November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Little League softball: Elyria-Avon 14U district final postponed

Is it because of a mandatory volleyball camp for Avon players or a school-sponsored “mission trip” of unspecified origin and purpose as the rumor mill first suggested?

Or is it because of a conflicting fastpitch softball tournament for travel ball players from Avon or any or all of the above?

First of all, we’re really not talking volleyball here. For what it’s worth, it’s a girls soccer camp at Edinboro University in western Pennsylvania, but more on that in a minute.

For whichever reason, Monday’s scheduled 14U district final between the Elyria and Avon Little League Junior All-Stars has been put off until next Monday. Game time is 6 p.m. at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park, home of Elyria East Little League.

If the unbeaten Elyria girls win, they’ll advance to the multistate Midwest Regional tourney starting Aug. 4 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

Junior League District 3 (Elyria-Avon-Akron area) is regional host. As such, its district champion earns an automatic regional berth and bypasses the state tournament.

District and higher-level tourneys are played according to a double-elimination format. On that basis, an Avon victory would require a 6 p.m. July 29 rematch on the Avon High School varsity diamond. Avon’s loss was to LaGrange on July 12.

The decision to postpone Monday’s showdown was made over the weekend to the great relief of those associated with the Avon team and the equally great chagrin of some connected with the Elyria program.

Jim Boesger, general manager of Avon Little League’s softball division, said its team had been “jerked around” by and subjected to “the shenanigans” of District 3 officials’ indecision and schedule changes long enough.

The postponement, both sides agreed, was approved by District 3 commissioner Charles (Charlie) Umbaugh, who lives in the Tallmadge area.

Boesger said that, for one thing, Avon spent more than $200 for food to treat the Avon and Barberton players, coaches and fans following their scheduled tournament game in Avon earlier this month. But Avon officials learned too late, he said, that Barberton had withdrawn from the tournament.

He added that later, when the Avon players, coaches and team followers traveled to Cuyahoga Falls for a district game, they didn’t learn until minutes before they arrived that the Falls team had likewise withdrawn, resulting in more wasted time and money.

Boesger also confirmed that several Avon players have been scheduled to appear in a travel ball tournament this week and the families of others had paid significant fees to take part in the Edinboro soccer camp.

“The travel ball tournament and soccer camp are not mandatory,” he said, “but people have spent a lot of money for their kids to take part.”

Several followers of the Elyria team posted messages on social media Monday dismissing the reasons for postponing Monday’s game, saying in effect that arguments in favor of postponement were disingenuous and that the game should have been played.

And some said that postponement for the reasons advanced by the Avon program are without precedent in the 40 years of Little League softball.

Elyria manager Len Howser said he learned of the postponement Saturday. He said he was “a little disappointed” because he had hoped the Elyria girls could maintain uninterrupted momentum going into the district finals.

“Now we’ll have to find the perfect balance between playing sharp and not overdoing it,” Howser said. “Right now, I’m planning what should be our practice days and rest days between now and next Monday.”

Candace Ellis, who heads Elyria’s Little League softball program, said there is justification for the postponement.

“The brackets have been changed numerous times and dates have been switched so that no team would have to forfeit,” she wrote in an email. “Since this district is the host team for Akron (regional), they do not play in state tournament and there is more time to finish this bracket.”

Her predecessor, Chris Sito, who remains active in the East Little League softball program at several levels, said: “Every league president and manager that chose to be in the district tournament received a bracket that is the same online today that (in June) had the game being played (Monday).

“My point is the bracket they were given in June and is online today is the same as it always has been.”

Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or softball@bobdaniels.info.

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