To shut out inequities, open state tournaments


After some very good teams in both baseball and softball have gotten left out of the state tournaments because of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's current qualifying system, sentiment is growing to implement an open tournament for all sports except football.

A proposal to include all teams in the state tournaments is in the hands of MPSSAA executive secretary Ned Sparks, who is expected to form a committee to study the concept's feasibility.

The current system for baseball and softball qualifies the top four teams in each region (four regions in each of four enrollment classifications) by their playoff points averages.

It never has been a system free of inequities and has become even less perfect with the merging of Baltimore city public schools with the MPSSAA.

A prime example was in softball this spring, when perennial powers Glen Burnie and Old Mill were nosed out in Class 4A, Region IV by Patterson of Baltimore.

The Clippers had been hammered, 21-0, by Chesapeake earlier in the season and didn't play anything near the competitive schedule played by Anne Arundel County teams. Patterson took the fourth seed because it had the fourth best playoff points average.

Teams get points for games won, and they are divided by the total number of games played to determine the average.

The proposal to include everybody in the state tournaments with a maximum of six dates needed to play the games would do away with the points system -- except in football. Because football is played only once a week, there is no way six extra dates at season's end could be found.

"At the State Board of Control meeting in Ocean City in April, a proposal to expand the region playoffs to six teams was defeated, and most thought it was a better idea to include everyone in the state tournaments," said Bernie Walter, Arundel High athletic director and baseball coach who first suggested the idea.

"Ned [Sparks] has the ball in his court to pursue the idea and asked me to write a more detailed proposal for each sport, which I will do after baseball season."

Holding open tournaments encourages teams to play the tougher and highly ranked teams that may be from schools with smaller enrollment classifications without fear of losing points. Even the NCAA is considering using the open tournament format in Division I basketball.

An open tournament is the way to go, and certainly the teams that don't deserve to be there would be eliminated early by the higher seeds. Of course, a seeding system would have to be developed, and maybe the current points system could be retained to do that.

One thing is certain: There would be no complaints over being left out, and it would revive county championships with the larger schools in a certain county not wanting to dodge a smaller school having an up year.

Here's hoping that Sparks gets the open tournament ball bouncing.

* With this being the final weekend for state tournaments, the people in Anne Arundel County can take pride in their representatives.

The Broadneck boys lacrosse and Severna Park girls lacrosse teams both claimed state 3A-4A championships Wednesday, and Chesapeake's softball team and the Arundel baseball team are on the threshold of state 4A titles.

Chesapeake (21-0) meets Northern (20-1) of Calvert County at 8:30 tonight for the state 4A softball title, and Arundel (20-1) goes after the 4A baseball championship at 7 p.m. tomorrow against Gaithersburg (17-2) of Montgomery County at McCurdy Field in Frederick.

Two more state championships very well could be added to Anne Arundel's crown. Chesapeake and Arundel clearly have been the class of their sports all season, and it's really no surprise that each is playing the last game with a great chance to win.

Both teams have been ranked No. 1 by The Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Post has had Chesapeake No. 1 and Arundel No. 2.

What's interesting is that the two finals match the top two teams in each of the Baltimore and Washington areas. The Post has Northern No. 2 and Gaithersburg No. 1.

The State Baseball Coaches Poll has Arundel first and Gaithersburg second, and the USA Today Super 25 has Arundel at No. 12. Gaithersburg has yet to crack the national rankings, and the Wildcats hope to keep it that way.

An Arundel victory tomorrow night would be special in many ways.

It would give Coach Walter an unprecedented sixth state championship in 20 years, avenge last year's 4-1 semifinal loss to the Trojans (both teams returned their top players this year) and leave no doubt as to who is No. 1 in the Baltimore-Washington area.

The game will showcase Arundel first baseman/pitcher Tim Giles (.561, six homers and 33 RBI) and Trojans senior shortstop Jeff Cisar (.411, three homers, 14 RBI).

Gaithersburg advanced to the final by pummeling LaPlata of Charles County, 11-3, with an 11-hit attack. Arundel topped Dulaney, 4-1, as Giles (homer, triple, two RBI) and junior Brandon Agamennone combined on a four-hitter.

Walter is expected to pitch Agamennone (7-0, four saves), and Giles (9-1) will be waiting in the wings. If the Trojans can score 11 runs off those two guys, they truly would deserve the state championship and all the bragging rights.

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