Battle Ground baseball program hit by league sanctions

Use of ineligible player results in playoff ban, probation

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The Battle Ground High School baseball program was hit hard by sanctions after it was learned the head coach intentionally used an ineligible player in a game last week.

Athletic directors from the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League voted this week to ban Battle Ground from the postseason in 2012 and put the program on probation for the next two years, according to a press release from the Battle Ground School District.

Battle Ground baseball coach Billy Hayes confirmed he played senior Luke Heyer in the final inning of a game April 30 against Heritage in which his team was trailing 10-0.

“More so for the kid. Nothing more than that,” Hayes said. “No other agenda. Purely for the kid to have one varsity at-bat at Battle Ground.”

Heyer, whose family lives in the Battle Ground School District boundary, attended Prairie as a freshman. He received an exemption to attend Heritage his sophomore and junior years, playing varsity baseball as a junior.

Mike Heyer, the player’s father, said that Heritage was not the right fit for his son.

When Luke Heyer enrolled at Battle Ground, athletic administrators ruled him a transfer student. Under Washington Interscholastic Activities Associations rules, transfer students must wait one school year before participating in varsity athletics.

The Heyer family appealed to the athletic district, and then to the WIAA, but both bodies agreed with the original ruling.

Luke Heyer remained ineligible for varsity play. Heyer, who was twice highlighted in The Columbian for a pair of two-homer days in his stint with Heritage last season, played a couple weeks of junior varsity competition this season at Battle Ground after losing both appeals.

But Hayes wanted to give Heyer the opportunity to play in a varsity game in his final year of high school.

“I made the decision, and I’m accountable for it,” Hayes said. “I don’t have any finger to point at anyone. I made the decision.”

Hayes said he had not heard about the sanctions until contacted by The Columbian on Friday, and that he is scheduled to meet with Battle Ground’s athletic director Karla Kalian next week.

“I did not know the repercussions,” Hayes said. “I thought it would just be a forfeit.”

Kalian said that Hayes’ status as the coach is being evaluated.

At least one family is in the coach’s corner.

“Luke will look back at this and say, ‘Here’s someone who stuck up for what’s right,’ ” Mike Heyer said. “Did he do right by my son? Yeah. I’ve got Billy’s back. He does what’s best for the kids.”

The postseason ban would be in effect for the 2012 season. The two-year probation does not carry any extra punishment, but it would result in a harsher penalty if there is another violation during the period of probation.

The 4A GSHL’s sanctions against Battle Ground must be approved by the WIAA’s District 4 board, which is scheduled to meet May 19. The district will either approve the league’s actions or send the ruling back for reconsideration.

Hayes has been Battle Ground’s coach since 2005. The Tigers went 1-16 this season, 0-12 in league.