Less than a year after leading the Marcellus varsity baseball team to the Section III Class B championship, head coach Pete Birmingham, and his entire staff of assistants, are out.
The coaching change took place Friday, a day after the Mustangs lost 3-1 to Westhill, whom it knocked out in May 2011 on the way to the sectional title.
Ever since the summer, said Birmingham, tension had been building within the program because he had promoted some freshmen to the varsity level and was giving them playing time ahead of older players, which caused complaints from some parents.
Those complaints, said Birmingham, led to a meeting Friday at the high school. Since he was unable to attend a meeting with athletic director Brad Dates and high school principal John Durkee, Birmingham said he was told to either step down or be fired.
Birmingham chose to resign. As a result, his three assistant coaches, Mike Bome, Larry Craft and Jim Alford, also resigned, leaving the school to promote junior varsity head coach Brian Petric to the top job.
And it was Petric leading the way when Marcellus resumed its season the next day, losing to Bishop Grimes 7-6 to fall to 1-3 against local opponents. The Mustangs also went 2-4 in six games played at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida during the April school break.
In nine seasons at Marcellus, Birmingham's contributions went beyond on-the-field results.
Among other things, he oversaw the upgrades to Bucky Winters Field, which included a scoreboard and improved fencing. This led to the field hosting events like last summer's Babe Ruth Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament.
That work culminated in 2011, when Marcellus went 18-7 and ended Westhill’s two-year state championship reign in the sectional B-1 semifinals.
The Mustangs went on to beat Watertown IHC 7-2 in the B-1 final and topped Clinton 11-4 for the overall sectional championship at Alliance Bank Stadium. Marcellus lost in the regional round to eventual state champion Chenango Valley.
This sudden change is not the first coaching controversy at Marcellus this school year. In September, JV football coach Jim Marsh was suspended for two weeks without pay after taking his team to a cemetery following a loss to Skaneateles.
Marsh returned later and donated the rest of his season’s salary to St. Francis Xavier Church for upkeep of the cemetery in question. He offered to resign, but it was turned down, and Marsh went on to coach in the winter with the Marcellus varsity boys basketball team.