MURRELL COLUMN: Enough of the same old same old: Prep playoffs need consistency

Published 4:52 pm Thursday, May 12, 2016

Game 1 of Port Neches-Groves vs. Santa Fe was played Wednesday and resumes today, with the possibility of Game 3 on Saturday. Game 1 of West Orange-Stark vs. Giddings was Thursday and resumes today, with Game 3, if needed, to be contested tonight. Game 1 of Bridge City vs. Bellville begins tonight with Games 2 and 3 scheduled for Saturday.

The schedule isn’t confusing, but it could have been. Then again, I’m not quite used to the University Interscholastic League baseball or softball playoffs.

Let’s take it back one round. Some winners were determined in one game, others in a best-of-three.

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Now, we have a discussion. Have we not heard of consistency, people?

It would help that the eye of Texas’ high school athletics had a more unified format for advancing each winner in the baseball and softball playoffs, for the sake of fairness, honestly. (Hey, let’s all save energy!) I’m perfectly aware that coaches decide whether each round before state is one-and-done or best-of-three, and I — a friendly member of the press — respect that. I just cover, not play.

I’m also aware of the arguments involved in such decisions: Is it going to rain on a certain day or days? What field would host? What if we lose the first game?

In any one-and-done format for baseball and softball, the ball can bounce in a way much different from basketball or football. Coaches also would stress over which pitcher to use in each one-and-done round, unless they adopt the Arkansas style for its single-elimination tournaments: The ace pitches in the first round, the No. 2 person in the quarterfinal, the No. 3 pitcher in the semifinal and the ace in the title game. It helped the White Hall baseball team play in three of the past four 5A championships and gave now-Auburn freshman Daniel Sprinkle more exposure.

High school games in the regular season are not played in three-game sets as in the college or professional ranks, so some, although they would be in the minority, might argue why should there be some sort of a series in the first place.

All of this being said, why not try this, UIL:

In classes 4A-6A, the higher-seeded team hosts a double-elimination, four-team area tournament, similar to the NCAA regionals, during the first week of the playoffs. This would cover the first and second rounds, known as the bi-district and area.

For the third round, or regional quarterfinal, two teams can meet in a best-of-three. (If I don’t seem consistent myself, keep reading.)

The winner advances to a four-team, two-and-out regional to cover the regional semifinals and finals. This can be held on a neutral site.

For the state finals, two best-of-three series. This may mean the University of Texas hosts more championship games with Dell Diamond in Round Rock having its share, but having conveniently located college/professional fields for each participant would be a boon for more Texas communities.

The common denominator in all of this is that the loser has to lose twice. If a ball is going to bounce a certain way, let it happen twice, and we’ll believe the winner deserved to win.

What would be different for classes 1A-3A? Neutral sites for every round to save on travel, since those schools tend to be more spread out.

Speaking of home-field advantage: I’m absolutely for it in all tournament sports. It’s past time that the teams that win district or get second place be rewarded for their work in the regular season, at most through the first three rounds.

Any true high school baseball or softball fan denying there could be a more consistent way to follow the playoffs is lying through his or her teeth. Here’s looking at you, UIL, to initiate change.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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