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TAZEWELL –– Carroll County was well on its way toward gaining ground in the tight Southwest District baseball race Tuesday night when an ugly incident forced the suspension of its game with Tazewell at Lou Peery Field.
The Cavaliers were leading 3-0 in the top of the third inning when a play at the plate resulted in some shoving and pushing, a tackle or two and both benches clearing, resulting in a large scuffle between the plate and the backstop.
With runners on second and third, the Cavaliers’ Isaac Sumner laced a fly ball over the Tazewell rightfielder’s head. Brandon Lineberry, trying to score from second, collided with Tazewell catcher Gavin Yates, who was in the base path several feet up the third base line.
A video of the incident, taken by a photographer from NBC affiliate WVVA of Bluefield, W.Va., shows Lineberry, still on the ground, trying to reach for the plate when Yates began kicking Lineberry’s outstretched arm away from the plate.
The video then shows Carroll’s Aaron Hooven, the on-deck batter, shoving Yates to the ground from behind, after which Hooven was tackled by Tazewell first baseman Ryan Hankins. From there, several players from both teams are shown shoving, pulling and wrestling one another before the video ends. The report said that both umpires left the field and would not allow play to resume.
Carroll County coach Joe Tompkins said he had been instructed that he could not comment about the incident. CCHS principal Dr. Scott Watson said that as of late Wednesday afternoon the school was still in contact with the VHSL.
Watson said that CCHS was dealt a $300 fine and that he felt that the players directly involved would receive a two-game suspension. Watson said he shared with the VHSL the results of interviewing coaches and witnesses to the melee.
“[The VHSL] gave us their interpretation of what happened and now [the VHSL] is asking for a statement of what we intend to do, what the consequences will be from our perspective,” Watson said. “Then that will go to the VHSL and they will either concur with us or disagree.”
Other than the fine, there has been no confirmation of penalties for Carroll County, but multiple sources close to the team indicated that Carroll’s entire team would serve a one-game suspension, and that as many as five Cavaliers would then serve an additional one-game suspension. That is in line with what Tazewell County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Brenda Lawson told WVVA.
According to WVVA’s Web site, Lawson said that Tazewell’s team was handed a one-game suspension and that two individuals would be suspended for a second game. She also said that the school was fined $300.
Said Watson of Carroll’s team: “I feel that if the entire team was responsible and involved, then they would be disciplined accordingly, but from my understanding that is not the case in this situation and I will be appealing the concept of a full-team disciplinary action…There were some very isolated individual cases that were involved. It was not a full-team deal. It was said to be a bench-clearing brawl, and that is not true.”
Watson said he felt that for the most part the Carroll players remained within their dugout area and that the coaches did an excellent job of keeping them where they needed to be.
The tone for the third inning may have been set in the top of the first with another controversial play at the plate, also filmed by the WVVA photographer. With Carroll leading 1-0 and Taylor Case on third, Cavalier batter Ryan Gravley attempted a suicide squeeze bunt. The video shows Yates, the Tazewell catcher, moving up behind the plate and catching the pitch just below Gravley’s bat. Gravley, moving toward first base during the bunting motion, tumbled over Yates. Both Gravley and Case were called out for interference on the play, which resulted in a lengthy delay as both coaches argued their cases.
Carroll County was scheduled to play Abingdon at home today (Friday) while Tazewell was slated to travel to Marion. As of press time there had been no word whether either team would forfeit their respective games or if JV players would be used.