Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Coaches desire double elimination at baseball state tournament, but alteration is unlikely
Since Arlington Martin started the playoffs more than a month ago, it has battled through five best-of-3 series to get to the UIL state tournament. On Friday, however, one loss would end the season for the Dallas area’s best baseball team.
Martin coach Curt Culbertson wishes that wasn’t the case.
“It’s such a grind to play the best-of-3 series to get there, and then, boom, you lose one game and you’re out,” Culbertson said. “More of a double-elimination format would be better. Anything other than what it is now would be better.”
Most baseball coaches around the state would agree with that. The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association has made presentations to the UIL about changing the state baseball tournament to a double-elimination format like that of the College World Series.
“We’ve talked about it,” THSBCA president Tom Collins said, “and the UIL has listened.”
But nothing is going to change soon for the baseball playoffs, which uses the single-elimination format of other UIL team championships. It’s interesting to consider, however, how a double-elimination state baseball tournament might look.
But first, this question: Why would a double-elimination tournament be better?
It would be a truer evaluation of the teams who, for the most part, played best-of-3 series to get to state. It would test a team’s pitching depth and minimize the luck factor, which comes into play in a sport that features bad bounces, weak hits that bring home runs and line drives that are caught for outs.
“I don’t think a year goes by when coaches don’t ask about changing it,” said Collins, who coaches Round Rock Stony Point. “We all talk about the what ifs.”
So what if?
Well, only teams in Classes 5A and 4A would probably have the pitching depth required to play four or five games in a span of three or four days. Each team plays no more than two now, a semifinal and a final.
The roadblocks in the way of a double-elimination tournament are pretty huge. It starts with how many games would be added. A single-elimination format with four teams decides a champion in three games, but a double-elimination bracket would require six or seven games.
If the 4A and 5A classes went to double elimination, the UIL would need to add another venue to its two current tournament hosts: Dell Diamond in Round Rock and UFCU Disch-Faulk Field in Austin. The tournament would stretch from two to at least three days, and that would add to the costs for the teams involved.
“There are a lot of challenges,” Collins said.
Too many challenges, at least right now, for the idea to move beyond a pie-in-the-sky wish. Culbertson would love to see the change, but not surprisingly, he’s focusing on the present, as Martin attempts to win its first title since 1993.
“We’re just talking about getting off the bus and being ready to play,” he said.
For any team that isn’t ready, there’s no second chance.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon