Baseball remains a problem


Two days earlier, Phil Orbe, the baseball coach at Montville High, said the following of the impending Eastern Connecticut Conference Baseball Tournament:

"There's no way - and you can put this one in 18 inch letters - we're winning an ECC tournament game," he said. "We're going all hands on deck (Tuesday) and we'll probably just throw anybody Wednesday (in the tournament quarterfinals). The timing of the ECC tournament is not the best right now with us playing two games in a row right before it. We're not going to get into Thursday (the semifinals) and Friday (the championship game)."

Note to Orbe: Based on Wednesday's developments, there's no choice but to issue an absorbing, "liar, liar, pants on fire."

Turns out the Indians pulled off The Miracle On Stott Avenue and advanced anyway with a 7-4 win over Windham in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

Plainfield advanced, too. This after coach Jason Chaviaras told the Norwich Bulletin that Plainfield was going to treat Wednesday's quarterfinal like a "scrimmage."

This is not the first time the ECC baseball coaches have cut loose a few barn droppings on the conference tournament. Retired Fitch coach Ed Harvey couldn't stand it. Retired Waterford coach Jack O'Keefe was never rendered to cursing, either, if the Lancers failed to advance.

There's a reason for that. The rhythms of baseball, requiring sufficient rest for starting pitchers, collide with the timing of the ECC Tournament, whose semifinals and finals are today and Friday. The state tournament starts Monday. Hence, staff aces and No. 2 starters wouldn't be rested by the time it begins. It has left coaches wondering if the ECC Tournament, even if at palatial Dodd Stadium, is worth the time.

Still, "chafed" would be one way to describe some coaches and tournament officials Wednesday upon reading the disdain for the ECC Tournament. "Really chafed" would be another.

Tournament director and Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore said Lyman Memorial coach Marty Gomez, Waterford coach Art Peluso and East Lyme coach Jack Biggs made it a point to say "we're here to win." Ledyard coach Sam Kilpatrick said that "I'd rather be there than scrimmaging," a not too subtle a poke at Chaviaras.

This is a problem. It tugs at the legitimacy of a championship tournament if not all participants take it seriously. It's a league championship. The word "championship," by definition, should suggest the seriousness of competition is a given.

Not the case here. So here are two modest proposals. Either change the baseball schedule so the tournament ends no later than Wednesday of this week, thereby allowing a full five days of rest before the state tournament. Or since the ECC is big on opt outs, give qualifying teams the ability to opt out of the ECC Tournament and relinquish their spots to other teams in the league.

I have no idea if the former is plausible. Scheduling matrices are complex. Spring weather around here supports the belief that nature is a mother. But if it's possible - and maybe it includes a four-game week or two to play the requisite number of regular season games - then it should be explored.

Maybe, though, the opt out option would be an attention getter. It's likely other ECC schools would have replaced Montville and Plainfield here this week quite happily. Seriously.

Get St. Bernard here and give us the chance to see Willie Rios and his high octane fastball. Get New London - a hot team after a bad start - here, too.

Would we truly have missed Montville and Plainfield?

Again: This is not to disparage either of them. I get their concerns. But if they really didn't want to be here, stay home.

I understand that's not behavior becoming league members. (Although it's certainly not new to the ECC). Baseball is different than other sports. It has different considerations. Hence, schools should have the options of not coming. It ensures that everyone at the tournament wants to be there. Clearly, that's not the case in 2014. Not sure it's ever been.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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