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Could rainout hand Armwood state title?

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Tue. May 25, 2010 | Eduardo A. Encina

(UPDATE: 9:20 am -- The FHSAA has made its first public statement about the Pace situation, saying the FHSAA board is holding a conference call with Pace at 10 a.m.)

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The Armwood baseball team is scheduled to play for its first state title against nationally ranked Pace Tuesday evening at 7. But the Hawks could be awarded the championship without having to play the Patriots.

And if that happens, the Hawks will owe Mother Nature a gold medal.

As reported in Tuesday's game story, Pace could be in violation of the FHSAA's "40/60" rule, which says that no team can play more than 40 percent of its regular season games against out-of-state competition. Ten of Pace's 24 regular season games, or 41.67 percent, came against teams outside of Florida.

There could be an easy solution for the Patriots. Pace's regular season finale against Pensacola Catholic was rained out, according to the Pensacola News Journal. That game would have put the Patriots under 40 percent.

Pace's game against Pensacola Catholic was scheduled for Friday, April 23, but it was postponed because of rain that day. Efforts to make it up the next day were unsuccessful, and district tournament play opened that next Monday on April 25. High school games can not be played on Sunday.

As of Tuesday morning, however, Pace is disqualified. They have an appeals conference call with the FHSAA Board of Directors scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m., just nine hours before the state title game's scheduled start time.

If the Patriots can provide a contract saying this game was scheduled to be played, they will likely be ruled eligible. And if Pace is still deemed ineligible by the FHSAA, the Patriots can seek a court injunction to allow them to play in the state championship game, just as the Vero Beach girls lacrosse team did last year when they were disqualified for violating the same rule.

All of this is news to Arwmwood players, who knew nothing of Pace's situation after beating Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 3-1 to advance to the first title game in school history. Arwmood is in the state tournament for the second straight season, but last year lost to Tallahassee Chiles, the team Pace beat in the region final.

For Pace (28-2), this is about more than a state title. The Patriots, who are ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPNRise and No. 3 by USA Today and MaxPreps, could also claim a mythical national championship.

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