Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Baseball is not far away

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For the non-religious, Easter Sunday is also a very meaningful day.

When Easter Sunday comes around, that means the start of the Major League Baseball season can't be far away. It also means that it is time for me to clean out the winter sports notebook and get ready for the season to come.

You know how I know it's time for the spring season? I got my baseball scorebook for 2016 in the mail on Saturday, and I'm ready for some bats and balls.

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Hoosac Valley girls basketball coach Ron Wojcik was right about one thing last week — the move of the MIAA state basketball playoffs were a hit in Springfield.

"I think it's been a home run for the city of Springfield and all of the teams they brought in there," Wojcik said after the state final. "Running this whole thing like it's a Final Four environment, kids practicing at one college and coming here to shoot, and it was a great banquet at the Hoop Hall.

"It's just been a tremendous experience for all of them."

None of my worst fears came to pass.

The eight teams in the tournament were split between the MassMutual Center and Springfield College's Blake Arena. My concerns that the smaller schools, all of them from Berkshire County or Western Mass., would have been sent to Springfield College. Instead, Hoosac played at the MassMutual Center, while Longmeadow went to Springfield College. That went right along with how the local communities supported their teams.

You'll never be able to convince me that the state basketball, and hockey, too, championships should all be played at TD Garden. Basketball players should look up and see 33 or 6 or 17 hanging from the rafters, and not the late Eddie Shore's No. 2. The Garden is the home for basketball in the Commonwealth. It should be the home of the state finals.

Having said that, the Hall of Fame, the Western Mass. Sports Council and the MIAA deserve kudos for having the tournament in Springfield and giving the kids a weekend they will long remember.

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On these pages, you have often read about how our local college athletes have fared. But our local college coaches haven't had the same publicity. Time to change that.

Pittsfield's Brendan Burke is an assistant women's basketball coach at Cornell. Burke, a St. Joseph and Endicott College graduate, just finished his first full season as an assistant. He was a volunteer assistant in 2014-15.

The Big Red, under head coach Dayna Smith, finished 14-14 and 6-8 in the Ivy League. Cornell was 15-13 the year before, marking the first time in program history with a .500 or better record in consecutive seasons.

The Ivy League is moving toward a playoff next year with the top four teams battling for the tournament title. Had there been a playoff this year, Cornell would have finished one game out of the tournament.

Paul Nemetz-Carlson of Williamstown is the director of hockey operations for the Quinnipiac women's hockey team. The Bobcats finished 30-3-5, but lost 1-0 to Clarkson in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament.

Nemetz-Carlson played high school hockey at Mount Greylock, graduated from Bates in 1998, and has been a Division I assistant and a Division III head coach at Elmira.

Castleton University's Paul Culpo, a former St. Joseph hoop standout, had his team finish 9-17. It was the first time in Culpo's seven seasons at Castleton that the Spartans finished under .500.

Britt Moore, another former Crusader, just wrapped up his season at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford. Moore led his Panthers to a 12-15 record. Last year, they were 16-11.

For all of them, next year will come sooner than they think.

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Teams have been out practicing for spring and games start at the end of the week.

It's time to get started.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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