A baseball game between Texas community colleges briefly veered into the world of football on Wednesday, resulting in a litany of suspensions and a potential expulsion for a pitcher.
The incident began when North Central Texas College first baseman Josh Phillips hit a home run off Weatherford College's Owen Woodward. As Phillips rounded the bases, Woodward was apparently displeased enough that he charged at the hitter and nailed him with enough force to send his helmet flying.
Chaos immediately ensued, though maybe not as much as you might think. The NCTC team poured out of the dugout and dogpiled Woodward while Phillips was on the ground, while only a few Weatherford players moved in to help the pitcher.
Woodward was soon being escorted to the dugout by his catcher while the two teams exchanged words. The game was suspended immediately following the incident.
It remains unclear if there was any reason for Woodward's actions beyond basic frustration.
After the game, Weatherford's athletic department released a statement announcing the school is investigating the incident and the student in question will face disciplinary action from the Office of Student Services that could potentially escalate to expulsion.
The Weatherford College Police Department is also reportedly investigating the incident and has taken statements.
Weatherford head coach Jeff Lightfoot's reaction in the statement:
"We are shocked and disappointed at what happened in our game today," said Jeff Lightfoot, WC head baseball coach and assistant athletic director. "We do not condone this type of behavior. We have worked hard to build a program with the highest of standards. We are completely embarrassed by this incident, and we apologize to North Central Texas College and the fans of WC baseball. This type of behavior cannot be tolerated."
Lightfoot went on to say that the player in question had no previous incidents of any kind.
NCTC released its own statement echoing much of what Weatherford said while adding this from chancellor Brent Wallace:
“North Central Texas College supports its student athletes and the various athletic programs available at the College. NCTC expects our student athletes to exhibit the highest levels of sportsmanship both on and off the field. The unfortunate events at Weatherford College will be used as a teaching moment for our student athletes to help ensure these incidents do not occur in the future.” Wallace continued “we appreciate the integrity of the Weatherford Administration in communicating with NCTC and will be working in conjunction with them to determine the full extent of this event.”
A day later, the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference announced Woodward would be suspended for four games, per the Associated Press. However, NCTC saw the far greater punishment.
Not only was Phillips reportedly suspended two games for taunting, the conference suspended every NCTC player that was in the dugout or bullpen for stepping onto the field, as well as any assistant coach who entered the fray. Four more Weatherford players and two assistant coaches were also suspended two games.
That apparently leaves NCTC in the curious position of likely having to forfeit its next two games against the team whose pitcher hit its player so hard that police are investigating.
According to Weatherford's website, Woodward is a sophomore who entered Wednesday with a 3.10 ERA, 30 strikeouts and four saves in 20.1 innings pitched across 12 appearances. His profile with a previous program adds he was first team All-District in high school football as a quarterback and outside linebacker, which certainly tracks with the events of Wednesday.