The Zachary High School baseball team will be allowed to participate in the 2012 baseball playoffs, an LHSAA committee decided Friday by a narrow 7-6 vote.
The Friday decision reverses a previous decision by the LHSAA Executive Committee. President Brent Vidrine reconvened the 15-member committee Friday via conference call. There were two abstentions.
During the conference call, a second motion was made to prevent the school’s head baseball coach, Jesse Cassard, from attending the next five games — including any games in the 2012 playoffs.
The conference call was arranged by LHSAA president Brent Vidrine of Neville. A request by a committee member to review the ruling caused the telephone appeal to take place.
The penalty was reduced to disciplinary probation for the 2011-12 school year.
The committee’s decision to reduce the penalty against Zachary came minutes before a petition for an injunction was filed Friday that asked a judge to block the LHSAA from banning the team from the state playoffs.
An attorney for seven seniors on Zachary High’s baseball team had filed a petition late Friday in Baton Rouge state court asking a judge to issue an order blocking the LHSAA’s postseason ban.
The petition — filed just minutes before the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office closed for the weekend — sought a temporary restraining order against the LHSAA and a court hearing to make the order permanent.
Earlier Friday, parents and fans showed their support for the team by picketing the LHSAA’s office about 48 hours before the Class 5A baseball playoff pairings were set to be announced.
The Broncos (26-7, 10-0), who won the District 4-5A title, had been banned from the playoffs because of a March 17 altercation at a Monroe-based tournament. An LHSAA sportsmanship committee banned Zachary and the other team involved, Class 4A Teurlings Catholic, during a March hearing. In its written ruling, the committee found Zachary to be the instigator, though both teams were banned from the playoffs.
Both schools appealed the sanctions last month, and the LHSAA’s executive committee reinstated Teurlings for the playoffs, but elected to uphold the decision to ban Zachary.
The court petition filed Friday identified the senior players as Joseph Aaron Pierce, William Jameson Fisher, Gabriel Gareth Ian Von Rosenberg, John Ross Martin, Clint G. Anders, Tanner S. Hebert and Brant Hernandez.
Baton Rouge lawyer Thomas M. Lockwood represented the student athletes.
The petition contends the LHSAA penalty was “arbitrary, capricious and fundamentally unfair.’’
At the time of the appeal, Zachary Community Schools officials announced they would take no additional action. But parents and fans got involved, launching a Twitter campaign via WBRZ-TV.
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson was not at the office when the Zachary contingent arrived. Henderson and much of the LHSAA staff are in Sulphur this weekend for the LHSAA’s State Softball Tournament.
“What they’re doing to this team and this community is such an injustice,” Zachary parent Randall Von Rosenberg said earlier Friday. “What they’re doing is such an abuse of power on so many levels. You’ve got principals on that committee who are jealous of Zachary because it’s the best school district in the state, and we’re the No. 1 team (in the 5A baseball power ratings).
“Use some common sense … it the was bottom half of the first inning when (the fight) happened and we were in the field. Teurlings stormed the field, and we defended ourselves. If that hadn’t happened there wouldn’t have been a hearing. There’s been a lot of talk about trash-talking and such. They don’t have sportsmanship hearings for that, and it happens at every game.
“That shouldn’t be part of the issue here. I wish someone … like Governor (Bobby) Jindal … would intervene on our behalf.”
Von Rosenberg’s youngest son, Gabe, is a senior on the team. His older son, Zack, led Zachary to a string of three straight Class 4A state titles from 2007-09.
Before the ruling to put the team back in the playoffs, Henderson said Zachary had no additional appeal options unless new evidence could be presented to the LHSAA executive committee.
Zachary Principal Wes Watts said he spoke with Henderson on Friday, asking about any possible avenue for a late appeal.
“I felt like I had to ask the question to see if there was another option for an appeal,” Watts said. “I’m going to continue to try and find something we could use for an appeal.
“It’s a tough situation because I feel for our seniors. We have some very passionate parents, and I understand their point of view. What they don’t understand is that the LHSAA doesn’t operate like a court of law. The committee makes the best decisions they can based on the information that’s presented to them.”
Advocate staff writer Joe Gyan Jr. contributed to this report.