Wright City is turning to the court system in hopes of keeping its baseball season alive.
The school was granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday in an attempt to get back in the Class A state tournament one day after being forced to forfeit, possibly putting the tournament on hold.
Court documents show that McCurtain County judge Michael DeBerry signed the temporary restraining order and the hearing is scheduled for May 13, but the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association plans to dispute the ruling.
“We were not notified of the hearing,” OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley said. “We’re going to contact the judge first thing in the morning and try to dispute some of what Wright City is alleging.
“If nothing else, we’re going to try to change the date to get the hearing moved up.”
Sheakley said the games will not begin Thursday at Dolese Park if the injunction is not lifted. The tournament, though, will begin as planned — and without Wright City — if it is lifted.
“We wouldn’t play just part of the tournament,” he said. “We wouldn’t just play three games.”
The Lumberjax were forced to forfeit their quarterfinal game scheduled for Thursday against Sterling by the OSSAA after it was discovered they exceeded the limit of regular-season games by playing two games between playoff rounds during the past week.
Wright City coach Kyle Butler has admitted to making the mistake but is hoping he will be suspended and the team allowed to play.
“I’m not trying to cheat the system,” he said. “It was an honest mistake, and that’s why I hurt for my kids because it’s about them. If they would just punish me and take me out of the state tournament, maybe suspend me for games for the future, that’s fine.”
The OSSAA has another injunction hearing Thursday morning at 11 in Anadarko involving a Hinton track athlete who was disqualified.
Wright City has pointed to two separate instances last season in which Guthrie and Sand Springs were both forced to forfeit games and their coach was suspended for the postseason and five games of the next season.
However, they did not play extra games like Wright City did, Sheakley said.
“They forfeited games,” he said. “The playing field was not violated because they still only played 22 games. In this situation, the extra games were played.
They’re not comparing apples to apples there.”
Sheakley said the better comparison is when the OSSAA forced Edmond North, Stillwater, Claremore and Inola to forfeit softball games last fall during the playoffs after it was discovered they exceeded the 22-game limit. Edmond North coach Rick Nordyke was suspended for the remainder of the postseason and the first five games of next season.
But Butler doesn’t view the error as changing the playing field.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Each team in the state tournament has not played the equal amount of games. You can get on OKRankings and check their records; we haven’t all played the same amount of games, whether it’s due to rainouts and different things like that.
“A couple of five-inning scrimmages is definitely not going to put us in the driver’s seat at the state tournament.”
It may not allow them to be in the tournament, either.
And that could dramatically change the landscape, giving Sterling a bye and essentially allowing it to use its top pitcher in the semifinals instead of the quarterfinals.
“(My players) don’t care,” Sterling coach John Morgan said. “They don’t really want the bye. They don’t want the forfeit. They want to go beat somebody. Anybody that is really competitive would want that, but it seems like it’s out of everybody’s hands right now.”
Even if the temporary restraining order is lifted, the Lumberjax will be at the state tournament, just as spectators. The team spent Wednesday night in a Yukon hotel preparing as if the game would be played Thursday.
“We’re a part of the state tournament,” Butler said. “Whether we’re officially eliminated or not, our name’s on the bracket and we feel like we’re deserving to be a part of it.
“That’s our goal, whether they allow us to play or not, we’re going to go and be a part of it and represent Wright City.”