Wildecats' run exposes seeding flaws

On High Schools

High Schools

June 05, 2005|By MILTON KENT

TIME TO OPEN the notebook one last time before school's out for the summer:

The Wilde Lake baseball team should certainly take pride in its run to the Class 3A championship game against Severna Park last week, even if it lost, 9-0, in the final.

But the fact that the Wildecats, who entered the playoffs 4-16, even reached the championship game is reason enough for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association to consider revamping the way teams are seeded for the postseason in the sports in which the draw is open to all teams.

Currently, every team in the state is eligible for the state tournament in all but two sports: football and wrestling.

The four teams with the best record are awarded the top seeds in a region in all open-draw MPSSAA sports, with the other teams in the region awarded spots by way of a blind draw, conducted this year by computer.

That led to a remarkable fluke by which Wilde Lake received the fifth seed in its 10-team East region, ahead of four schools with better records. The only school in the region with a worse record going in was Bladensburg (3-12), which got a seven seed, higher than three schools with better records.

If that weren't bad enough, the Wildecats, by virtue of the fact that there are only 10 schools in the region, had a seed high enough to get a first-round bye, while Centennial, the ninth seed, had to play a first-round game on the road at Crossland in Prince George's County. Bladensburg, meanwhile, hosted a first-round game against Long Reach, despite having an inferior record.

Granted, the Wildecats had to earn their way by winning and they did beat the fourth seed, Surrattsville, but the ridiculous seeding meant they not only didn't have to face any of the top three seeds, Douglass, Gwynn Park or Mount Hebron, along the way, but they also played all but one of their regional games at home.

Where it's feasible, every public school athlete should have a chance to play for a state title, so eliminating losing teams from the draw shouldn't be an option. And because the level of competition from sport to sport and from county to county might vary, totally seeding the field in sports may not be possible.

But if the top of the bracket can be seeded, so should the bottom. Any schools with losing regular seasons should automatically go to the bottom of the regional draw, with the worst records getting the worst seeds and no byes.

Just wondering, but won't it be awfully difficult for new McDonogh boys lacrosse coach Scott Corrigan to be a moral leader for his players given that he was dismissed as coach of a Richmond, Va., high school team for deliberately giving incorrect names to a local newspaper for a box score to show up game officials after a loss?

Who says the off-the-field people never get the glory?

Kenwood graduating senior Matthew Bunch has been selected as the high school announcer of the year by the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers, a Kansas City-based organization.

Bunch, who will be going to Miami, did the public address for Bluebirds teams in football, soccer (boys and girls), field hockey, wrestling, basketball (boys and girls), outdoor track (boys and girls), softball, baseball and lacrosse (boys and girls). He was also named the school's prom king and was believed to be the most popular student at Kenwood, probably for a basic reason.

"I'm here just about every night," Bunch said.

, Ryan Rivers didn't get to close out Eastern Tech's 9-4 win over North Hagerstown in the Class 2A baseball final May 28, but the pitcher may very well be leading the Mavericks to more state titles down the road.

"And he's only a sophomore. And he's only a sophomore," said Eastern Tech coach Spike McElfish with glee after Rivers pitched a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the 4-1 semifinal win over North Harford.

Rivers, a lanky, 6-foot-5 right-hander, combined with left-hander Gerard Sokolis, a senior, to form one of the most dominant pitching tandems in the area. Sokolis, who pitched the championship game, actually expected to see Rivers at one point but managed to talk McElfish out of lifting him in the seventh.

"I actually told him [McElfish] in the dugout, `If I get through five and you feel confident with Ryan Rivers coming in, bring him in,"' Sokolis said.

"But I told him I wanted Ryan at first [base] and let me finish this game. It worked out. He made great plays at first base. You can't ask for any more from a sophomore like that. He's an incredible player, and look out for him in the future. He's going to be something."

Rivers, a converted catcher who finished the year 6-1 with an ERA around 1.00, has a fastball that averages in the mid-80s, with a nasty changeup and a developing curve.

"Last year, he was on the varsity as a freshman, and we picked and [chose] his spots to throw," McElfish said. "He didn't throw a lot of innings. We brought him along slowly, and I told him that this year, we're in an enviable situation in that we have two aces. I feel comfortable with him on the mound and with Gerard. How many coaches can say that they have two legitimate aces? That's why I think we're set up for this run."

Said Rivers: "I throw it [the fastball] pretty hard, and if it's working on the outside, then it's working inside and outside all day, and I usually get them jammed up. We have an excellent infield, and if they're jammed up, they're grounding them out, and that's all I do."

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