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Westhill baseball star regains eligibility for senior season

State Supreme Court ruling overturns Section III decision

— All through the autumn and winter, Westhill High School senior Juan Carlos Pena wondered if he would get a chance to play baseball this spring.

Monday, just a week before the season beganhe got his answer - and it was good news.

State Supreme Court justice James P. Murphy issued a 17-page decision nullifying Section III's original rulings late last year that Pena had used up his high-school eligibility and could not play in 2013 for the Warriors.

As a result, Pena was able to practice on Monday with his Westhill teammates for the first time. He will need to participate in 10 practices before he can enter a game.

That will not take place until the end of the Warriors' annual spring-break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Westhill opens its season there with five games before returning to Central New York, where, weather and field conditions permitting, it will begin league play April 9 against Hannibal.

The controversy surrounding Pena has simmered for months. Section III had originally ruled that Pena had used up his four years of high school eligibility while shuttling between New Jersey, his parents' home in the Dominican Republic and, eventually, Westhill.

Four years ago, in the spring of 2009, Pena was a freshman at a high school in Perth Amboy, N.J. Then his mother, who had lost her job, was forced to move back to the Dominican Republic, and Pena went with her, attending a school there that did not offer scholastic sports.

A series of events that included treatment for depression and a custody battle led to Pena leaving his mother and moving with his uncle, Kevin Bedel, to Central New York. He enrolled at Westhill early in 2011, but was behind enough in his academics that he had to repeat his sophomore year if he wanted to graduate.

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