Some Tennessee coaches prefer Georgia High School Association's system for state baseball

Some Tennessee coaches prefer Georgia High School Association's system for state baseball

May 4th, 2017 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps
Ooltewah baseball coach Brian Hitchcox hands the ball to relief pitcher Landon Elrod during a District 5-AAA tournament game last season. Hitchcox would like to see the TSSAA change its format for the baseball postseason.

Ooltewah baseball coach Brian Hitchcox hands the ball...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Peach State prep teams have already begun the baseball postseason, and some Tennessee coaches are wondering if they shouldn't follow the system used by their Georgia counterparts.

In the Georgia High School Association's baseball state playoffs, 32 teams make the bracket for each of the six largest classifications, while Class A is split into private and public for the postseason and has 24 teams in each of those brackets. Unlike Tennessee, there is no statewide system of district or region tournaments, and no sectionals.

Each round of state is a best-of-three series.

"I believe our TSSAA postseason baseball format needs to be changed, and I believe the new pitch-count rule will expose just how poorly it has been constructed," Ooltewah coach Brian Hitchcox said. "They should blow it up and start over. Something like what Georgia has with the three-game series makes more sense."

Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley watches the game against East Hamilton Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at Soddy-Daisy High School.

Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley watches the game against...

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Said Notre Dame coach Trey Hicks: "We do not reward the regular season enough. I wish there would be a way to follow Georgia's best-of-three system."

Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley thinks "Georgia has it figured out. They have eight regions and the top four teams in each make it to the playoffs. They do best two-of-three series all the way through (state), and I think in most cases the best team wins."

Hensley's Trojans opened the postseason Wednesday night in the District 5-AAA tournament at Walker Valley against Cleveland, while East Hamilton played McMinn County. Both were single-elimination games, with the winners advancing in the district bracket. The winner of that game, scheduled for 7 tonight, will advance to the best-of-three semifinals to meet Ooltewah. The other semifinal features Bradley Central and Walker Valley.

"To me, that's rewarding the top three teams, and that's a pretty good gig; no griping here on that count," said Hensley, whose team finished fourth in the regular-season district standings.

The two finalists in all districts advance to single-elimination region semifinals, but the region finalists both advance to single-elimination sectional games, the last series before the Spring Fling state tournament.

Most Tennessee coaches would like to see more rewards for the entire season, thus the thought for regions from which the top four regular-season teams would advance to state. Some would like to eliminate a team's ability to ride one dominating pitcher deep into the postseason.

"Essentially, nothing matters until you get to the postseason," Chattanooga Christian coach Ben Wharton said, "and realistically a bad team can get hot and make it to the state tournament."

Notre Dame's Hicks once took Red Bank to the state tournament after the Lions went 12-18 in the regular season. Thanks to Red Bank's hot streak that year, East Hamilton didn't get out of the district after going 30-2 during the regular season.

"I'd like the regionals and/or the sectionals to be best two-of-three, or at least double-elimination," Hicks said.

There are a number of concerns in the postseason, from pitch counts to number of available starting pitchers, but a best-of-three series cuts down on the chances of a team riding a single ace into the state tournament.

"There's a stud pitcher down at Adairsville, and when he's on the mound they're as good as anybody around," advised Ringgold coach Brent Tucker, whose team advanced to the second round in GHSA Class AAA. "If there's a (qualifying) tournament, then one of the best four teams might not make it."

Georgia schools have 26 dates to play a maximum of 30 games in the regular season, meaning they would play a minimum of two doubleheaders if they fill their schedule. In Tucker's case, he schedules 12 nonregion games to get ready for an 18-game region schedule.

"You play those region games, and it means everything," he said. "You have to finish in the top four to get to the state playoffs."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.


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