It has been a while since Middletown’s Legion baseball team found itself in a climactic, end of year series with the Zone 3 championship on the line. But that’s the deal this year as the four-game series with second place Cheshire that begins tonight (5:45 at Cheshire High School) will determine the championship.
For Middletown it’s simple: win two games. If the Post 75ers do that, they win the zone title. If they don’t, they cannot win.
Game 2 is Tuesday at Cheshire at 5:45 p.m., game 3 is at Palmer Field Wednesday at 7 p.m. (Fan Appreciation Night, lots of prizes) and game 4 Thursday at Palmer at 7 p.m.
Winning the zone title gives a team a huge advantage. Under the state tourney format — which is new yet again this summer — the eight zone champions get byes for the first two days of games.
If a team is one of the 32 qualifying teams that did not win a zone title (40 qualify overall, including the zone champions), those teams must play next Sunday and Monday in a one and done series. One loss and you’re gone.
But win a zone title, and you don’t play until Wednesday against a team that survived two days of single elimination play. In that case not only must a team beat a zone champion twice, all games of the best of three series are at the zone champions’ field.
With bad weather in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday, and perhaps even Wednesday — and if getting games in becomes an issue, then winning a zone for both Middletown and Cheshire becomes even more imperative. If weather forces games to be played Friday or Saturday, then the loser must immediately play a one-and-done game Sunday, likely against someone’s No. 1 pitcher.
POSTSEASON GAME TIMES
The State Legion Baseball Commission has decreed that all postseason games for the first two rounds — weekend, weekday, regardless — are 3:30 p.m. starts. The only exception to this is game three of the best-of-three series scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday.
If a third game is necessary, it will be the second game of a double header on Thursday, July 24, at 6:30 p.m. Of course, what that means for teams which do not have lights I have no idea, but we’ll leave that up to the folks who came up with this much-too-long, too-many-teams marathon of a postseason.
If you like looking ahead, after the first two rounds there will be eight survivors, split into two divisions.
The Northern Division — Zones 1 (Avon and Simsbury are leading), 6 (Niantic leads), 7 (RCP is a lock) and 8 (Tolland and Enfield lead) — will send four survivors to Bristol. The survivors from Zones 2 (Branford leads), 3, 4 (Stamford leads), 5 (Oakville leads) will go to Stamford and at both sites, the four teams will play a double elimination tourney that could last four days.
There will be a winner from each location and those two teams will play a best-of-three series in Stamford to determine the state champion. All postseason games are nine innings.
THE INJURIES CONTINUE
More and more medical professionals are coming to the view that one of the reasons for the proliferation of injuries affecting pitchers come from overuse of kid pitchers in youth baseball.
Makes sense to me.
I know that the CIAC and the American Legion have rules limiting the number of innings a kid can throw. But it’s not enough, largely because there are no pitch count rules.
How many high schools actually develop pitching? The answer is not many. If a high school has one or two good pitchers, far too often the coaches run these kids into the ground.
It makes no sense for a kid to pitch seven innings on Monday, then come back and throw seven innings on Thursday. That’s nutty stuff. And nowhere is there a mention of number of pitches thrown.
Pitching is an unnatural act. Some are abusing kids who are still growing, still developing, still learning. You cannot trust a kid to tell you he’s tired or that his arm hurts. They are kids and they want to play.
Ask good Legion coaches how frustrating it is for them to have to deal with kid pitchers who are so worn out by their high school coaches that they miss out on Legion ball, a program that is played at a much higher level than high school baseball.
Travel teams, fall baseball, throwing in the winter — is all crazy. When summer ends, the next time a kid should pick up baseball is in the spring. But hey, football coaches think their kids should think football year round, basketball coaches want their kids to play all year, swimming coaches went their kids to swim all year and so it goes.
I have one question: When did we stop letting kids be kids?
HERE AND THERE
Speaking of adults making things tough on kids, think of this … in Connecticut’s American Legion postseason, a team that starts play on Sunday, July 20, could have to play 12 games in 12-14 days to win a state title … someone tell me that makes any sense … I love Legion baseball, but some of the stuff the adults do leave me shaking my head.
Forty teams in the postseason is, as one assistant coach called it, a fiasco … by the way, if the season ended Sunday, New Milford (10-13) and Tri-County (8-9) would qualify … simple, sensible solution … the eight zone champions qualify … the next 16 teams by record qualify … seed them 1 through 16 by record … play a single elimination round … then have a two-site double elimination tourney, eight teams at each site … then have a championship game with the winners from both sites.
Neat, clean, seven games, maybe 8 … all, of course, are reasons why it would never be adopted … Legion also says no admission can be charged for first two rounds of playoffs …. why? …one Legion guy said to me, in defense of the marathon, that the high schools have a 40 percent rule … isn’t that like saying, Johnny has an F in math, so I think I’ll cheat off of his quiz?
One final thing on Legion baseball for today … one hopes the state commission has the good sense to never, ever go back to Torrington … Torrington, which had a two-year contract to host the Northern section of the state tourney, bailed last week … I was told that their excuse was someone neglected to reserve Fussenich Park … uhh, they had a two-year deal and this was year two.
That’s the second time this happened … good thing Bristol stepped up … the state Legion also contacted Middletown, but the local post is running the regional in August and declined … stay out of Torrington … as in forever.
By the way, the high school football season is less than two months away … remember, this is the season in which the tiny state of Connecticut will crown eight state football champions … hey, why not 10 or 20? … give everyone a trophy … one writer for an area monthly said this would “bring more excitement to the postseason” … really? … I would offer it waters it down.
The story said that when Rocky Hill played Ansonia in the past season, it was in the semifinal round, and this year that would be a championship game … he pronounced this good … I pronounce it silly.
He also called Ansonia and Rocky Hill “powerhouses” … Ansonia, which won the game, 49-27, is a powerhouse, but no one has ever accused Rocky Hill of that … gee, can we not wave the pop-poms quite that hard? … the football playoffs, anther example of adults messing things up for kids.