MetroNews’ Garrett Cullen and Frank Giardina discuss whether or not the WV boys baseball tournament should open up more opportunities for teams to advance.
Garrett: The state high school baseball tournament is designed for the best teams in each class. However, not all the best teams make it to Charleston asthe current system is set up. Often times, certain regions and sections are loaded with top teams while others aren’t. And the results show. Only four of the past 18 state championship games in the last six years have been decided within three runs, but 12 of them were decided by at least six runs or more.
A possible solution: move to a format similar to the state basketball tournament with eight teams making the tournament and the possibility of two teams advancing out of the same section.
Frank: Garrett, I hear what you are saying, but look at things administratively and practically. Baseball and basketball are just too different. Basketball is climate controlled and time sensitive. Baseball is not. The SSAC has enough trouble getting baseball games played with just four teams in three classes, much less eight.
Also, the baseball season ends after many seniors have graduated, or will soon graduate, making it more difficult to delay and to possibly drag the tournament out with an expanded field.
Garrett: Good points, and expanding the tournament that much may not be the most practical option for students finishing high school. Still, there should be a way to give at least two teams a chance to advance out of one section or even one region.
Let’s keep it simple: take one more day of "regional play", and on the Saturday before the state tournament, have the runner up from Region One face the Region Two champion and the Region One champion face the Region Two runner up. The two winners then advance to the state tournament. Do the same with regions three and four.
Is it perfect? No, but it could level out overloaded regions.
Frank: G, you’re a progressive. I like that. It’s always good to be thinking "How can we make this better?”
Today, teams do get second chances in their sectional. That was not always the case. When I was in high school, the whole tournament was a one-and-done., frustrating to teams that thought they had the better "team", but lost to a lesser team with an ace pitcher.
I’m just not sure from a time, scheduling and potential weather standpoint that it’s possible to have those "second chances” past the early sectional rounds. Making the sectional change years ago eliminated the need for that.
Garrett: Okay, but I have one final thought about the timing and scheduling concerns: there’s always an awkward week following sectionals where teams aren’t allowed to play due to the state WESTEST (Monday through Wednesday). This year, most teams finished up sectional play the week ending May 14th. Regionals don’t begin until May 23rd. That leaves one whole week without meaningful baseball, (excluding exhibition contests), so moving regionals back to start that Friday or Saturday shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Frank: I see what you’re saying, but consider this: there was a time when eight teams made the state baseball tournament and you had to win three games to win a title. But, there was only one class for baseball, thus making it easier to complete in a timely manner. One thing is for certain: you had a true state champ in that format. With so few schools anymore, maybe we should cut from three classes back to two in all sports. Then, you might be able to stage eight team state tournaments in each class.
Garrett: Frank, I couldn’t disagree more about going to just two classes. Dropping to two classes would make it very difficult for a lot of small schools to remain competitive and would also create an even larger gap between the smallest Class AAA (or what would then be AA) schools and the largest schools in the state. But that conversation is for another day.
The bottom line is that if an eight-team state baseball tournament in each class is not a realistic option, then the next best thing would be to give more than one team in each region a chance to advance.