May 26, 2010

Pace wins state title, off-field battles

RELATED: Top 100 High School Baseball Teams | MLB Draft: Year of the HS Righty

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Pace (Fla.) High, No. 2 in the RivalsHigh Top 100 baseball rankings, overcame a late one-run deficit to capture the Florida Class 5A state title with a 6-5 victory over Seffner (Fla.) Armwood Tuesday night.

Pace finishes the year at 29-2 and has a shot to capture the top spot when our final rankings are released.

The biggest stories around this team, however, came off the field.

Two weeks ago, the team and school district faced a tough decision when three players were arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief. A long-standing district rule stipulated a ban on extracurricular activities for any student charged with a felony.

However, the players were spared the suspension when Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick stepped in and challenged the rule, citing that he had discretion to override the policy, thus allowing the player to remain on the field.

Wyrosdick denied that the success of the season played a role in his decision to allow second baseman and University of Michigan signee Mark Bass, backup catcher and pitcher Tyler Raggard, as well as a starting outfielder (who was not named because he was a juvenile) to remain on the team.

The decision - which came in early May - allowed for the players to take the field for its regional playoff games on May 4 and May 7.

And just this week, the team's eligibility came into question when it was discovered that it did not play 60-percent of its games against in-state competition.

Pace, like many other top-tier baseball teams, plays national games - some of which occur when other schools travel to Florida over spring break.

When Pace's last regular-season game was rained out, Pace fell under the standard at 58.3 percent.

During a teleconference, FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing excused Pace from breaking the rule, saying the weather prevented it from doing so and there was no intent to break the rules.

Of course, there still was a game to win. The Patriots nearly saw their dreams of a state title come to an end Tuesday evening.

After jumping out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning, Pace saw its lead evaporate when Armwood struck for five runs in the third.

Pace tied the game in the fifth on a RBI groundout by Kris Desposito that scored Trent Higgenbothem.

A game-winning bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth by David Casey scored the victory for the Patriots.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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