Tech schools are altering the integrity of state baseball tournaments

The state’s governing body of high school sports bears many responsibilities, yet none greater than establishing an equitable baseline for the games our kids play.

And while many of us quibble with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s applications at times, its recent changes to the boys’ basketball tournament, for example, at least acknowledged that changes needed to be made in the name of equity.

Now the time has come to scrutinize competitive imbalance in other sports, namely baseball, whose 2019 state tournament thus far illustrates the necessity of moving technical schools from the process.

Straight up: Technical schools do not belong in the same state tournament with everyone else. They cannot compete and thus alter the integrity of the brackets, allowing schools fortunate enough to draw them de facto byes and the advantage of altering pitching rotations.

A summary of tech schools in the first round this year:

Class L: Notre Dame 18, Ellis Tech 0; Jonathan Law 7, Wilcox Tech 1; Bristol Central 16, Platt Tech 0.

Class M: Woodland 21, Wolcott Tech 0; Watertown 12, Vinal Tech 0; Ellington 10, Abbott Tech 1; St. Joseph 25, Grasso Tech 0.

The only victorious tech schools: Cheney Tech defeated another tech school and Norwich Tech defeated something called University/Classical.

Moreover: Wilcox Tech, because of a 15-5 record compiled by defeating nothing other than tech schools, was the No. 7 seed in Class L. That’s the essence of compromising bracket integrity. Law, the No. 26 seed which played Waterford in Saturday’s quarterfinals, essentially got a get-out-of-jail-free card. Generally speaking, No. 26 seeds in Class L that play on the road in the first round of the state tournament face more daunting undertakings. Same with Bristol Central, the No. 30 seed.

The aforementioned tech school teams were outscored 109-2 in the first round this year.

Once again for effect: 109-2.

And they belong in this tournament … why?

This might require some ingenuity. Perhaps a separate tournament. But for the sake of competitive balance, conversations ought to begin forthwith.

Remember: Baseball is about three things: pitching, pitching and pitching. And if a high school coach sees he has drawn a tech school in the early rounds, he has the unfair advantage of altering his pitching rotation. He may opt to throw his No. 3 or 4 starter against a tech school, understanding the history of how tech schools can’t compete. No such luck for another coach whose program is playing a more legitimate school.

Example: The No. 6 seed in Class L is Masuk. The No. 8 seed is New Fairfield. Both from the South-West Conference, clearly stronger than the tech school conference. There is no legitimate argument to be made how Wilcox Tech “earned” the No. 7 seed.

I’m not even sure how some tech schools were thrown into Class L. They don’t belong anywhere, let alone against the Notre Dames of the world with rich baseball traditions. CIAC officials really need to get beyond the idea that enrollment numbers alone are sacrosanct. They’re not. It’s how such numbers are compiled.

Notre Dame is a school of choice drawing kids from multiple towns to a school with a history of athletic success. Ellis Tech draws kids from multiple towns who want to learn a trade. They deserve our respect for that, but they don’t belong on the same baseball field with the top programs.

Again: I vehemently disagree with the CIAC’s one-size-fits-all numerical formula that determines boys’ basketball divisions. But at least there’s effort made to recognize the old way was imbalanced. Is there work to be done? Sure. Innovation, a New Britain-based school of choice, didn’t belong playing Old Lyme, an Old Lyme-based public school, for the state title last year. But at least there’s movement, sort of like the tortoise chasing the hare.

Now comes time to fix baseball. The tech schools need to go. There’s no rational argument to be made suggesting otherwise.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

 

 

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