Jim Sherl brought up an interesting point.
Following his team’s 14-0 loss to Carl Albert in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament last month, the Claremore baseball coach couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve been had it been a double-elimination format.
“I’m not a fan of single elimination,” Sherl said. “I don’t know if the best team always wins in a single-elimination type format. But saying that, it is what it is, and you come out and play.”
Class 5A and Class 6A state titles were actually decided via double elimination for quite some time, but that all ended after the 2011 season.
That’s when the OSSAA Board of Directors passed a proposal to move on from the two four-team pools — where the winners of each played for the championship — in favor of the dreaded “one-and-done”.
Ever since, many titles have been decided by a game of luck rather than pitching depth and other factors that normally determine the best team.
But what if there were a way to get back to a format where a team’s season can’t be defined by one bad performance.
The College World Series starts today, and after examining its tried-and-true format, I got some ideas.
What if Oklahoma high school state tournaments — at least Class 6A and 5A — took on a similar appearance? That’s a big hypothetical, I know.
Well, I went through the trouble of conjuring up a few scenarios that I think could work if the OSSAA were open to change.
Buckle up, high school baseball fans.
In this scenario, the regions created after the completion of the regular season stay the same.
I’m not a big fan of every team making the postseason if they finish below fourth in district, but this might be the most realistic option given the current structure.
So, let’s take this year’s regional winners for reference:
Region 1: Duncan
Region 2: MacArthur
Region 3: Carl Albert
Region 4: Piedmont
Region 5: Pryor
Region 6: Claremore
Region 7: Collinsville
Region 8: Coweta
However, instead of these eight teams advancing straight to the state tournament, they’d move on to the Super Regionals.
Instead of mixing east and west like the first round of the state tournament, the Super Regionals will simply be an extension of the regionals — East vs. East and West vs. West.
District champions would maintain home-field advantage and host.
Here is what those matchups would look like:
Piedmont at Duncan
MacArthur at Carl Albert
Coweta at Pryor
Claremore at Collinsville
These games would be a Best-of-3 series.
In the interest of keeping things simple, let’s say the host teams win their respective series.
The “World Series” portion of the state tournament would look like this:
Duncan vs. Collinsville
Carl Albert vs. Pryor
From there, things would play out like the College World Series but on a smaller scale. A four-team double elimination bracket with the championship being a Best-of-3 series.
In reality, Carl Albert and Pryor met for the championship, with the Tigers claiming an 11-0 victory.
Although they play each other in the opening round in this format, they’d both likely make it back to the championship series.
If including a separate Best-of-3 championship series would take too much time, Game 2 of the finals would simply serve as an “if” game.
See ya later, stragglers.
Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t like every team making the postseason. This format takes care of that problem.
Instead of 30 teams, we now have 16. Much like in the football playoffs, you have to finish in the top four of your district to keep your season alive.
Teams like Del City, Santa Fe South, Woodward, Western Heights, Memorial, Nathan Hale, Glenpool and Will Rogers, which went a combined 46-175 this season, had no business being in the playoffs.
Of course, with less teams comes less regions.
This scenario would see four four-team regions. Like the current format, these would be divided by east and west and feature double-elimination brackets.
First team listed is hosting:
Region 1: Duncan, Bishop McGuinness, Piedmont, Noble
Region 2: Carl Albert, El Reno, MacArthur, Guthrie
Region 3: Pryor, Durant, Bishop Kelley, Coweta
Region 4: Collinsville, Booker T. Washington, Claremore, McAlester
As you can see, there two actual state qualifiers per region. This means four teams that made it in the current format would be left out, but that’s the price we pay to ensure the best baseball possible.
The four first-round games this season were decided by an average of nearly eight runs per game, with the winners outscoring the opposition by a 38-9 margin. The tournament could’ve benefitted from some downsizing.
Sherl and the Zebras would likely suffer in this scenario, but they could also benefit from the change in future seasons.
If the hosts held serve, the two Super Regionals would’ve looked like this:
Duncan at Carl Albert
Collinsville at Pryor
Each of these would be decided in a Best-of-3 format, as would the championship series.
If you like the idea of less teams in the postseason but don’t want to part with the eight regions, this is the version for you.
In this scenario, there would be eight regions of two teams each. Regional champions advance after winning their respective Best-of-3 series.
Here is the proposed layout:
Region 1: Duncan, Bishop McGuinness
Region 2: MacArthur, Guthrie
Region 3: Carl Albert, El Reno
Region 4: Piedmont, Noble
Region 5: Pryor, Durant
Region 6: Claremore, McAlester
Region 7: Collinsville, Booker T. Washington
Region 8: Bishop Kelley, Coweta
Assuming things played out similarly to real-life events, the Super Regional matchups would mirror those from Version 1.
Not too shabby.
If scheduled correctly, any of these proposals could work in a realistic setting.
It is not like I’m asking for a 64-team college football playoff, though I’ve made several brackets over the years for such an event.
I just want what is best for high school baseball in Oklahoma. Convenience shouldn’t be an excuse for punishing competition.
Even Sherl still struggles in finding a legitimate reason for abolishing double-elimination state tournaments.
“(The OSSAA) will say for missing school and venue conflicts, but I don’t believe any of that,” Sherl said.
Upsets happen, I get it. I love upsets just as much as the next person.
But teams should be rewarded for their accomplishments during the season.
A district champion shouldn’t have to kiss its season goodbye because of one bad game against a team that finished third or lower in its league.
The best teams deserve the benefit of the doubt, and until a change is made, postseason baseball in this state will never quite reach its latent potential.
We are unfortunately stuck with this broken system for the foreseeable future.
Which format do you think would work best for Oklahoma high school baseball? Send me your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Green is the sports editor for the Claremore Daily Progress. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Green has worked in professional journalism as a sports writer for seven years.