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Schools of Thought

Tourney time just around the corner

May 5, 2008
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald
Just over a week now remains in the Foothills Council baseball regular season, making for some exciting games.

Still, every game I see between now and May 14, when the Foothills Council conference tournament starts, will serve only as an appetizer for the main dish.

Last year’s tournament boasted a compelling storyline, with Johnstown running to the championship after a 1-7 start to the season and an eight-game streak back into relevance. But even without the Sir Bills run, it was exciting simply because it was tournament time.

Conference tournaments are just fun, although not just for fun. There is no better way to crown a conference champion than making the teams play it out. The top team may have beaten the eighth team twice in the regular season, but now, with both teams having played their way into top form, they’ve got to do it again.

The tournament is especially enjoyable when it’s a conference like the Foothills Council. There are two Class B schools, five Class A schools and one Class AA. The Class B teams generally hold their own and the AA doesn’t run away with the regular season.

It’s tight competition.

Why, then, doesn’t the Foothills Council hold a softball tournament?

Sure, a couple teams have had a rough year or a rough couple years, but if it’s good for baseball it should be likewise for softball. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

The best argument I can think of against having a conference tournament would be if teams just weren’t interested in playing each other three times in one season. But the boys seem to enjoy the chance to play in the tournament.

It also is a chance for those teams that didn’t earn a sectional berth to still make a little noise before heading off to play American Legion ball or slow-pitch rec ball.

For the teams that are going to sectionals, it’s a chance to get into tournament shape. It’s a tournament atmosphere, which you don’t get in the regular season, even if you’re playing three games in four days or whatever crazy situation make-up games have put you in.

None of that is the same as being part of a bracket.

Each team knows what the other teams are going to do. There are no surprises and it comes down to execution, above all.

The bracket also intensifies the players’ interest in what the other teams in the league are doing. It’s just a more exciting time.

The Western Athletic Conference could benefit from a tournament, as well. Both boys’ and girls’ basketball leagues play a tournament, a similar format would work on the diamonds.

Give the top four teams from the WAC North and WAC South a berth to the conference tournament. That would be some great baseball and some great softball. It would also determine a champion I am more comfortable with.

As it is, the WAC games between North and South teams count toward their league records. This creates a problem, though. If, for example, Fort Plain could be 9-3 against North teams and 6-0 against South teams, while Saratoga Catholic is 10-2 against North teams and 4-2 against South teams, you would have Fort Plain ahead of Spa for a North crown with a worse North record.

If, however, the WAC champion — it would have to be an overall champ — were decided in a conference tournament, there would be no gripe.

And I’m probably the only one with a gripe, but give it time.

Long story short, folks, conference tourneys are the way to go. If you’ve got one, enjoy it. It’s coming up soon and it’s gonna be fun.

If you don’t have one, go get you one. You’ll thank me later.

Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at


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