WPIAL has big decisions to make this week about baseball, softball playoffs

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 | 12:30 PM

Will higher-seeded baseball and softball teams host playoff games this spring or could the WPIAL use neutral sites as usual?

That’s one question from a list the WPIAL wants to answer this week when the baseball and softball committees meet online Thursday and Friday. The WPIAL also must decide what to do if a section has too many unplayed games to clearly determine who makes the playoffs.

But before making any big decisions, the WPIAL has solicited feedback from its schools through an online survey sent out Monday, WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

“The information gathered from the survey will be reviewed with the committees,” she said, “and then the whole playoff parameters will be communicated (to schools) next week.”

The WPIAL in years past scheduled baseball and softball playoff games at neutral sites but might covid-19 concerns leave some venues unavailable this spring?

“That was part of the questionnaire,” Scheuneman said. “Are they willing to host neutral site games?”

The WPIAL also stands ready to adjust the way teams qualify for the playoffs, but only if absolutely needed. Traditionally, the top four teams and any unbreakable ties qualify for the playoffs from every baseball and softball section.

So, for now, the WPIAL is first seeking an accurate count of how many games teams expect to complete before the regular season ends.

“We’ll look at what hasn’t been completed and what won’t be completed before even having that conversation (about playoff qualifiers),” she said. “We’ll talk about the playoffs in general, but we need to see where teams are before we make a decision.”

The baseball and softball committees meet again May 13-14 to seed the playoff brackets. The WPIAL calendar has the playoffs starting May 17, tentatively.

The WPIAL used an “open tournament” format in the winter for basketball playoffs but that sport faced much different covid-related challenges than baseball or softball has this spring, Scheuneman said. The state’s mask mandate caused some basketball teams with differing mask policies to refuse to play one another.

That wasn’t an issue this spring because athletes weren’t required to wear masks during outdoor competition.

The WPIAL likely would consider some form of an open tournament in the spring only if a significant number of games went unplayed, causing unbalanced standings and an unclear playoff picture. However, a large majority of baseball teams are now within two or three games of completing their section schedules.

Still, some softball sections are farther ahead than others. For example, in Section 1-3A, the six teams were scheduled to play 10 section games apiece, yet none has played more than six.

“I’m not going to say (an open tournament) is completely out of the question,” Scheuneman said. “If I come back and see half of the teams aren’t going to get their games in, then it could be in the conversation. I wouldn’t rule it in or out right now.”

After a stretch of dry spring weather, rain has also caused postponements in recent days.

“That’s why we wanted to wait as long as possible to get this information (from the survey),” Scheuneman said. “To see what all is going to be completed.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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