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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Jun. 15, 2018 5 months ago

SIDELINE SCENE: Condensed schedule a good change for baseball playoffs | Observer Preps

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On June 6, the FHSAA published a press release with the headline, “FHSAA condenses baseball state series schedule.”
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

On June 6, the FHSAA published a press release with the headline, “FHSAA condenses baseball state series schedule.”

Sounds innocuous enough, right? 

In reality, this is a seemingly small change that could have a profound effect on outcomes in the playoffs each spring — an effect that, for that matter, is for the best.

Last season, following the conclusion of district tournaments between April 30 and May 4, the regional playoffs for Classes 5A-9A were played on Tuesday, Tuesday and Tuesday — May 8 (regional quarterfinals), May 15 (regional semifinals) and May 22 (regional finals). 

With state semifinals for those classifications beginning May 30, that equated to just three games in a little less than a month.

Starting next spring, the schedule for those same classifications is as follows: regional quarterfinals on Wednesday, May 15; regional semifinals on Saturday, May 18; and regional finals on Wednesday, May 22. 

That’s three games in one week’s time.

In Classifications 1A-4A, where there are only two rounds of regional playoffs between district tournaments and the state semifinals, the change will be from playing the regional semifinals on Wednesday and then the regional final on the following Tuesday to playing the semifinal on a Tuesday and the final on the Friday that same week.

All of which begs the question: Why is this a good thing?

As I see it, there are two big reasons, and both revolve around pitching.

Here’s the truth about how the baseball playoffs operate when there is one game per week in the regional playoffs: Teams inevitably ride their best arm as far as that pitcher will take them.

So, the first reason this is a good change is for safety. With a condensed schedule, pitch-count rules — and general good sense on the part of coaches — should lead to one pitcher not having to bear as much of the load for a team trying to make it to state.

The second has to do with what Florida wants its baseball playoffs to be — a competition between teams or a competition to see who has the best singular pitcher?

Playing more frequently in the regional playoffs rewards teams that have a strong pitching staff as opposed to one ace. You’ll need a capable No. 2 and perhaps even a No. 3 pitcher, as well as a bullpen you are confident in to advance. 

Currently, having reliable No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers has been rendered unimportant unless your ace has a bad day and you need to bring on your No. 2 in long relief. Only once a team reaches the Final Four — and would have to win two games in two days to take home a title — would having just one ace truly become an impediment. That was the case for Orange City University, which rode the talented arm of current FIU pitcher Logan Allen to the state final in 2015 and 2017, only to be defeated twice in the final when Allen was not available after pitching in the state semifinal.

That is not meant as a knock on University or Allen. If you’re playing once a week, why wouldn’t you start your most talented pitcher in each round? Not to mention, Allen’s teammates still had to score runs.

But the fact remains: A condensed playoff schedule rewards depth of pitching. And at the end of the day, when Florida is trying to crown its best teams as champions, that should surely be something it wants to reward.

Steven Ryzewski is the Senior Sports Editor for ObserverPreps.com, as well as all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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