New development: Central Iowa defeats South Snohomish 3-2 in Pool B play-in game Tuesday to advance to Little League Softball World Series semifinals. South Snohomish plays in fifth-place game on Wednesday.
PORTLAND, Ore. — A complicated playoff scenario at the Little League Softball World Series became even more confusing Monday amid an accusation that the South Snohomish team purposefully lost its final game in pool play.
The South Snohomish president denied the accusation, explaining that some regular starters were rested during the game and the other team hit well.
But in a statement issued Monday, Little League International officials gave the accusation credence, noting that its Tournament Committee “recently received credible reports that some teams did not play with the effort and spirit appropriate for any Little League game.”
Little League officials said they were requiring a playoff game Tuesday morning between South Snohomish and Slater, Iowa — whose coach accused South Snohomish of failing to play its game against another team in earnest.
South Snohomish, representing the West Region, lost to the Southeast champion — Salisbury, North Carolina — 8-0 Monday to finish pool play with a 3-1 record and in a three-way tie for first place in Pool B. The top two teams in the pool advance to Tuesday’s semifinals based on a predetermined tiebreaker.
According to WHO-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, South Snohomish’s loss denied a semifinal berth to Slater, Iowa, the Central regional champion which also had a 3-1 record. South Snohomish beat the Iowa team 4-3 in pool play on Sunday.
If South Snohomish had scored at least three runs Monday, the tiebreaker — based on a runs-allowed-per-inning ratio — would have allowed the Iowa team (3-1) to advance to the semifinals, according to WHO.
“It was very evident when they did the starting lineups that their four best players were on the bench and they were going to be the reserves,” Central head coach Charlie Husak told WHO. “It was very evident right away what was going on. They weren’t striving to win. We saw that and (our) girls — you could see — it took about a half an inning for them to catch on. We were trying to keep it from them, but you could see when they caught on that the tears started to pile up and it was pretty emotional.”
According to the WHO report, the South Snohomish players “were bunting with two strikes, trying to get out on purpose and swinging at balls in the dirt on purpose to record outs intentionally.” South Snohomish failed to record a hit in the game.
South Snohomish Little League president Jeff Taylor denied any wrongdoing, saying South Snohomish head coach Fred Miller opted to rest some starters who had been playing in tournaments for more than three months.
“The only thing I would say is that Fred fielded a lineup playing some girls that hadn’t gotten to have much playing time,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t a game that we absolutely had to win and the Central Iowa team took exception to that because the outcome was that they got knocked out. So they called foul, because they said we didn’t play our best players. Because of that, they protested to the tournament director and felt that that was unfair.
“It came down to they hit our pitcher,” Taylor said. “We made a lot of good plays. We didn’t go up there trying to strike out, like they’re trying to imply. We made a lineup that rested some of our players that had been playing for three months. To try to downplay the accomplishments of these girls is unfair.”
Miller did not return several phone calls Monday night. Taylor said the West coach was protesting Little League’s decision to institute a play-in game.
“At this point we’re trying to get across the point that we didn’t break any rules,” Taylor said. “Coach (Miller) has the right to put up any lineup that he feels has the chance to benefit our girls the most. He did the lineup that he felt did that.
“It was to give starters some rest. That’s purely the situation there. It wasn’t about trying to knock Central Iowa out,” Taylor said. “… So they opted to set up a play-in game for us to play Central Iowa again. The team we beat (Monday) night. … And that’s why it’s under protest.”