Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Best-of-3 is usually playoff format of choice, but one-game option probably isn’t going anywhere
The Rowlett baseball team has advanced to the second round of the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, showing that it’s rarely an underdog in the first round. But this year, coach Paul Carmon made it clear that his team is not the favorite.
For the first time in 17 years as the Eagles’ coach, he flipped a coin and hoped for a one-game playoff. He won the flip, and Rowlett (12-16) will get a one-game matchup Wednesday with Rockwall (25-6) instead of a best-of-3 series.
In a best-of-3 series, the better team, especially when it has pitching depth like Rockwall, is usually going to win. A one-game playoff gives the underdog a much better chance.
“I hate to do it,” Carmon said, “but you’ve got to do what gives your team the best chance to be successful.”
The University Interscholastic League gives coaches that chance by allowing each matchup in the baseball and softball playoffs to be a single game or a best-of-3 series until it gets to the state tournament, where the semifinals and finals are each one game.
Until the 1999 season, the one-game playoff was the default unless both teams wanted to play a best-of-3 series. Now if the coaches don’t agree, it’s decided by a coin flip.
“I’m a fan of the series and believe that’s the way it should be,” said Flower Mound coach Danny Wallace, whose top-ranked team in SportsDay’s Class 5A area rankings will open a best-of-3 series against Hurst L.D. Bell on Thursday. “I think if you did a vote of coaches or took a poll, it would be overwhelmingly in favor of a series.”
The vast majority of the opening-round playoff matchups will be best-of-3 series, which shows most coaches favor the format. Tom Collins, president of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, said he would like the UIL to require a best-of-3 series unless both teams agree to just one game.
The THSBCA has made several proposals to the UIL Legislative Council in recent years, Collins said, including one that would require a best-of-3 only in 4A and 5A, where teams generally have the pitching depth to handle more games. The UIL has considered the proposals, but superintendents have not been surveyed about the issue.
“Superintendents would probably just want it done in one game,” said Collins, who coaches Round Rock Stony Point.
It’s usually cheaper that way. Some baseball teams have enough of a following that ticket sales could offset the cost, but a three-game series often requires more travel and sometimes more missed school time.
“Right now, the best-of-3 just sounds like more to them. Anything that sounds like more, they don’t want to hear,” Collins said of the UIL. “I just don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
And so the favorites will hope to avoid the fate of teams such as Conroe The Woodlands, which last year dominated its district but lost a coin flip and was forced into a one-game matchup with Klein Oak. Oak won the game on a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“In one game, anything can happen,” Wallace said. “We all know that in the game of baseball, you can have one of those nights where you just hit it right at people.”
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