SPRINGILL – There is odd, weird and bizarre. Then, there’s what happened in game two of this weekend’s North Webster/Winnfield playoff series.
The Knights, the No. 2 team in Class 3A, are moving on to face South Beauregard in the 3A quarterfinals, but it took a hotly-contested rules-induced forfeit to get there.
North Webster had just allowed Winnfield a four-run seventh inning to send the game into extras facing elimination. Winnfield brought on a pitcher in the eighth inning who had exceeded the LHSAA’s allowed-innings limit the night previous by tossing 4.2 innings.
LHSAA rules state a player who throws four or more innings can not return the next day, however Winnfield was either unaware or undaunted by the regulation.
A Knights’ assistant coach, Austin Lay, noticed the violation, which carries a penalty of a game forfeit and suspension for the head coach and player in question.
With new life, the Knights returned the next day and won the decisive game three 6-2 to clinch the unlikeliest of quarterfinal appearances.
“It’s happened before,” North Webster’s first-year head coach Brian Fowler said. “People make mistakes. (Winnfield) weren’t trying to do anything harmful, I don’t think; maybe they just got caught up trying to win.”
When the rules violation was initially brought to Fowler’s attention, he didn’t believe it.
“(Lay) brought it to me as soon as they ran him out there and I didn’t want to hear it,” Fowler said. “I told him go find it, and you’d better be right.”
Lay was right, but it would take two more innings before the game was stopped and an official ruling was made by the umpires and LHSAA.
Winnfield head coach Mike Breaux and his team were visibly upset by the ruling. They came back angry in game three, only to see their hopes of redemption erased when the Knights’ Patrick Modisette drove in three runs with a bases-loaded triple to take a 4-1 lead in the third inning.
“That’s as excited as I’ve been in awhile,” Fowler said. “I almost threw my back out celebrating that one, but luckily no video has surfaced yet.”
Josh Harrison and TJ Carter, both often-overlooked in the North Webster bullpen, came through with clutch performances on the mound to power the Knights. Harrison tossed four strong and Carter finished off the final three scoreless.
“I just told the guys after the game we have new life,” Fowler said. “Not many teams get that. We have a tough team coming up here in South Beauregard, but we’re going to start prep on Monday and try to keep enjoying the moment.”