A controversial on-field play escalated into a benches-clearing incident at a New Jersey high school baseball game over the weekend, leaving more than 30 players ejected and both teams automatically disqualified from the state tournament.
At a Saturday game between Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven, tempers flared after a Red Bank player illegally barreled into the Rumson catcher while trying to score, prompting an automatic ejection. That was just the beginning, however, as the catcher quickly retaliated, leading to both benches pouring onto the field.
As a state rule, any team that accumulates three or more disqualifications throughout the course of a season will be disqualified from the state tournament. The end result of Saturday's fracas was 33 total ejections -- 22 from Rumson and 11 from Red Bank -- with both teams easily surpassing the three-ejection limit.
"We do have ice hockey situations where we've had these types of bench-clearing incidents, but I can't recall if we've ever had 22 players from one team and 11 from another side -- totaling 33 -- involved," said Larry White, the assistant director for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Sports Association in charge of baseball. "But it's not entirely uncommon to have a situation where kids left the bench, and by rule, that's an ejection."
With leaving the bench resulting in an automatic ejection and more than three ejections resulting in automatic disqualification from the state tournament, White said there was really no leeway in making the final decision.
Red Bank Regional head coach and athletic director Del Dal Pra said he had no comment on the incident when reached by MLB.com on Monday afternoon.
White had spoken to Dal Pra, as well as Rumson-Fair Haven athletic director Walt Reiser, earlier in the day to inform them of the official ruling.
"I think for the schools, from my understanding in talking to both ADs today, both schools, their feeling is simply that, obviously, the whole thing was just unfortunate," White said.
Along with the team penalties, all ejected players must serve a mandatory two-game suspension. As for any underclassmen on either team, another ejection in any sport over the next year would result in a four-game individual suspension.
"Everyone is truly aware of the three-disqualification rule, so I think they've accepted it," White said. "It had been almost 48 hours later at the time I spoke with them this morning, and they have already gotten together with their teams and said, 'Guys, guess what, we're out of it now. There's no appeal, there's nothing that we can do. So we're going to move forward and just try to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.'"