Baseball Tournaments

If the Pittsfield High School baseball team wins a Western Massachusetts Division I championship in June, its potential semifinal and final game sites will be determined by coin flips to be held after the sectionals are seeded June 16 and 17.

It is a pretty cut-and-dried system for determining host sites during the Western Massachusetts baseball tournament. The higher seed will host through the championship game.

That is what the MIAA's Tournament Management Committee had determined when it agreed to put together postseason play in 2021. The question then came up, how is home field determined when it's only champions meeting?

The MIAA's Baseball Committee answered that question at a Wednesday morning meeting. When the topic came up, the committee voted to use coin flips once the teams are seeded for the various sectional tournaments.

Under the plan for postseason baseball, and other spring sports with head-to-head team competition, teams would be seeded strictly by winning percentage. The tournaments will be open to any team that wishes to compete, winning record or not.

That, of course, is different than using a power rating system as has been done for decades. The decision was made to go winning percentage because not every team in Massachusetts will play the same number of games. Some small schools might be forced, due to geography and "bubble play," to play much larger teams that might prove to be disadvantageous to the smaller school. But that small school might be good against other small school teams, which is why the MIAA approved a one-year plan where any team can opt in.

Pittsfield Public Schools athletic director Jim Abel, a committee member, made the motion to hold the coin tosses following the seeding meetings, which will take place June 16 and 17.

"What if all the coin flips take place after the seeds come out that night? Just do one, 10-minute thing of all coin flips," Abel said, "so everything is established for the first day of the tournament."

"That way everyone sees it," said Jay Costa, baseball committee chair and athletic director at Shrewsbury High School. "If it's a Zoom meeting, Keith [Brouillard of the MIAA] runs the flip, or whoever is there from the office. I think that's the way to go."

The Baseball Committee then unanimously approved the entire Tournament Format for 2021. The format, which includes the coin flip, will have to be approved by the 

The committee did vote to recommend that all umpires are at the home plate pre-game meetings with coaches, which will need to go through the COVID-19 task force. As to where home plate umpires will stand during tournament games, the committee was of the opinion that would be ultimately determined by community health standards regarding COVID-19 safeguards. It, too, will need to be looked into by the task force.

The committee then turned its eyes toward the 2022 baseball season, when the new statewide power rating system will go into effect.

In essence, the new system adds a team's margin of victory to the average opponent rating to come up with a power rating to seed teams in the new statewide tournament format. For the margin of victory, the baseball committee capped the margin at five runs. That way, teams might not be encouraged to run up the score. The baseball committee approved the five-run, margin-of-victory cap unanimously.

"I like the five-run number. I think it's good," committee member, and East Longmeadow athletic director Kevin Magee said. "As a former baseball coach and also as an athletic director, I think five is the right number, especially for the first two years and then possibly revisit it after two years."

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. On Twitter: @howardherman

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.