Posted: 9:27 pm Monday, May 18th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
The Florida High School Athletic Association is still reviewing Friday’s dugout-emptying fight between Trinity Christian and Brito Miami Private. Five players from each team were ejected, and the Warriors could be without their five for this week’s Class 1A state semifinal and final at Tradition Field.
One new development in this story is that the actions of two Trinity Christian players have been distinguished from the other three.
The FHSAA has a standard two-game suspension for ejections, which would include Wednesday’s state semifinal against Tampa-Cambridge and allow those five players to suit up for Thursday’s championship game if upheld. That penalty can be shortened or lengthened after review.
Athletic director Fred Erdman said he is appealing for immediate reinstatement of Jacob Johnson, Brandon Murray and Adaric Kelly, because they did not leave their positions or the dugout during the incident.
“I’m being optimistic that the three will be reinstated,” Erdman said.
Trinity Christian originally sough the same reduction for Jonathan Groezinger and Richard Bain, but has dropped that request. Erdman said Groezinger ran from the dugout and Bain charged in from center field, so the school is not asking for a reduction in their punishment.
Bain, a senior who may have played his last game for Trinity Christian, watched most of Monday’s practice from the side.
“Trying to be a leader and back up my teammates got me in trouble because I didn’t think,” he said.
“I didn’t have a choice. I’m a leader on this team and I’m not going to sit there and watch another team take advantage of a freshman.
“I see both benches clear out and punches being thrown at my teammates. What do you want me to do, sit there and watch them get beat down? I did what anyone would do. It was the right thing to do.”
Warriors coach Miguel Cuello was upset because he had warned his team about being baited into a fight, but defended his players’ reaction.
“I can’t tell them it’s wrong,” Cuello said. “If I’m playing … I’m going to go after this guy.”
Murray admitted some Warriors “may have overreacted.” Johnson, who missed Monday’s practice due to illness, said Saturday that Trinity Christian’s response was “necessary.”
In the third inning of Friday’s Game 2, players from both sides confronted each other in the infield after a physical play at home.
Kelly, Trinity Christian’s shortstop. fired the ball home hoping to throw out Brito’s Daniel Bolanos, who is roughly 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Warriors catcher Phildrick Llewellyn, a freshman who checks in at 5-7, 145, caught the ball and tagged out Bolanos, but Bolanos knocked him backward. Brito assistant coach Lazaro Fundora acknowledged Bolanos dealt a hard blow with his body and his elbow, but did not believe Bolanos intended to injure Llewellyn.
Fundora also took exception with Cuello’s comments in the Post and the Miami Herald implying that Brito was intent on luring his players into a brawl.
“I’m very disappointed in the quote their coach had,” said Fundora, who also is Brito’s athletic director. “He said since they got here, our kids were looking to pick a fight. These are high school kids. All they want to do is play baseball. They want to get to the state tournament. For someone to say that about another program is uncalled for. That’s ridiculous and that’s wrong.”
After Friday night’s loss, Cuello said, “We knew that was what they were looking for.”
Johnson, a Wake Forest signee and the team’s ace, would start Wednesday if eligible. If not, Cuello will go with Vince Kossak (5-0). Groezinger (8-0) could be available to start Thursday if the Warriors win and the FHSAA deems his two-game ban sufficient.
“If I find out Tuesday night, I’ll be fine, but I would like to know now so I can get ready,” Kossak said.
“We’re a team no matter what, whether five of our big guys are playing or sitting. We’re going to be together and we’re going to win with them or without them.
“If we find out they can come, it’ll be uplifting. But even if we know they can’t come, what we did on Saturday and Friday night, we’re still going to be confident we can go.”
If Johnson and Groezinger are out for the week, Cuello would start Nick Bougopoulos in a potential title game. Bougopoulos, a sophomore, logged just 13 innings this season prior Saturday’s win over Brito.
As for the rest of his lineup, Cuello said it will look like Saturday’s, which means two eighth-graders should start for the Warriors and Cuello will have only two reserves on his bench.
“I’m going to St. Lucie with the 12 guys that got me to state, and the other five guys will be in the dugout cheering,” he said.
FHSAA associate executive director Denarvise Thornton sent Trinity Christian a letter Monday saying the entire 17-player roster is “suspended indefinitely,” but that is highly unlikely. Once Trinity Christian files the requested paperwork, the penalty phase should focus solely on the five ejected players. There is no known video of the incident at this time.
Erdman said he hopes to get a ruling before the team boards its bus for Port St. Lucie, which is scheduled to depart at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.