The Queen Creek High School baseball team is once again eligible for the postseason this year after the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) lifted the probation it had placed on the program in mid-August. The probation, which prevented the team from competing in the postseason, was replaced with a temporary warning after Queen Creek appealed the decision.
"A warning places a program or school in jeopardy of facing probation if another violation of any rule or regulation is committed," the AIA stated on its website. In addition, Queen Creek High School will not be eligible for the AIA’s year-end Overall Excellence Award this year.
The probation, which was handed down by the AIA on Aug. 15, was because of a pitch count violation the team had made in last year’s postseason. An investigation by the AIA determined that head coach Mikel Moreno did not use an approved device to count pitches in the team’s matchup against Chaparral, which resulted in Queen Creek’s starting pitcher recording under 60 pitches, while Chaparral’s starter recorded over 60.
Queen Creek’s starting pitcher against Chaparral then came in as a reliever against Hamilton, but the AIA ruled that he should’ve had a required rest day.
When pitchers pitch over 60 times in a game, the AIA mandates two rest days, but since the Queen Creek coach used an unapproved pitch counter that recorded under 60 pitches, the pitcher came in against Hamilton.
“It’s a difficult decision because adults make decisions that affect kids,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said after the team was placed on probation. “And in our system, as in all 50 associations across the country, when decisions are made on probation they affect kids.”
Although Queen Creek won the game, which would’ve eliminated Hamilton, they had to forfeit the game the next day. Hamilton would go on to win the state tournament.
Quickly after being placed on probation, Queen Creek High School appealed the decision, offering a plan on how they’ll avoid mistakes like this in the future.
They presented an appeal that, “(1) addresses previous bylaw violations, (2) provides action steps that eliminate future violations from taking place and (3) gives (their) baseball student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” QCHS Athletic Director Chris Driving Hawk said in an email after the probation was handed out.
There have been instances in the past where a team was not placed on probation the season after a rule violation because they had already been punished the previous season with a forfeit, a point QCHS likely mentioned.
After considering the appeal, the AIA Executive Board rescinded the probation on Aug. 30, placing the school on temporary warning. The decision came after Moreno agreed to step aside for a year.
While the team won’t have its head coach, it’s now eligible for the postseason.
"I honestly believed that was what it was going to take," Moreno told the Arizona Republic. "I was going to make sure we did everything we could to give our boys a chance to compete in the playoffs."
The team did not initially enter last season’s playoffs as favorites but after stringing together some wins and knocking off Hamilton in the eventually forfeited game, it looked as though they might be the team to beat. Now they’ll have a chance to make another playoff run and reverse the disappointment of last season’s end.
“QCHS and the Queen Creek Unified School District are pleased with this outcome and are committed to providing an exciting and enjoyable baseball season for our players and our community,” Driving Hawk said.