be determined