Team still headed to North Carolina, but will not play in USA Baseball tournament.
Head baseball coach Fred Hilliard had been preparing his team since August to play against some of the best teams in the country in the National High School Invitational (NHSI) Tournament organized by USA Baseball. The first week of March, they were told they could no longer participate.
Since Malvern baseball is ranked top 20 nationally for high school baseball teams, it makes sense that they were invited to play in the premier high school baseball tournament in the country.
What makes less sense is why the Friars were deemed ineligible to participate in the Cary, NC tournament, scheduled for March 29-April 1.
“Last summer USA Baseball reached out to let us know we were on a short list of teams that they’re thinking of inviting to this premier event.” Coach Hilliard said. “I told them we’d be very interested.”
“I’m upset that we can’t play to in actual tourney, but I’m very excited that we get to go down to NC and play some of the top teams in the country.” -Vince Sposato ’17
“I’m upset that we can’t play to in actual tourney, but I’m very excited that we get to go down to NC and play some of the top teams in the country.”
-Vince Sposato ’17
A week or so after corresponding with USA Baseball, Hilliard signed onto the contract to participate in the NHSI tournament and began planning for the trip.
Seven months later, Hilliard received a phone call from USA Baseball.
“First week of February, I got a call and they say, ‘Hey coach we’ve got a little bit of a snafu. We reached out to your state association to confirm that you guys were members and eligible to play in the tournament and they responded that you are not members,’” Hilliard said.
Malvern Prep is not a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), a requirement for the tournament that was unknown to Coach Hilliard and Malvern Prep.
“We play out of state teams all the time with no issues, our games all count, we don’t have any illegal players or 5th year players, we’re not an IMG Academy type school,” Hilliard said.
According to Hilliard, the contract that Malvern signed never stated that participating teams were required to members of their state associations.
Hilliard said that the contract’s termination clause states that USA Baseball had to notify a team of their removal from the tournament outside of 180 days before the start of the tournament. USA Baseball notified Malvern of their ineligibility well within the 180 limit, violating the contract.
As of press date, USA Baseball has not responded to request for comment.
Hilliard also stated that Malvern has a waiver that allows them to play against PIAA teams.
Malvern is not a member of the PIAA for many reasons.
“There are a bunch of independent schools in the state, including us, who never elected [to be apart of PIAA] because we allow kids to reclassify, or take a grade level over again,” Athletic Director Mr. Kurt Ruch said. “We do not want the PIAA governing the amount of games we play. We do not go for State Championships with other public schools.”
Even though Malvern not being a member of the PIAA prevents them from participating in tournaments such as this, Hilliard believes being in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISSA) is much more beneficial for his players.
“The PIAA has a game limit of 20, meaning you’re only allowed to play 20 games the entire season,” Hilliard said. “Being that were not in the PIAA we don’t have to abide by those sanctions.”
From a baseball perspective, if Malvern plays 40 games, as opposed to the PIAA 20 game limit, players can have as many as 100 at bats, compared to only 50 at bats.
“So in terms of prepping guys for college, our guys are going to be more prepared,” Hilliard said.
Despite not being able to play in the tournament, Malvern will still travel to North Carolina over spring break to get some work in.
“For Plan B, [USA Baseball is] helping us because they want us down there,” Ruch said.
According to Hilliard, Malvern would like play 4 teams while in North Carolina. They are currently scheduled to play Brother Rice from Chicago, The Canterbury School from Ft. Myers Florida, Fuquay Varina High School from Fuquay Varina North Carolina, and Charles E. Jordan High School from Durham North Carolina.
They will play their games at Duke University and at the Holly Springs Salamanders stadium.
Although the team is disappointed in not being able to participate in the tournament, Coach Hilliard still has his team focused on the regular season and the teams they will play.
“Honestly it’s disappointing that we can’t compete in the tournament,” senior leftfielder Vince Sposato said. “But we’re going to try to make the most out of our trip.”
Sposato and the rest of the team are doing the best they can to take advantage of this opportunity.
“We will still be able to play some of the teams in the tournament, so we will be able to face some really good competition. I’m upset that we can’t play to in actual tourney, but I’m very excited that we get to go down to NC and play some of the top teams in the country,” Sposato said.
Malvern will no doubt have a very tough regular season schedule ahead of them, so Hilliard is putting an emphasis on focusing on the games that count.
“We still have a large season to play so we can’t get caught up on that,” he said.