Baseball: Niwot’s appeal lands Cougars in postseason after all

Niwot, safe! Golden, out!

That was the decision Thursday by the Colorado High School Activities Association in a wild turn of events regarding the Class 4A district baseball tournaments. And it was a verdict that left the late-surging Cougars ecstatic when the news hit the Northern League school right around 1 p.m., Thursday.

Only 24 hours earlier, the Cougars were sulking at their bad luck, believing their season had ended with Golden having edged them in wild-card points. But after a series of appeals by Niwot coach Craig McBride, the Cougars (10-9) replaced the Demons (8-11) as the 21st seed and are now making plans to play No. 12 Durango (9-10) Saturday in the District 4 Tournament at Palisade.

“Justice prevailed,” McBride said. “It took a lot of work for us to get our appeals done, but it was worth it. I do feel bad for Golden, it’s crappy to be told you are going to go then not get to.”

The crux of Niwot’s and Golden’s swings in fortunes centered around records of two out-of-state teams the Cougars played in the March 21-23 Arizona-based Coach Bob Invitational in Arizona.

Season records for Ada, Okla., and Edmond Santa Fe, N.M., were both inaccurate on the and CHSAA entries, McBride said. This matters, because the Cougars were gunning for a wild-card berth, after missing one of the automatic state spots awarded to the top three teams in the Northern League. And wild-card points, in part, are determined by the strength of a team’s schedule.

The coach pointed out the error to CHSAA’s seeding body Tuesday, before the deadline teams had to submit their information for the seeding process, McBride said. And he continued to press the issue even after the Cougars were left off the brackets when they were released around 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“They could not figure out our protest was accurate until today,” McBride said. “I got word at 12:45 (p.m.) that we were in and I told my team immediately.”

McBride was left scratching his head over what had happened to leave his team on the outside looking in for the postseason. He pointed out that CHSAA’s baseball bulletin spells out it is a coach’s responsibility to report out-of-state competition’s records — something he said he did. What McBride did know, was the initial snub was a gut-blow to a team that believed it had more than earned its place in the postseason by winning five of its final six games.

“My initial reaction, very frustrated and upset,” the coach said. “I’ve never been through something like this before coaching. It is the first year for this system and there are some bugs that need to be worked out.”

Niwot has been in a mad scramble in preparation to face No. 12 Durango (9-10) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Palisade. The Cougars are attempting to get a practice in before heading to the Western Slope, while their coaches are in the process of handling the logistics.

It certainly is not the way Niwot envisioned gearing up for the postseason. But at this point, there is not a Cougar complaining.

“It’s been a distraction,” McBride said. “But the boys are fired up and ready to play.”

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