UPDATE: A day after Wyoming Valley West opted to forfeit the final game of its season, Pittston Area followed suit, also canceling the final regular season game of its season, as reported by The Citizens’ Voice.
“In just talking with our principal, athletic director and head coach, our team — although defending a teammate — did leave the dugout, which is a violation of PIAA rules,” Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth told the Citizens’ Voice. “I felt the umpires should have handled it better at the time. Our kids did leave the dugout and violated PIAA rules. We just decided to go ahead and forfeit the game.”
A heated rivalry in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area transformed from baseball game to brawl, leading to the forfeiture of one side’s season finale.
As reported by Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice reporter Steve Bennett, the Thursday rivalry match up between Wyoming Valley West and Pittston Area — which finished as a 4-2 victory for homestanding Pittston Area — featured full benches-clearing brawl between the two sides’ players after Valley West catcher Justin Vought tagged Pittston Area’s Tyler Jackson at the plate and Jackson took exception.
Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffutto made it clear the entire farrago was the result of the simple misinterpretation of the intent of a “hard baseball play.”
“It was a play at home and our kid slid in. He was clearly out. … (Vought) put the tag on hard and our guy went to get up and (Vought) gave him a shove. They got face-to-face and (Jackson) gave him a shove. … I didn’t think (the slide) was bad. It was just a hard baseball play.
“Tensions are high. Our guys are up. (Valley West) made four or five errors to start and they were feeling it. Our guys were letting them have it baseball-wise. Before you knew it both benches cleared. I went in the middle and started throwing our guys out and people were punching me from behind.”
Vought was tossed from the contest as soon as the skirmish was stopped, but no other players were formally disciplined for their roles in the brouhaha at the time. The game continued and Pittston Area starter Chris Merithew eventually hit a Valley West batter on his final pitch of the game. That precipitated Valley West pitcher Damian Davies throwing behind Jackson and then hitting him with a pitch near the waist. Davies was ejected and reportedly celebrated his ejection with teammates.
The totality of the ejections and unsightly events led to a dramatic decision from Valley West superintendent Irv DeRemer, who unilaterally declared his school’s season finale against Wyoming Area a forfeit. One source told Bennett on Sunday that Pittston Area would make the same decision.
“The decision was made that we would forfeit our game Monday,” DeRemer told the Citizens’ Voice. “We have high expectations for all of our athletes, and that they will compete fairly and show good sportsmanship and follow all rules in regulations in that sport.”
There was no immediate response from anyone directly connected with the Valley West baseball program, and it remains uncertain whether the 2017 team will convene again on a field, all because of a feisty play at the plate and some rivalry-baited overreaction that followed.