Merced Volunteers win tournament appeal, get shot at championship

The Merced Volunteers are headed back to Yountville.

The Vols won their appeal and had their 10-9 victory over San Mateo on Monday -- a win they were originally forced to forfeit -- overturned by the American Legion's national appeal board on Thursday.

Merced now will face the Chico Nuts for the state championship today at 11 a.m.

The Vols (18-11) will have to beat the Nuts twice to win the tournament and advance to next week's Western Regional Tournament in Fairfield.

"I'm happy for players like Garret Boothe, Matt Farias and Nick Mello, because they get to finish what they started," coach Rollo Adams said. "I'm glad they got it right."

The Vols held a short practice on Thursday afternoon and will leave early this morning for Yountville.

"We got a second chance," outfielder Andrew Jaurique said. "Not many teams get another shot. Now that we have a new life we have to make the most of it."

The Vols originally were forced to forfeit the victory over San Mateo because they used an illegal bat.

The San Mateo coaching staff protested the use of a bat by Merced's Daniel McDonnell during the seventh inning.

After a 20-minute deliberation, which involved both coaching staffs, the umpires and tournament officials, the bat was taken out of play and McDonnell continued his at-bat.

He promptly singled in a run with a new bat and the Vols went on to win.

San Mateo protested the game and the tournament directors ruled Merced had to forfeit the game even though all the bats used were inspected and approved by the umpires before the game.

The bat in question was a 2009 Triton Louisville Slugger, a three-piece composite bat. According to American Legion rules, no composite bats were allowed and only one-piece bats can be used.

The Volunteers had another bat taken out of play during their game earlier Monday against Chino. In that incident, the batter was allowed to use another bat and the game played on without protest.

All the controversy has led to an interesting couple days for the Vols, especially for McDonnell, who had the bat in is hand when all the hubbub started.

"I've been reading all the stories about in on the Internet and seeing all the stuff people have had to say," McDonnell said. "It's been kind of hard to get past it. I did feel kind of bad because I was the one using the bat. I'm glad we get a second chance."

Some have taken shots at the Vols, claiming they were purposely using illegal bats in the tournament.

"We didn't go to Yountville to cheat," Adams said. "I've told my teams over the years that we're going to play the game the right way."

Chico, which defeated San Mateo 11-4 on Tuesday in what the Nuts believed was the championship game, understandably is upset. The Nuts feel they won the title. Chico coach Tom Stevens wouldn't comment when reached by phone.

In an odd way the incident has increased the interest in the Vols here in Merced.

"My mom has been on Facebook," Jaurique said. "There are a lot more people pulling for us now. We've got a lot bigger following than we did before.

"Now we've got a lot of people to play for."