Legacy manager draws suspension


Little League Baseball has suspended Legacy Little League manager Todd Slusher indefinitely for intentionally allowing a run to score in his team's 12-9 comeback win over Glendale, Ariz., on Wednesday in the Western Regional Tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.

But third-seeded Legacy (2-2) still is eligible to play in the tournament and will meet second-seeded Southern California (4-0) at 4 p.m. today in the semifinals.

The winner of the event will advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Legacy took a 7-6 lead into the top of the sixth inning of Wednesday's scheduled six-inning game but still had one player, Michael Chase, who hadn't fulfilled Little League's minimum-play rule, which requires each player to get at least one at-bat and play at least one inning in the field.

Lance Van Auken, Little League's vice president of communications, said Slusher, trying to avoid a two-game suspension for failing to comply with the rule, "instructed his players to play poorly so that one run would score" in the top of the sixth, thereby extending the game and ensuring Chase would get his at-bat.

"And that's exactly what happened," Van Auken said. "We have a rule that requires sportsmanship, and ... that shows poor sportsmanship, so the tournament committee met on the subject and viewed the video, and we could have forfeited the game but decided not to and instead suspended the manager indefinitely."

Slusher, who has coached in the Henderson-based Legacy Little League for the past 12 years, denied the allegations, saying he didn't instruct his players to allow the tying run to score.

"I told the kids if the runner scores, that's OK. It's not going to hurt us any because they're just going to tie the game, and we have the bottom of the inning coming up," Slusher said.

Slusher, who will be replaced as manager by assistant coach Tim Johnson, said he will appeal his suspension.

Arizona's first batter in the sixth inning drew a walk off Legacy pitcher Dylan Pletsch and advanced to third base on two passed balls by Legacy's backup catcher, Matt Almodovar, who later hit a game-winning three-run homer.

Pletsch struck out the next two batters before issuing another walk.

With two outs and a runner on third, Van Auken said, "There was a very wild pitch he wasn't able to score on.

"Then the catcher overthrew the pitcher once, and he was still not able to score. Then the catcher overthrew the pitcher again -- all this while this runner was at third base -- and on that one, the runner scored and tied the game."

The errant throws weren't intentional, Slusher said. "It's not like we never have any passed balls," he said.

Arizona scored two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 9-7 lead before Legacy rallied for five runs to pull out the win.

During the ensuing celebration, Slusher said tournament director Jim Gerstenslager berated him, Legacy's coaches, players and fans and also "chest-butted" a parent of one of his players.

"It's heartbreaking," Slusher said. "I'm out there with my son (Noah, a player on the team) celebrating, and this guy does what he does. They're robbing me and the kids of some special moments and memories that won't ever happen again. It's borderline criminal."

Gerstenslager wasn't available for comment, but Van Auken said he spoke with observers at the game who claimed "none of that happened."

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

 

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