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updated: 8/7/2012 10:06 PM

Wheaton forced out of American Legion regional

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By Marty Maciaszek

Wheaton's American Legion baseball team was planning on an early morning departure and bus ride to Midland, Mich., on Wednesday for the Great Lakes regional tournament.

But those plans were stalled late Tuesday afternoon when Wheaton had to forfeit its spot in the regional because it did not meet the American Legion rule requiring a team have a minimum of 12 players available to play in a state or national tournament. Wheaton coach Jerry Miller said only 11 players were available to make the trip because of commitments for Wednesday's start of high school football practice, work and family matters.

And now Cook County champion Northbrook may be playing in the regional instead of Wheaton. Illinois department chairman Don Wallis said in an email late Tuesday night "it looks like Northbrook is going," and if that's the case would play host Midland in Thursday's final game at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Wheaton was the runner-up to Moline in this weekend's state tournament in Mattoon. Miller said an attempt to have Danville, which took third in the state tourney, was unsuccessful because of similar problems meeting roster requirements.

"I said, 'You'd rather play with seven (teams) than have me come down with 11 (players) and have two guys sit on the bench,' and they said yes," Miller said. "There was nothing else I can do."

Miller said Wheaton had 14 of the maximum 18 players allowed at the state tournament and left Mattoon expecting to have enough players to go to Midland. But a few players also had issues arise that dropped Wheaton below the roster limits.

"I feel bad for the kids who want to go and the Legion (Post 76), because they were so excited we got to go," Miller said. "I liked our chances in the tourney."

Moline will open tourney play against Michigan champion Adrian at 4 p.m. Thursday. The regional champion advances to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., on Aug. 17-21.

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