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Wagner disqualified from District 5B baseball tournament

Rockets forced to forfeit games due to ineligible player.

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Wagner's Alex Kocer delivers a pitch against Winner/Colome during the District 5B tournament on July 25 in Parkston.

The Wagner Rockets were on the cusp of making history, but the use of an ineligible player has disqualified them from the District 5B amateur baseball tournament.

Wagner, which pulled a District 5B stunner over Winner/Colome in the opening round, needed one more win to qualify for the Class B state amateur tournament. It would have been a first for the recently created Rockets, who restarted their team in 2017 after going decades without an amateur team.

However, a Wagner junior Legion member played for the Rockets. Legion and junior Legion players are allowed to play amateur baseball, but “under certain regulations,” said District 5B commissioner Bill Ernster.

“It states right in the bylaws -- it says once the Legion postseason starts -- he cannot play amateur ball until his season is over,” Ernster said. “This kid played in his regional Legion tournament … We were told about it and I guess we had to take the action. We had to disqualify them because of an ineligible player and any team playing with an ineligible player has to forfeit all their games. So we had to disqualify Wagner.”

Ernster didn’t identify the junior Legion player. Wagner catcher/manager Hunter Hewitt declined to comment Wednesday when reached by The Daily Republic.

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On the team’s Facebook page, a post on Wednesday informed fans that the Rockets’ season was over and thanked them for their support.

“Due to a rule that we were unaware of, our roster was declared illegal and our season came to an abrupt end,” the team said. “We wanted nothing more than to bring you a state tournament appearance but it seems (there) were other plans.”

Wagner’s Post 11 junior Legion team is one of eight Class B teams that has made the state tournament, which will be held Aug. 9-11 in Groton.

Wagner’s amateurs were set to play Dimock-Emery on Friday in the District 5B tournament, with the winner advancing to state. Instead, the Corsica-Stickney and Platte winner at 7:30 p.m. tonight will take Wagner’s spot in the bracket. Corsica-Stickney and Platte were originally eliminated from the tourney on Tuesday. The winner will now face Dimock-Emery on Friday, while the loser is eliminated.

As for Wagner, it’s a tough pill to swallow for a team coming into its own. In addition to the first-round upset, Wagner pitcher Grant Lang turned heads this season with 21 strikeouts in a game.

“They are an up and coming team and right now, they are playing pretty good baseball,” Ernster said. “You hate to see it, but we have to go by our bylaws. We have to follow them. It’s a sad deal.”

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