We’ve all heard the expression “on any given day,” when referring to a team’s chances of winning.
In no two sports is this more true than in baseball and softball.
From Little League to the pros, every team — no matter their record or talent level — has a solid chance of winning as soon as they lace up their cleats and take the field. It could be the pitcher on the mound having a bad day, an untimely error by an otherwise solid defense, or a batter with a low average getting ahold of a ball and knocking it out of the park for the walk-off win.
Anything is possible in sports, but especially when it comes to those played on a diamond.
This is why they play multi-game series at the college and pro levels. Even in All-Star Little League tournaments, the teams can play out of the loser’s bracket after dropping a game.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the Florida High School Athletic Association. After the district tournament, it’s one-and-done all the way to the state championship. One bad pitch, one costly error or one poor base-running decision can send your team packing.
Even in district tournaments, a one-and-done format is used, outside of the two semifinal winners, which move on to regionals.
All three area softball teams made it to their respective region semifinal games this season, only to come up short in all three games.
Three games. Three losses. Three teams having their seasons come to an end, and a handful of seniors seeing their playing careers end on one unfortunate outcome.
Durant, the defending Class 8A state champs, fell to Palm Harbor University 1-0 in its region semifinal.
Strawberry Crest, which entered its region semifinal with only two losses, fell to Lakewood Ranch on the road. Both teams were district champions. Lakewood Ranch just happened to get home-field advantage because of the Lady Mustangs’ placement on the FHSAA bracket.
One of the most glaring examples came over the weekend in Plant City baseball’s region quarterfinal game with George Jenkins. Plant City appeared to be moving on to the region semifinals May 2, when the game was called because of rain in the bottom of the seventh, with Jenkins at the plate and the game tied 2-2. Per FHSAA rules, the score was reverted to the beginning of the inning, with PCHS leading 2-1. After a protest the next day, the decision was made to finish the game May 4, with the game tied 2-2, and Jenkins at the plate, with the winning run on first. Jenkins ended up winning on a controversial call on a drag bunt down third to end Plant City’s season.
This brings even more rules into question, but if things played out like they did, if it were a best-of-three series, the decision wouldn’t have been as costly.
There is a fine line between crying for injustice and shedding light on a legitimate problem. My goal is to do the latter.
The FHSAA region and state tournament format for baseball and softball needs to be reworked. It is simply unfair to the teams, players, coaches and fans to have entire seasons decided by the outcome of one game.
Sure, you have to draw the line somewhere, and in no way am I suggesting a seven- or even a five-game series. There simply isn’t time or money for that at the prep level, but there are certainly realistic options available that are much fairer than the current format.
In Georgia, there are no region playoffs, just a large state tournament — 32 teams from each class (top four teams from eight regions) for both softball and baseball. Baseball plays three-game series, from the first round to the state championship. The first two games are a double-header, while the deciding “if-game” is played the following day.
For Peach State softball, the first and second rounds of the playoffs are best-of-three series, resulting in eight teams going to the state tournament in Columbus, Ga., at the 1996 Summer Olympic softball complex. That tournament is double-elimination and makes for some exciting and competitive high school softball. I covered a team last year that lost a one-run game the opening night before winning four straight games over the next two days to make it to the state championship.
Both formats certainly have their flaws — including home-field selection — but few can argue that either of these formats would not be beneficial to the FHSAA.
One game doesn’t prove the better team, and although a three-game series or a double elimination tournament might not either, it is certainly better than the alternative.WOT opengl32 multihack