School Without Walls claims contested DCIAA softball crown

May 11, 2012

For the second straight year, School Without Walls claimed the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association softball title by avenging a regular season loss. The Penguins prevailed, 16-12, on Thursday over Wilson, which played the final six and two-thirds innings under protest.

The contest began under rainy conditions Wednesday. School Without Walls (10-2) scored eight runs in the top of the first, and the umpire suspended play with one out recorded. Wilson (13-2) requested the game be completely restarted Thursday, though that request was denied by DCPS.

According to Stephanie Evans, director of athletics for DCPS, the coach of the home team (Wilson) had the option to decline to start the game due to the inclement weather Wednesday. Evans said Wilson Coach Chuck Caspari did not object to the game starting, and once the first pitch was thrown, full authority on playing conditions shifted to the umpire.

“I don’t know what the rules are as far as starting games in the rain,” School Without Walls Coach Art Klawender said Friday. “I don’t know the physics behind throwing a ball underhand in the rain. I played baseball. I’m doing this [coaching softball] for fun. Once the game started, it was an interesting decision all the way around. But that’s not up to me.”

Before play was suspended Wednesday, 11 School Without Walls hitters had completed an at-bat. Six were walked. One was hit by a pitch. Three tallied hits, including a bases-clearing double by junior Julia Mitchell.

Klawender and Caspari spoke Wednesday night and again during the day Thursday. Evans said Wilson filed an official protest with DCPS that was denied prior to the resumption of play Thursday, when Caspari again gave notification that his team was playing the rest of the game under protest during the pre-game meeting at home plate between the umpire and the coaches.

“The guidelines state that a game will resume when it has been suspended,” Evans said. “So we followed the rules. I don’t know why they felt the need to come back and then say they were playing the game under protest. They had formally protested, and they were formally denied based on the rules.”

School Without Walls had two runners on base when play was suspended, and both scored once play resumed Thursday to give the Penguins a 10-0 lead after the top of the first. Wilson scored six runs in the final two innings and shut out School Without Walls in the final three frames, but the rally fell short.

“It was terribly disappointing,” Caspari said. “I think it was a real disservice to the players from both teams. I think it demonstrated a lack of sportsmanship in general. I can’t really speak to DCPS’s decision. They have to defend their own actions, but I can tell you it was very disappointing for the girls, who wanted to have a clean championship game.”

Penguins senior pitcher Tai Schroeder had six strikeouts in a complete-game effort.

Wilson “had a couple little rallies going,” Klawender said. “But it seemed like anytime they did that, [Schroeder] came up with a strikeout or a groundball.”

School Without Walls lost at Wilson, 11-6, in the teams’ regular season meeting on March 29. Last season, SWW defeated Anacostia, 17-14, in the DCIAA title game after having lost to the Indians, 17-13, in the regular season. In the semifinal game last year, the Penguins defeated Wilson, 11-4, after having suffered a 17-1 loss during league play.

Due to having only 12 players – many of whom either were injured or had scheduling conflicts with a SAT prep course – School Without Walls could not compete in last season’s Congressional Bank Softball Classic, which pits the DCIAA champ against one of D.C.’s top private schools.

But with 18 players available this year, the Penguins will take part in the event. School Without Walls will face Sidwell Friends, National Cathedral or Georgetown Visitation on May 19.

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