WACO, Texas (KWTX) Following a rejected appeal to keep his team's season alive, McLennan Community College head baseball coach Mitch Thompson voiced his frustrations with the NJCAA's ruling Tuesday afternoon in a press conference, saying the ruling 'was nothing short of a travesty.'
"In my 28 years involved in college coaching athletics, I have never seen anything like this," Thompson said. "To think that the players from Cisco College and MCC are not going to be able to play out this championship on the field is an absolute shame. These were clearly the two best teams in our region all year long. Both of these teams' players are talented and have been working extremely hard since August in preparation of this championship moment."
In the Region 5 tournament championship round, the Highlanders were leading 11-9 over the Cisco Wranglers in the sixth inning when Cisco's William Hollis slid safely into home plate. McLennan catcher Nick Thornquist placed another tag on the runner thinking he hadn't yet touched the plate.
Hollis appeared to say something to Thornquist, who took offense and confronted the Wranglers' sophomore outfielder. The situation appeared to escalate until the home plate umpire pushed Thornquist away from the growing pile of players.
Hollis and another Cisco player were forced back to the dugout by their teammates and coaches, who had left the dugout in an attempt to civilize the situation.
According to Article XVIII Section 2 A.1.c on page 203 of the NJCAA handbook, ejections and suspensions will be assessed if 'an act in which any bench personnel other than the head coach (or in the absence of the head coach the acting head coach) leave the bench area or designated warm-up area when a fight may break out or has broken out.'
As a result of the players and assistant coaches leaving the dugouts, the ejections handed out by the umpires effectively turned into a double-forfeit for both teams.
That meant MCC suffered its second loss of the double-elimination tournament.
Cisco was handed its first loss, but because of NJCAA rules that amount to a subsequent two-game suspension following an ejection stemming from a violent ejection, Cisco would forfeit its appearance in the Region V tournament championship game.
"During the entirety of the confrontation, there was not one extended arm push or one punch thrown by either team," Thompson said. "The play occured in a region championship game where emotions were high and the intensity of the game was strong."
The Temple Leopards, who lost to MCC and Cisco this week, will now be the Region 5 representative at the NJCAA World Series set to begin May 26 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
"I have great respect for coach (Craig McMurtry) and his team," Thompson said. "They'll go up there and give them all they want, I promise you they will. This league is like that, this league prepares you for that, and when you compete in this league and you go up to Grand Junction, you won't see anything differently than what you competed against all year long."
No MCC players were made available for comment, but all were visible in the dugout next to the location of Thompson's press conference.
As of Tuesday evening, the NJCAA official website hadn't updated the schedule and results for Cisco and McLennan. The Wranglers (52-6) headed into the championship round on a 14-game winning streak, while the Highlanders (44-15) had won 11 of their last 12 games, with the only loss coming in the Region 5 tournament opener against Midland.
In a tweet by ESPN Central Texas' David Smoak, the NJCAA Director of Marketing and Communications Ricky Webster replied to an e-mail saying, "The NJCAA has made its official ruling and stands by its statement. Our office has no further comment at this time."
Players and assistant coaches who return next season from the 2018 McLennan roster will begin serving two-game suspensions at the beginning of the 2019 season.