The more the merrier.
That’s the way Districts 16 and 31 view the new pool-play playoff format that will be instituted for the 11-12 and 9-10 baseball divisions when both districts open their playoff seasons next week.
The move is a break from the long-standing past, when the two districts used a double-elimination format through playoffs to determine a district champion.
This year, both districts will be made up of two pools - with no less than five teams in each pool.
“We changed the format from double-elimination to pool play,” said Rob Demko, an assistant district administrator for Districts 16 and 31, following Wednesday’s District 16/31 seedings meeting at Wilkes-Barre Area Vo-Tech. “So each team plays a minimum of four games.”
That was the idea when new District 16 and 31 acting administrator Bob Bertoni floated the idea to change the Little League playoff format in both districts this season.
“It gives kids an opportunity to play more ball,” Demko said. “We make leagues buy All-Star uniforms and save money and do some fundraising for All-Stars. Most leagues are two (games) and out. So you raise all that money and they play two games.”
And according to Demko, nobody’s complaining about the chance to play double the games - at least for some teams - than they did before.
“It’s been accepted,” Demko said. “Everyone’s thrilled, not just for playing more games, but there’s some more strategy involved. You’ve got to have some pitching now.”
Demko stressed the move to round-robin pool play will only involve the 11-12 and 9-10 divisions baseball divisions - which typically enter the most teams at Little League tournament time. For junior and senior baseball divisions and all softball divisions, the tournaments will remain a double-elimination format.
The move was suggested this year by Bertoni - who coaches softball at Crestwood High School and serves as the administrator for Districts 16 and 31. But may have been a little overdue.
“Why now? I just think the tournament in Williamsport - the Little League World Series - has changed to pool play a couple years ago,” Demko said. “Bob Bertoni, our acting DA, floated the idea to the administration. We love the idea.”
The top two finishers from the two pools will then play a semifinal, double-elimination series in both District 16 and District 31, and the winners of that semifinal tournament will advance to meet Lackawanna County’s representatives from Districts 17 and 32 in the regional field.
“The pitchers come into play now,” Demko said. “It gives it (the tournament) more flavor. I don’t want to say it creates more excitement, but that’s what it does.”
Some fans may have to tone down that exuberance.
Bertoni pleaded with league presidents during Wednesday’s meeting to encourage fans to keep things positive in the stands at All-Star time.
“We’ve had too many incidents during the year,” Bertoni said. “We have suspended three families from leagues already. This administration’s not going to tolerate it (bad behaviour). If they’re not going to behave, they’re not coming (to games). It’s that simple.”