Baseball, softball seeding meetings postponed

Early this January there was concern that winter weather in western New York would cause delays for traveling basketball teams. And now five months later, Mother Nature is causing more headaches for Section 6 officials, players and coaches.

After enduring canceled games, sodden fields and infrequent practices since the beginning of the spring season, teams from around the Southern Tier are still scrambling to finish their regular-season schedule before Section 6 officials can meet to determine the postseason seedings.

Our most recent week of rain means that the meetings to determine seeds have already been pushed back for both baseball and softball, but that may not even be enough as more bad weather appears to be on the way.

After the date for Section 6 softball seeding meeting was already extended to Monday, it has now been moved once again to Tuesday.

League representatives and first-year section chairman Jay Hall are now keeping their fingers crossed that teams are able to finish all their remaining league games before that deadline.

“The meeting has been pushed back to Tuesday now,” Hall said. ”All games have to be played by Tuesday, so the (postseason) will start on Thursday with the qualifiers for brackets Wednesday and the prequarterfinals on Thursday.”

He added, “That was as far back as we could move it without playing on the (Memorial Day) weekend, but if we get rain Wednesday or Thursday, we may have to play on the holiday weekend.”

Hall and the representatives originally moved their planned meeting to Monday in order to give them as much time as possible to complete the season, but not many suspected that even that extension would not be enough to finish games at this point.

Of course Hall isn’t the only one dealing with organizational headaches at this point in the season. Section 6 baseball chairman Jim Conley is in the same boat in his third year on the job.

“Our (seeding) meeting will be Wednesday on the 21st,” he said. ”We were originally scheduled for, I think, it was Saturday and our first game would have been Monday. There were supposed to be prequarterfinals in Class C, but now there won’t be. We don’t need them because there aren’t more than 16 teams.”

Since coaching baseball at Newfane High School for many years and retiring in 2007 to chair Section 6 baseball, Conley has had plenty of experience with late starts to the postseason, but he still cannot think of one as rough as this year.

“I don’t know if this spring is the worst,” he said. ”Let me qualify that. One year I had to play seven games in six days, but the section dates were not moved back that year. So I would have to say this is the worst because we have moved past the section dates.”

The year that Conley was forced to run through those seven games was before the New York State Public High School Athletic Association had created such a rigid structure for the state tournament, so there was not as much pressure to finish league games promptly.

“This year under the present system is the worst,” Conley said. “Also, the weather kind of makes the teams what I would call equal. You might have a great team, but the weather can make teams equal, so we have a lot of ties this year in the standings. So people keep asking me how we are going to break those ties.”

The answer to that question is usually straight-forward. At the sectional meeting officials will flip a coin to determine the seeding between two teams that are equally ranked in points.

But now that bad weather has caused more and more teams to clump together in the standings, the process becomes a little bit different.

“Sometimes we flip a coin to see who wins the seeding, but when you have three or four teams with equal records we go to head-to-head records, and then if they are still even after that we flip a coin,” Conley said.

One possibility for baseball and softball teams this year is that they simply will not be able to finish their regular-season games before the seeding meetings are held, which may cause some programs to drop in the postseason standings.

Any team that fails to finish a league game will still be ranked as though it had still played all their games, so it is in the interest of everyone from the coaches, players and officials to get the season buttoned up before next week’s deadlines.

The final piece of the puzzle other than weather delays is field conditions, which can turn out to be a wild card during some of the most important games of the year.

“What the rules state is that if you are supposed to be the home team and your field isn’t ready, you have two options,” said Hall. “You can find a neutral site that is no farther away to travel for the visiting team or you can go their place. But the games will be played somewhere if it is dry.”

You can imagine that coaches and players are resistant to cede their home-field advantage when elimination is on the line, but that may just be what the situation calls for.