The Horace Greeley baseball team got off to a terrific start in the 2016 season. Or so they thought.
The Quakers began the new campaign at Suffern’s Pat Faherty Memorial Tournament on April 2, beating Nyack and Stepinac by a combined score of 15-0 to capture the title. Their lineup looked deep and their starting pitching was excellent, not allowing a runner to advance past second base in either game.
The breakout star was sophomore left-hander Brandon Neeck, who hurled a three-hitter with eight strikeouts in the championship game against Stepinac. He also crushed a 400-plus foot shot at the plate in that game.
Coach Anthony Marino was thrilled about his talented transfer, who returned to his home school district after spending his freshman year at Iona Prep. But when Horace Greeley athletic director Peter Kuczma picked up The Journal News on Sunday and read about Neeck’s success, it suddenly hit him.
“I did not follow-up when I was told that we had a transfer student who is playing baseball,” Kuczma said. “Anthony Marino back in mid-February told me that we had a transfer student and asked me some questions, and I told him what to do. Because of some personal reasons, I forgot. I read in the paper after they played in this tournament, and I said, ‘I made a mistake.’ I did not file the proper paperwork on time.”
Neeck, who has always been a Chappaqua resident, enrolled at Horace Greeley High last June after deciding to return. He and his family filled out all of the necessary paperwork, but the clearance form for athletic participation was not submitted until Kuczma’s realization after the Quakers played their first two games.
As a result of using a player who was technically ineligible, those first two wins are considered forfeits and will go down as losses for Greeley. There is no appeal as Kuczma is accepting fault, but both he and Marino are hoping that the state will reconsider such cases in the future.
“I’m so upset for this kid,” Marino said. “I see why the rule is written. I get it, but every situation is unique and different, therefore every ruling shouldn’t be exactly the same. We have a student here who has lived here his whole life, been in our schools since kindergarten through eighth grade, went to Iona Prep for whatever personal reason and came back to school starting in the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. This is not a recruited kid and this is not a kid who lives with a false family to play sports.”
Marino, who mentioned the addition of Neeck in the Horace Greeley baseball preview on lohud.com and was under the impression that he had been cleared, has been doing damage control since news of the forfeits shook his team. The Quakers have lost three games in a row since the Suffern tournament and were officially off to an 0-5 start heading into Monday’s game at Carmel.
Neeck has since been ruled eligible and is cleared to practice with the team. He’ll have enough practices to play in the field again on Wednesday and can return to the mound on April 19.
“Don’t count us out,” Marino said.