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Baseball tourney changes good moves by IHSAA

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By Larry Goffinet

Thanks to a change announced by the IHSAA Friday, many Indiana high school baseball players and coaches (and sportswriters) will actually get Memorial Day off beginning in 2009.

This area's Class 2A baseball sectional (including Tell City and Perry Central) has scheduled first-round games on Memorial Day since 1999. At first it was because the sectional had to share its home, Huntingburg's League Stadium, with a professional baseball team, the Dubois County Dragons.

The Dragons no longer exist, but in recent years the IHSAA has mandated that all baseball sectionals start on Memorial Day as part of its move to compress the state tourney from four weeks to three weeks.

Baseball sectionals usually ended on Friday or Saturday of Memorial Day week, with the regionals the following Tuesday and the semistates the Saturday after the regionals.

This meant little time for teams to prepare for regionals. If a sectional had a day or two of rainouts, it could be completed on Monday and the winning team would have to play the regional the next day.

Under such a scenario, if a team used its best pitcher to win the sectional, he would not get to pitch much in the regional (IHSAA rules limit a pitcher to 10 innings per three-day period).

According to the IHSAA news release, baseball sectionals will now be played on the Thursday and Friday before the week they now start and will conclude on Monday, which would be Memorial Day.

The regionals will be played the Saturday after Memorial Day, with the semistates and state finals staying the following weekends.

That means instead of nearly every team playing on Memorial Day, only those who reach sectional championship games will do so.

Cannelton's four-team Class A sectional could presumably be finished the Friday before Memorial Day.

And since Tell City and Perry Central have each reached the Class 2A sectional championship game only once in the last six years, the odds say that most years they won't have to play on Memorial Day.

Presumably games rained out on Thursday or Friday would be made up on Saturday. And if the championship game is rained out on Memorial Day, it would be rescheduled the next day.

Thus even with a rain delay of one or days for the championship game, anyone who pitched in it would still have his full 10 innings left for pitching in the regional on Saturday.

There are some problems with the IHSAA's new schedule, though.

For one, many schools, including Tell City, now schedule their graduation on the Friday before Memorial Day.

Will senior baseball players have to decide whether to don the cap and gown or play in a sectional? Or will Tell City change its graduation day?

Another problem is that the girls softball sectionals, which are currently scheduled to end the Thursday before Memorial Day, will overlap with the baseball sectionals - unless the IHSAA also changes the softball sectional dates (no such change was announced).

That could hurt the gate at softball sectional finals and baseball first-round games.

But since no Perry County softball team has made it to a sectional championship game since 1996, when Tell City did so in its first season, Perry County fans may not have to worry about that conflict too often.

So overall the change could work well for Perry County teams and fans.

But it would have made more sense for the IHSAA to simply start the baseball sectionals after Memorial Day and play the state finals a week later, as was the case for the first 30-plus years of the tourney.

Why can't that be done? Maybe Ray Craft, the IHSAA assistant commissioner in charge of administering the baseball state finals, has a time-share vacation place he has to use the week after the state finals are currently held.

I did hear that one year when it was raining in Indianapolis the day of the state finals, a team in the finals asked Craft if the game could be postponed until Monday.

Craft said no, he was leaving on vacation Sunday.