Palm Harbor University baseball coach Jeremy Albrecht gathered his high school players last week to figure out the cause of the team's recent slide.
His conclusion: the team was snake-bitten.
And that gave PHU players an idea.
They decided to ward off the losing streak with the purchase, killing and burial of a snake in the team's field last week during spring break, according to second baseman Zach Sobel.
"We were on a losing streak and Coach said we were snake-bitten," Sobel said Wednesday. "So we just kind of went with it."
The move could cost their coach his job.
Albrecht, 34, has been temporarily relieved of his duties while the Sheriff's Office investigates allegations that he was involved in the incident, Pinellas County schools spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said that according to school resource officers, they and school officials on Monday dug "in and around the field and nothing was found."
Sobel, a senior, said the players fed the snake a rat to make it more docile, killed the snake with a shovel and buried it on the pitcher's mound, and that Albrecht was not present. Sobel did not say which players bought the snake or killed it, but no one objected.
"It's unfortunate because our coach could lose his job over this and he shouldn't. We don't deserve this," Sobel said.
Albrecht, a third-year coach who had led the Hurricanes to an 8-9 record before Monday, said he can't comment during an ongoing investigation. Albrecht, who does not teach at PHU, is a Realtor with Charles Rutenberg Realty.
Sobel said some parents, unhappy that their sons either did not make the team or did not start, insisted on the investigation.
"There's been a lot of turmoil with some parents this year," Sobel said.
Hurricanes athletic director Larry Lopez and Zahn would not give further details on the incident.
James Felce, a teacher at the school, has taken over as interim coach, Lopez said. Felce coached the team in the late 1990s. He resigned as PHU's coach in 1998 due to a hazing incident.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.