Spring playoff formats a little too messy

Posted 6/7/23

We are right in the thick of our spring sports playoffs and championships and it has been great theater to this point. We saw more champions crowned this past weekend in track, tennis and lacrosse …

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Spring playoff formats a little too messy


We are right in the thick of our spring sports playoffs and championships and it has been great theater to this point. We saw more champions crowned this past weekend in track, tennis and lacrosse and we’ll be seeing who gets in done in volleyball, baseball and softball in the next two weeks.

As much as I love these tournaments, I must say, the spring formats are a giant headache to keep up with.

In the fall, it’s single elimination. One and done. Football, soccer, field hockey, girls volleyball, it’s straight forward. Once the playoffs begin, every game is for your season.

Winter is also pretty succinct. Basketball is single elimination as well as hockey. Prior to this past season, it was single elimination until the championship round for hockey. Still pretty easy to follow.

The spring for some reason is a web of different possibilities and scenarios. Brackets change by the day and I can’t say that I see that as an exciting positive. I see it as a sloppy negative.

I’ll never understand why baseball and softball specifically get double elimination and/or championship series rather than single elimination matchups. Sure, one hot pitcher, one big hit can be the difference between a win and a loss. There are also pitch limits that force roster maneuvering which is a factor, admittedly. 

However, there are a million factors to consider for each and every sport. Keeping up with the baseball and softball tournaments simultaneously leaves my head spinning on a daily basis over the course of three weeks.

This year, for baseball, the RIIL has introduced a pod format. Each division splits up into four-team pods, then the winners of the pods battle for it all. Uh, isn’t that essentially the same process as a normal bracket?

How about we just keep it simple and stick to a traditional eight-team bracket and let the best clubs duke it out? I just don’t see the harm in that. If the league feels compelled to make it a series, then wait until the championship round.

For a sports editor, these tournaments are a nightmare to manage. It is damn near impossible to schedule coverage for events, especially with a small team to work with.

Will Team X win? If it wins, then its next game is on Tuesday, but if it loses, it’ll play Wednesday, assuming the rain doesn’t postpone it. But wait, Team Y is playing the first game of its three-game series on Wednesday as well. If Team Y’s series goes to a third game on Saturday, that will conflict with Team Z playing that day in the championship, so should I plan to cover Team Y on Wednesday, or wait and see on Team X?

I’m sure that last paragraph has your mind jumbled. Yes, those are the dilemmas that we face every day for three weeks and those scenarios wind up all over the place.

For my own selfish reasons, I feel that single elimination is the way to go across all sports. Short, sweet and to the point. Teams won’t be at any sort of disadvantage, kids will get the opportunity to compete.

Let’s just say single elimination is not possible, then it should, at the very least, be the same format for baseball and softball. Double elimination or series.

Again, I understand that these are really only inconveniences for people in the media world. Coaches, players, fans, no problem. I get to be selfish on occasion, though, and in this situation, my mind has been a scrambled mess this past week and will only get more twisted in the coming days. Bear with me as I try to process all this information and keep up with our teams.

Let’s go over a few of the races for our teams to this point.

For the Pilgrim boys lacrosse team, although it came up short in the Division II title game, what a statement it made this spring.

The Pats rolled to a perfect season last year in Division III and was bumped up. Pilgrim didn’t skip a beat, taking the second seed and coming very close to winning another title. Pilgrim led 9-6 at halftime.

Although Pilgrim will be graduating a number of seniors, guys like Ryan Barlow and Braxton Bragg will be returning. Last season I said that the Pilgrim program was one of the strongest in the state, even when compared to Division I schools. I stand by that.

The Johnston boys volleyball team is pretty much a lock to repeat as Division III champions.

I hate saying any team is a lock to win a championship, but I can’t come up with a scenario in which the Panthers don’t get it done. They are 14-0 this season and have surrendered just one set. That level of dominance can’t be denied. They won’t be stopped.

I covered the team’s quarterfinal game against Central Falls last week and it only proved itself further. The Panthers rolled to a 25-12 win in the first set, then won the second 25-18 and were in total control. In the third set, Central Falls played well with its back against the ropes and hit a hot streak. Johnston briefly looked in trouble, but experience took over and the Panthers regained control in time to wrap up the 25-22 win. Impressive.

Lastly, Hendricken won its 27th outdoor state track title.

The thing that stands out the most to me when assessing the Hawks is the depth. Each year, the team has winners in multiple events and it seems like there are always one or two new athletes that break out. The quality of athletes they churn out is outstanding and Hendricken is on top once again.

pitch, sports, playoffs


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