Bluffton softball's huge Game 2 win in the Class 4-A state championship series is no more, at least for now.
According to Bluffton athletics director Dave Adams, the S.C. High School League upheld Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken's appeal of a controversial ruling from Wednesday night's game, meaning instead of a decisive Game 3 on Friday night, the two teams will meet again at 5 p.m. at Spring Valley High School in Columbia and replay the conclusion of Game 2.
The game will resume with one out in the top of the fifth, with the Bobcats leading 3-0, and a Byrnes runner on second.
That inning featured a delay of several minutes after Rebels relief pitcher Regan Messenger struck out with a runner on first, but attempted to advance on a third strike wild pitch. By rule in South Carolina, that runner is automatically out, and the umpires ruled Messenger had made an unsportsmanlike play, ejecting her from the game.
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The decision prompted Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken to request the remainder of the game be played under protest.
"We couldn't find that in the rule book, and he said it's been emphasized," Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken said of the rule on Wednesday. "I knew nothing about that. (Other teams) we've played have run out everything, but he said you couldn't. He said it was deceitful on intent and that was unsportsmanlike, so Regan was ejected. My protest is one in the ruling and also in the ejection."
Game 3 had been scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lexington. Now, the Bobcats have to once again try to close out the Rebels in order to extend the series after dropping Game 1 on Monday.
Bluffton coach Bill Ball said Adams confirmed the appeal was upheld, but said he was not given a chance to speak with the SCHSL.
"What kills me is that the protesters have the opportunity to present the case and the team that is being protested against doesn't," Ball said. "I'm confused as to why only one side gets to be represented in a situation like this."
Ball said it is his understanding that Messenger remains both out and ejected, but that the SCHSL ruled runner Christa Whitesides should have been allowed to advance to second on the dropped third strike. Ball said he had some concern that the appeal would be upheld after Wednesday's game.
"It was minimal, though," Ball said. "I knew, no doubt, the batter was out and the call had been made properly."
According to Ball, there will be no difference in his team's preparation for the truncated contest Friday, and he feels they are still in a good position, up 3-0.
"Obviously, it's a significant advantage," Ball said.
A message left with SCHSL's Dru Nix has not yet been returned.
Game 2 was originally set to resume at 6 p.m. at Bluffton High, but later in the day, that was also changed to Lexington High. By 9 p.m., the game had been shifted again and will now resume at 5 p.m. at Spring Valley, followed by Game 3, if necessary.
This means Bluffton not only had a win taken away, at least temporarily, but it will lose home field advantage for the conclusion of the series.
"Here's how, as a head coach, you have to approach this," Ball said. "What I told them at the end of practice is that they are the team, they are going to go out there are do whatever they need to do. As a 51-year-old adult, I can't believe that this has happened."
Ball said Adams and Bluffton High principal Mark Dievendorf were fully behind the attempt to conclude the second game at home, but the decision to move it was a "district directive" -- a phrase used by both Ball and Adams.
"I was not involved in this decision whatsoever," Ball said.
Beaufort County School District Student Services officer Gregory McCord was not available for comment.
"The first sentence out of my mouth, their jaws dropped," Ball said of informing his team of the change. "They looked sick to their stomachs. After I challenged them, they were fired up. They want to go ... and win a state championship."