The postseason baseball schedule could use a tweak or two

Now they wait.

There was the usual dogpile in the middle of the infield in celebration Friday night after the final out in the Helias Crusaders’ 9-3 victory against the Washington Blue Jays in the Class 5 District 5 baseball tournament championship game at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.

The Crusaders, who started the season winning just two of their first seven games and were under .500 at 7-8 on April 22, have hit their stride in the four-plus weeks since that 2-0 loss at Rock Bridge.

The title win against Washington was Helias’ 10th in a row and earned the Crusaders a berth in the Class 5 quarterfinals. They’re waiting to see who they will play in that game, the District 6 title game between Willard and Glendale scheduled for Saturday was rained out and will be played this afternoon.

That will be a short wait.

The wait for the actual quarterfinal game will seem interminable. Helias and its to-be-determined opponent will not play the quarterfinal until Saturday. And then the Class 5 Final Four would not start until Friday, June 3.

A glance at the calendar shows if Helias was to advance to the semifinals, it would have played one game in two weeks to get there.

That’s too long.

Why the wait? It is partially the product of the decision to add a sixth classification to baseball in the Missouri State High School Activities Association postseason.

The Class 5 and 6 district tournaments, made up of the largest schools in the state along with those bumped up due to the MSHSAA “championship factor,” are assigned to eight districts comprised of eight teams. The other four classes are then divided as equally as possible, with geographic factors in mind. There are districts in the smaller classes with as few as five teams.

MSHSAA guidelines state the district tournaments in all six classes needed to be completed by Saturday, unless there were weather delays.

But there are 16 districts in the smaller four classes. So those qualifiers need to play a sectional round – Class 1 and 2 on Monday, Class 3 and 4 on Tuesday – with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The Final Four in Class 1 and 2 is a week from Monday and Tuesday, with Class 3 and 4 playing the following two days. Then the Class 5 and 6 qualifiers get their chance to play for state championships.

It seems like there’s got to be a way to adjust the postseason schedule to get the long waits off the table.

It could be as simple as scheduling the bigger schools to play their quarterfinal games earlier, such as this Wednesday. And then rotate the classes on the dates they play in the Final Four. Keep the pairings the same – 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6 – but just switch the order of the days they play.

Yes, there would still be a gap for the bigger schools in the years they play on the last two days, but it’s better than the current scheduling model.

Baseball is not the only sport in this situation. Girls soccer is in the same boat. District tournaments are done, but quarterfinals aren’t scheduled until next Saturday. The Final Four in all four classes isn’t until June 3-4 at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton.

This is not a shot at MSHSAA. Just like the NCAA, the organization only does what the schools in its membership vote for. So if the schools want six classes in baseball, there should be six classes. And I understand holding the baseball and girls soccer championships as the final two of the school year is the way to go.

But there sure seems like there’s a way to cut out some of the wait time.

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