You can't help but feel bad for the Merced Volunteers.
The players didn't deserve to be sent home.
Not for this. Not after what they did on the field.
But when you have a coach looking to win at all costs and a bunch of grumpy old men, this is what happens.
The Vols spent all Monday crushing baseballs. They scored 25 runs and pounded out 33 hits to win the two games they had to win to stay alive.
They came back from big deficits to beat Chino and San Mateo to earn a shot at the state title.
They did all that only to have their hopes crushed by adults who should have stayed out of the way.
San Mateo protested that a Merced player used an illegal bat in the game. A bat that had no say in the outcome of the game.
The American Legion tournament directors met after the game and ruled in favor of San Mateo. Merced was forced to forfeit its win and sent home.
The message: Life is unfair.
San Mateo was suddenly in the championship game.
Not quite sure what message the San Mateo coaching staff was trying to send to their players.
Who wants to win that way?
Apparently, San Mateo.
"They're sissies, they're a bunch of whiners. You can print that in bold letters," said Volunteers coach Rollo Adams. "They can't beat us on the field so this is what they do."
I don't believe this is what Abner Doubleday had in mind when he invented the game of baseball.
The punishment definitely doesn't fit the crime.
Not when you consider all the bats used in the game were inspected and approved by the umpires before the game.
According to the umpires, the bat in question was legit.
It wasn't until Daniel McDonnell's fourth at-bat that the San Mateo coaching staff bolted out of the dugout to protest the bat.
Keep in mind McDonnell was 0 for 3 earlier in the game.
San Mateo coaches argued for 20 minutes in the seventh inning that McDonnell should be ejected for using the bat and it should be an automatic out.
I have a hunch this isn't the first time San Mateo has used this ploy.
My guess is they were trying to steal an out.
Why wasn't the bat contested until the seventh inning? Why did the San Mateo coach conveniently have a sheet of paper with the illegal bat rule on it ready to present to the umpires at that time?
Could it be that San Mateo's lead was cut to just two runs and now the Vols had runners on first and third with no outs?
Ultimately, McDonnell was allowed to continue with a different bat.
The same small group, made up of mostly 80-year-old men who are somehow responsible for running this tournament every year, had a chance to act then.
They didn't. They went along with the umpire crew's decision to play on.
As far as I'm concerned, the decision about what to do with the illegal bat was made then.
You can't punish the Volunteers players for a mistake made by the umpires to allow the bat to be used.
"The bat had no effect on the game and now we're going home on a technicality," said Vols outfielder Andrew Jaurique. "We're not going home because we lost."
At least Chico went on to defeat San Mateo 11-4 in Tuesday's title game.
I guess San Mateo couldn't find a loophole to win that one.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.