A baseball team in Arizona that worked all season to reach the state championship game has forfeited the chance to play for a state title because its opponent has a girl starting at second base.
As initially reported by the Arizona Republic, then followed upon by a variety of other Arizona and national sources, Phoenix (Ariz.) Our Lady of Sorrows Academy's baseball team decided to forfeit its scheduled Arizona Charter Athletic Association state championship matchup rather than face off against Mesa (Ariz.) Preparatory Academy, which features a second baseman named Paige Sultzbach.
Because playing Mesa Prep would require competing against a team featuring a girl, Our Lady of Sorrows decided that playing the game would violate the school's mission to teach boys and girls separately, as the school made clear in a statement on Thursday. The separation of the sexes is a key tenet of the Society of St. Pius X, a separatist branch of the Catholic Church of which Our Lady of Sorrows is a part.
While the cancellation of the state title game is a disappointment for Sultzbach and her teammates, it was hardly unanticipated. The teenager sat out two previous games between the schools because of Our Lady of Sorrows' religious beliefs, but she was unwilling to sit out the biggest game of the season which she and her teammates had worked to reach.
That desire was only stoked by Sultzbach's absence in the prior matchups between the teams, as the teen told the Republic.
"I felt like any passionate athletic person would feel [in that situation]," Sultzbach told the Republic. "I don't want our very first high school baseball team to win the championship on a forfeit."
While the forfeit will officially make Mesa Prep the ACAA state champion, the school's athletic director made clear that her team didn't want to earn its state crown that way.
"What true athlete would want to win or lose a championship game by forfeit?" Mesa Prep AD Amy Arnold, who also happens to be the only female football coach in Arizona, told the Republic. … "I respect their views, but it's a bit out of the 18th century."