The MIAA Baseball Committee approved a subcommittee recommendation for an alignment with five divisions beginning with the statewide tournament in 2022.
And if the committee, tournament directors and coaches have their say, a sixth division – the 1A or “Super 8” tournament – will continue to be a big part of the equation.
During a virtual meeting Thursday, the baseball committee voted, 11-0, to approve a plan that would split the 325 MIAA baseball programs into five nearly equal divisions. The MIAA has fielded four divisions since 2014, although only three covered all four sections of the state. Division 2 has been limited to Eastern Mass. schools.
The alignment plan still needs to go to the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee for final approval, but baseball already falls under the guidelines for five divisions (more than 275 teams) set forth in the statewide tournament proposal, which was passed by the association’s full membership in February.
Another key point of the statewide plan states: “Sport committees may request an additional division for a 1A division or request a 1A division within the divisional structure, as long as meets all criteria established by [the] TMC/Blue Ribbon Committee.”
Baseball introduced the IA tournament in 2014 — one of just two MIAA sports (boys’ hockey is the other) to do so. Committee members agreed it has been an overwhelmingly positive addition to the sport, and voted 11-0 to recommend to the TMC that the Super 8 continue to be part of the statewide tournament.
"The coaches want it, the kids want it," said Oxford coach Justin Richards, who represents the Mass. Baseball Coaches Association on the committee.
Don Fredericks, who has served as 1A director since its inception, praised how the eight-team tournament – selected each year by members of the committee – has been open to all teams across the state. North Andover, a D2 team, won the tournament in 2019.
Public schools have won five of the first six Division 1A tournaments, including Braintree in 2015 and ’16. Perhaps more significant to the committee is that six public schools won Division 1 state titles from 2014-19, with half of those (Leominster 2014, West Springfield 2016, Taconic 2017) from Central or Western Mass.
“The 1A tournament has made the Division 1 tournament that much better,” said Bob McNamara, longtime Central Mass. and state tournament director.
One potential sticking point and a key part of the TMC statewide proposal is that all tournament brackets – including any potential 1A divisions – would be single-elimination as opposed to double-elimination.
The Baseball Committee approved the alignments with little controversy, broken down as follows: Division 1 (63 teams); Division 2 (66); Division 3 (65); Division 4 (66); Division 5 (65).
Most of the discussion focused on placement of a select few teams.
The subcommittee chose to slot Worcester North (D2) and O’Bryant (D3) each a division lower than their respective enrollments dictated; MIAA liaison Keith Brouillard said the subcommittee believed the new alignments would be too big of a jump for those schools.
The committee also discussed software tracking programs for the new pitch count rule that was supposed to take effect before this season was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Athletic directors on the committee expressed concern over adding another cost to their budgets that will be feeling the crunch going forward because of the pandemic.
Changes on track
On Tuesday, the MIAA’s track and cross-country committee approved a proposal to create nine statewide divisions for cross-country, and six divisions for outdoor track.
Subject to TMC approval, there would be three regional cross-country meets of three divisions each. The top seven teams in each division (plus two wild cards), and top 10 additional individuals, would advance to the state meet, which would increase to three divisions. Divisions 1-3 would compete in 1A state, Divisions 4-6 in 1B, and Divisions 7-9 in 1C.
Cross-country currently has two divisions in the state meet, with 10 divisional meets (six Eastern Mass., two each Central and West).
Indoor track would remain at five divisions statewide, but the committee voted to make the all-state meet a “Meet of Champions” with only individual events. That would eliminate the awarding of a team champion, which historically has had limited scoring that could be heavily influenced by a select few athletes or relays.
As with indoor track, outdoor track’s six divisions would be aligned based more on participation numbers. Outdoor track currently has four East divisions, and two Central/West divisions. The format will be discussed at the next committee meeting scheduled for June 10.