Why a forfeit win isn't helping Skyline baseball's rankings under AIA rules

Mesa Skyline High School's baseball team can't afford any more losses the rest of the season if the Coyotes want to be part of the 24-team postseason.

Skyline gained a forfeit win over Chandler after it was determined the Wolves' used a pitcher who was over his allowed pitch limit, but it didn't help with the playoff push. But the Coyotes still are at No. 27 in the AIA's latest 6A baseball rankings/seedings, outside the playoff cutoff.

Brian Gregory, Skyline High School baseball coach.
Brian Gregory, Skyline High School baseball coach.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association only rewards forfeits if they happen in the postseason. In the regular season, they count as non-contests, so it won't help Skyline in the AIA computer rankings. As consolation, the coach awarded the forfeit win can count it on his overall win-loss resume.

That's no consolation for Skyline coach Brian Gregory, who is trying to build the program back into one that regularly gets into the postseason. The top 24 teams make the playoffs.

Chandler coach Daniel Vander Valk reached out to Gregory after realizing later that night his sophomore starting pitcher surpassed his pitch limit in the No. 17 Wolves' eight-inning win on March 30. That showed great character by Vander Valk, but Gregory soon realized that forfeit isn't reflected in the power points.

"It's going to look like each team played 17 games," Gregory said. "We don't get the other team's strength of schedule. We don't get the win.

"My issue with that is you're not penalizing the other team. If that kid is taken out, who is to say we don't go on and win the game?"

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In 2019, Tucson Sabino's girls' basketball team had to forfeit 12 games for using an ineligible player. Still, it remained the No. 1 team by the AIA rankings a week ahead of the playoffs.

Back then, the AIA explained to The Arizona Republic why Sabino remained No. 1 at 5-0:

“Forfeits (while included for standings purposes) are not included in the rankings for either team involved in that contest. For a school to be calculated within the basketball rankings, it only requires that a school have played and recorded a result in two games. Sabino, with the forfeits removed in girls basketball, had competed in four games with four wins, and thus continued to be included in the rankings at that point. Two of those four wins were against quality ranked opponents, which enabled Sabino to stay at No. 1. Essentially, now with five completed games, all wins, three of which against top-rated competition, the formula continues to keep Sabino at the top.”

The AIA ranks teams based on the MaxPreps formula that counts regular-season forfeits as no contests. This has been something coaches have anguished over. In the playoffs, however, the team that forfeits the game is eliminated with the other team advances in the tournament.

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Skyline has fallen to 12-8 after losing its last two. The Coyotes have seven games left to make up ground.

"The thing I have the most issue with this, we've lost 39 games over the last two years," Gregory said. "We're trying to get back to Skyline. Right now, we're going to be a fringe baseball team. We're going to get that 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th playoff spot. So this is a big deal for us."

Last year, at this time, Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor had to forfeit a baseball win over Peoria Liberty. So, it didn't drop down from a No. 6 ranking after taking the forfeit because it was counted as no contest.

Last year, Liberty Athletic Director Eric Gardner told The Arizona Republic that he thought it was an issue that the AIA needed to address.

"We didn’t forfeit, they did, but what hurts is the AIA considered this a no-contest, so neither team is impacted by power points," Gardner said last year. "We don’t move up for the win and they don’t move down for the loss. This is a real issue that the AIA must address."

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Skyline baseball getting no help from AIA despite forfeit win