After kicking the idea around for a couple years, the Foothills Council adopted a new schedule format for the 2009 season, mirroring that of the Patroon Conference.
Every week, the teams will play a Monday-Wednesday home-and-home series. The annual Gloversville-Johnstown match-up will take place the week of May 11, with the two playing at Johnstown that Monday and at Gloversville that Wednesday.
In previous years, each school played every other Foothills Council school once, then started through the rotation again. That format left a couple weeks between match-ups with any given team.
Now, a team will not be able to save its ace pitcher for both games with the top teams in the league.
This was the main reason for making the change, Foothills Council representative and South Glens Falls coach Mike Yeager said.
"It will help produce the best team in the Foothills, as opposed to the team with the best player," Yeager said. "You're going to have to see every team's one, two, and three pitchers."
The second game of the week, assuming both teams throw their ace Monday, would test the depth of the pitching rotation.
Also, the coaching strategies change.
Some coaches may decide to throw their ace Wednesday in an attempt at a split, taking their chances with a No. 2 or 3 starting Monday against the opponent's ace.
There are other reasons for the change. For one, with just two league games each week, the back half of the week becomes available for makeup games. When late-season snow surprises the league or a heavy rainstorm soaks local fields, the teams can reschedule for that Friday or Saturday if there is no non-league game scheduled.
If there is a non-leaguer scheduled, they can reschedule for a Friday or Saturday late in the season and cancel any non-league contest that is in the way, as a last resort.
This will keep all the make-ups from being piled into late-season weeks and causing a pileup of league games on consecutive days.
Another thing this new schedule does, and the reason I like the change even more than for the reason they did it, is how intense Tuesday's practices are going to be.
Whichever team loses Monday is going to be fired up for Wednesday. Whichever team wins Monday is going to be going into Wednesday's game on its toes, wanting to avoid coming out flat against a team looking for swift revenge.
The losing team won't have to say in its huddle, "Well, we'll get them next month." It'll be, "We've got one day to work and fix our mistakes, then come out and get this one back."
Teams returning good numbers will benefit sooner from the change than others. Of last season's all-star pitchers, Scotia-Glenville returns the most with two, Greg Dwyer (second team) and James Brown (third team). Johnstown's Wes Clark is the only returning first-teamer, while Broadalbin-Perth returns third-teamer Joe Rogers.
Gloversville lost first-teamer Kris Barone to graduation, but rumors abound about an up-and-comer who throws smoke. Johnstown and B-P both return good numbers on the mound, as does Glens Falls.
Speaking with an assitant from another league, the point came up that hitting against a team's No. 2, 3 or 4 pitcher does less to prepare a team for the sectional tournament. It's a fair enough point and I promised I'd come up with a counterpoint.
Here it is.
In the Foothills Council, most teams have reliable Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers, unlike leagues comprised of smaller schools. It's less of an issue in the Foothills.
Also, from a pitcher's standpoint, it benefits a team preparing for sectionals. Those other pitchers are going to see more action against better teams than they would have in the past. This will prepare a team better for sectionals, where as the tournament progresses, the hitting gets better and a deeper rotation - seasoned by facing stiffer competition during the regular season - will pay off.
Bill Cain is a sports reporter 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.