By ANDREW WILLIAMS
Area high school baseball and softball teams will have a slightly modified postseason format to look forward to when the dust settles on regular-season play in just a few short weeks.
It’s one that could have many schools saying: “There’s no place like home.”
Beginning this year, baseball and softball teams in the northwest district will not compete at designated sectional sites before advancing to the district tournament as was the case in the past and is the case in virtually all other sports that participate in sectional tournaments.
Sectional semifinal and title games will now be played at the home site of whichever team is seeded higher between the two competing in the contest.
“The tournaments that you would have previously called sectional tournaments are not assigned to a particular site as they have been in the past,” Northwest District Athletic Board vice president and Ottawa-Glandorf principal Jayson Selgo said. “They are assigned to a site based on the higher seed of the team playing in that game. Then they will advance to districts which will be a neutral site.
“Many of our district sites from last year are the same sites and many of the teams that go to those tournaments are still the same teams. But just instead of coming from separate sectionals at one site, they’re going to be coming from home locations based on the higher seed.”
The new format, which Selgo said is now being used by more than half of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s six districts, is something that came about as a result of coaches, athletic directors and administrators providing feedback on things they would like to see done differently.
Coaches presented concerns about top teams in the district meeting in the sectional tournament instead of matching up at districts and administrators wanted a way to make sure travel time for teams was as short as possible for weeknight contests.
While looking into how those concerns could best be met, Selgo said the board spoke to other district boards about how they choose to run their tournaments.
He said seeing how tournaments have been conducted in other districts and fixing any potential problems before they occur has been an asset for the northwest board in its planning for this season.
“We are not the pioneers,” Selgo said. “This is something that all districts are looking at and some are taking on some sports rather than others. Obviously, any change is going to have some things that may or may not be accounted for. Our advantage in that scenario is that we have been able to speak to other districts that have taken on this format so we know from the get go what some of the issues they had changing to this. We’re not on the cutting edge where we don’t know what to expect. We have a decent idea of what to expect, but obviously our district is unique from some of the other districts so you can’t account for everything.”
Another change that will affect the sectional and district tournaments is the manner in which teams are seeded prior to postseason play. Prior to this year, teams were seeded according to the sectional they competed in, the seeding process will now be done at a district level in an effort to allow the highest ranked teams in the district to meet as late as possible in the postseason.
“Findlay High School has a Division IV (baseball) district,” Selgo said. “They have 11 teams there. So those teams will be seeded 1 thru 11. Then they will all, based on order, place themselves on a bracket. Where the games are played will be determined on who’s the highest seed in that particular game.”
Selgo believes the board has worked hard to prepare itself for the first go-round of the new format this spring, though he knows there will continue to be issues that need to be resolved along the way.
He was unable to say for sure whether the use of this new postseason format for baseball and softball was a precursor for a similar switch in other sports, but he said the board is committed to working together with everyone involved to help make the best decisions possible for the athletes and the schools.
“Once the fall sport’s coaches and ADs got wind we were doing this for baseball and softball, there is a high interest in looking at this process from the coaching representatives for fall sports,” Selgo said. “Basketball, we have not met with their coaching reps yet, but I have heard from coaches that there is an interest in at least looking at part of this process.”
By ANDREW WILLIAMS