You know, junior varsity sports in our county don't get much attention and it's understandable why, but lately I've come to a conclusion as to why have the sport of softball at all at that level.
In my job, at least part of it, the focus is on the numerous varsity sports at our numerous high schools, which doesn't leave much time or room for coverage of the JV sports, which are just as numerous.
That said, when you have a child on a JV team, you tend to see as many games as you can, regardless of the outcomes. So, having done this, this season, I'm a bit irked and here's why.
A year ago I caught wind of a rule that was getting applied when certain "good teams" were playing those to be determined "bad teams." That rule was a five-run rule per half inning so that the "bad team" could get out of the field.
So, taking it a step further to this year, you'll find that five-run rule is in play at every, that's right, every JV game throughout the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
Look, there's a little piece of my brain and a slightly bigger piece of my heart that gets it, but it's just not right. These are 14-16-years-olds playing this game, right? It takes coaching to a different level and it's not in the right direction.
In some cases this year I've seen five runs scored in three and sometimes four innings straight. Simple math tells you that's 15 to 20 runs, but the game has to go five innings before the 10-run mercy rule is imposed.
That brings me to last week in Joppatowne, where things are a bit rough in softball. This was a scheduled double-header against Havre de Grace, which is still pretty good in the sport. When a double-header is played, seven-inning games are reduced to a pair of five-inning games.
So, if it takes five innings to reach a mercy rule in a normal seven-inning game, in what inning do you think the mercy rule should be imposed in these five-inning games? If you picked any number, you'd be wrong. There is no mercy rule. Shocking.
OK, so we jump forward to Friday and another mismatch of sorts in Havre de Grace, which was hosting Patterson Mill. I say mismatch, because the first meeting was one of those games I talked about earlier when five runs were scored by the winning team (Havre de Grace) in each of the first four innings.
Friday's game wasn't a complete repeat, but as expected, it was a lopsided contest. A contest that was 16-1 in the bottom of fourth inning with Havre de Grace still batting. And you know what happened next?
The homeplate umpire, whom I did not know, checked with both teams' scorebooks to confirm the score, then deemed the game over, per a 15-run mercy rule in four innings. Really?
OK, just so I got this right. I've seen many games this year where the score was just over or under the number 20 for the winners and the game was stopped in the fifth inning. Then I have to watch a both ends of a double-header that had to be played to five innings in each game. And last, but not least, I witness a game called in the fourth inning by another mercy rule that I haven't seen since my days of playing church softball (that's 25 years ago)?
For me, what I've seen this last month and half, is a joke. It's only softball because they play with the 12-inch optic yellow ball.
I love this game, but there's that little piece of my brain, and again, a piece of my heart, that says do away with it if it can't be done better.