By Ryan Fennell
The Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven baseball teams have been disqualified from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament following an on-the-field brawl between the two teams last Saturday morning.
The brawl led to the ejection of 35 players from the game and the arrest of a parent.
“Both teams are out of the state tournament,” NJSIAA Assistant Director Larry White said on Monday. “Our rule says that three disqualifications of any combination of coaches and kids prior to the state tournament keeps that team from qualifying for the state tournament.”
According to NJSIAA rules there is a subsequent two-game suspension for any player ejected from a game. White said that there are also future ramifications possible if any of the players disqualified from Saturday’s game received disqualifications from a contest this past fall or winter season in another sport. If so, that player would be suspended for four games. In addition, if any disqualified from Saturday’s game receives a disqualification in any sport next fall or winter, they would be suspended four games in that sport.
“One of the things I did mention to both (athletic directors), generally speaking with a suicide squeeze, unless the pitcher is going through a windup, when the kid misses there is still enough time for the runner to put on the brakes and get back or get into a rundown,” White said. “My understanding here is that the kid just bowled the guy over and I’m wondering don’t these kids know you can’t do that? It’s an automatic ejection.
“I don’t know if the coaches are teaching these guys that this isn’t professional ball when it comes to that or if it’s just the heat of the moment. Even if he dislodges the ball, I don’t know if the kid knows you’re still going to be called out and you’re still going to be ejected.”
According to Red Bank Regional Athletic Director and head baseball coach Louis ‘Del’ Dal Pra the students involved in the fight would not receive additional penalties from the school.
“Both schools agreed they were penalized enough,” Dal Pra said.
The decision came after it was decided by the schools’ officials that since it occurred during an athletic event, it would be left up to the respective athletic departments, in conjunction with the NJSIAA and Shore Conference, to determine whether any additional penalties should be applied.
Despite being disqualified from the state tournament, both teams are still eligible to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament Dal Pra said on Tuesday.
“The state deemed the game a non-entity, or non-game, so we’re back to 4-8 (record),” Dal Pra said. “If we do get to .500 by the cutoff we will be okay to be in the Shore Conference Tournament.”
A team must have a .500 record by the afternoon of May 13 to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament.
Rumson-Fair Haven had tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth inning and Red Bank was threatening to retake the lead in the bottom half when Ross Gisondi singled to left and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Brian Wikoff. Gisondi then stole third to put the go-ahead run 90-feet away with only one out.
With Dillon Stambaugh at the plate, Red Bank elected to attempt a suicide squeeze play.
As RFH pitcher Chris Drummond began his motion, Gisondi took off for home and Stambaugh squared to bunt.
Stambaugh missed the bunt attempt and Rumson-Fair Haven catcher Joey Spernal had Gisondi dead-to-rights out by several feet. Gisondi then lowered his shoulder and barreled into Spernal, which is considered an illegal slide and calls for an automatic ejection from the game at the high school level.
Spernal immediately retaliated against Gisondi, prompting Stambaugh to react and both benches rushed the field and entered into a melee that lasted several minutes.
As coaches and RBR personnel managed to separate the players from a scrum near the first base line, a Red Bank Regional player tackled a Rumson-Fair Haven player near the left side of the mound by approaching from behind, wrapping his arm around the RFH player’s neck and taking him to the ground, where he delivered several punches.
When the dust cleared, Dal Pra was holding an adult by the arm and calling for his athletic trainer to call the police, claiming that the adult, identified as Patrick Maisto,49, had struck one of the players. He was arrested away from the field.
According to the Little Silver Police Department, Maisto was charged with assault.
When the teams’ coaches and personnel finally got their players into their respective dugouts, the umpires decided to eject both teams and call the game.
The teams were led off the field separately because despite being in opposite dugouts, emotions remained high and the players continued to launch inflammatory remarks toward each other.