Philly controversy puts Mudcats in regional|[7/12/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Vicksburg-based Mississippi Mudcats will live to fight another day at another tournament.

In a bizarre change of events, the 11-year-olds’ Cal Ripken Tournament team, was awarded second place in the nine-team state tournament after Philadelphia pulled itself out of going to the Ripken Southwest Regional set for July 26-31 in Denham Springs, La.

Tournament director and Mudcats Coach Marshall Upton said Philadelphia had some issues with both player eligibility and a refusal to participate in the Southwest Regional.

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&#8220Philadelphia did not fulfill the tournament’s requirements,” Upton said. &#8220Vicksburg is now the second-place winner and will go to the regionals.

&#8220The Philadelphia team did not meet the requirements that were needed to go to the next step. At our coaches meeting on Thursday, it was understood by all, that you have to have certain things, which include a letter of eligibility. We understood the requirements. It’s a case of you can’t make a guy do the right thing.”

Teams are required to bring to the state tournament, a photo ID of each player, an original birth certificate and a signed eligibility from its district commissioner. Teams also are required to be able to fulfill its commitment if they win the right to advance to the Southwest Regional.

Teams must accept its assignment to play in a regional. For the first time, Mississippi is allowed to send two teams to the regional. In the past, only the state champion advanced.

&#8220The Ripken by-laws are firm in that area,” said District 3 commissioner Stan Lee of Jackson, who helped oversee the tournament while Upton was coaching the Mudcats. &#8220This is the second team from Philadelphia that we’ve had a problem with. An issue arose with their 8-year-old team in the sectional tournament here.

&#8220This isn’t good and that league could lose its charter with Cal Ripken Baseball.”

Philadelphia lost in Monday’s championship to Orange Grove, a team from the Gulf Coast, and Philadelphia coaches were unavailable for comment.

Philadelphia and the Mudcats met twice in the tournament. The Mudcats won the first game 16-9. On Monday, Philadelphia beat the Mudcats 8-7, scoring the winning run on a passed ball in the bottom of the sixth. The win eliminated the Mudcats and moved Philly into the finals.

While the 10-year-olds’ final between Meridian and East Central was being played, Upton met with the Mudcat parents informing them of the trip to Denham Springs, a Baton Rouge suburb.

The Vicksburg Venom, an 8-year-olds’ all-star team, advanced to the Southwest Regional with a second-place finish in the state tournament. Their regional will be in Van Buren, Ark.