The KHSAA Board of Control approved a proposal to revise the schedule for the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament during its meeting Wednesday. The measure moves the 16-team tournament from a one-week event to a two-week event in an effort to alleviate concerns about pitching limitations and roster depth.
In the revised schedule, first-round games will be played on Thursday, June 9 and on Friday, June 10. The quarterfinals will take place on Saturday, June 11.
Nearly a week will pass before the semifinals are held on Friday, June 17. The championship takes place a week after the quarterfinals on Saturday, June 18.
“Pitching limitations are in place for the health and safety of our student-athletes,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said. “In keeping with the overall desire of the membership to maintain a 16-team format, and yet alleviate identified problems with pitching restrictions, a change in schedule was necessitated.”
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The decision was spurred by research from Lawrence County baseball coach Travis Feltner, a proponent for a move to a three-class system in baseball as is used in sports like cross country and track and field. Feltner felt that the previous format made things more difficult for smaller schools in the state tournament. He doesn’t believe those school’s chances of advancing will get any better in the new format and was “not shocked but terribly disappointed” with Thursday’s announcement.
“What they’ve done here is put a Band-Aid over a gunshot wound,” Feltner told the Herald-Leader. “ ... 82 percent of the membership (I polled) was in favor of a class system. Ultimately, they promote that they have 43 sanctioned state championships but the only one that they care about is the men’s basketball state championship. It’s frustrating. It’s nothing against basketball, but everything’s important.”
Feltner’s research concluded that only one Class A school (Paintsville in 1990) has won a state baseball title since 1973 (Lexington Christian was recognized as Class A when it won in 2005 but moved to Class 2A in 2011). Only three 2A schools have claimed baseball titles in that same timeframe. Ultimately, Feltner said, state championships aren’t the end goal but rather overall competitive balance throughout the state.
“In my opinion, (the KHSAA) has felt threatened that (classification) will have an impact on basketball,” Feltner said. “I’m not advocating change there. ... In the four-game baseball tournament, the winners have played 17-18 kids. We’re a school of 600, so we can play a lot more than some, but we don’t even dress 18 on our varsity roster. I don’t think in the next 20 years you’ll see any difference.”
One of the criticisms Feltner received about his proposal was increased travel. He called the KHSAA hypocritical for asking some teams to now make two separate trips to Lexington. He remains committed to a multiple-class system in all sports outside of basketball.
“I’m OK for status quo if it’s beneficial,” Feltner said, “but in my opinion the data clearly shows it’s not.”
The board also heard a proposal to adopt pitch-count restrictions. Currently the KHSAA imposes a nine-inning limit in one day and a 15-inning limitation in a seven-day period but enforces no pitch count. Among the recommendations for adoption are the USA Baseball Pitch Smart guidelines. Any new pitch-count rules adopted would take place at January’s meeting and go into effect for the 2016 season.
While Feltner is in favor of instituting a pitch count, he doesn’t understand why the KHSAA is willing “to follow the lead of Colorado and Alabama” in instituting a rule that can’t be reasonably enforced while refusing to classify when 48 other states (all but Delaware) have done so.
“They’re dreaming up rules that they know they can’t police,” Feltner said. “ ... We have an innings rule now that works only on an honor system. I believe that stuff is important but they have no way of enforcing it.”
The KHSAA on Wednesday also approved a measure to play the team versus team and individual singles/doubles state tennis competitions on separate days rather than in a single day. That change was made in response to a report from the USTA which suggested players should play no more than two full-set matches in one day.
“The review of our state tennis format has been an ongoing process,” Tackett said. “We look forward to the next stage of this event and the positive impact these changes will have on this great championship.”
The process for determining regional team tennis champs was also amended to how state team champions are decided, by team versus team play rather than an aggregate points system.
Revised Baseball State Tournament Format
Thursday, June 9: 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
Friday, June 10: 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 11: 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. 8 p.m.
Friday, June 17: 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 18: 7 p.m.