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One dominant pitcher and rain is a dangerous combination.
American Heritage found that out the hard way, running into Coral Springs Christian ace and top Major League Baseball draft prospect Touki Toussaint in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals last season. Trailing 1-0 in the seventh, the Stallions tied the game at one just before the skies opened up in the middle of the rally.
That marked the end of Heritage's season, however, as the weather never allowed for the game to resume and the score reverted to 1-0 because the inning wasn't completed.
"That's terrible to end kids' high school careers like that," Heritage coach Carm Mazza said.
But it's the reality that comes along with Florida High School Athletic Association's single-elimination format. In a game that can be altered by a hot pitcher or one bad bounce, teams must escape their district tournaments and then win out to capture a state championship.
"It's not the best scenario. It's really not," said Mazza. "It's very tough. Single-elimination is really hard. It's probably even unfair."
It wasn't always this way, however.
The FHSAA experimented with a best-of-three format in the regional finals for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The first two games were played on one day and, if necessary, the third game was played the following day.
The experiment ended after two years, as the state received complaints that it placed a strain on athletic budgets and fans when the series went to three games and forced a second consecutive day of baseball.
"I loved that format," said Park Vista coach Larry Greenstein, whose team hosts Parkland-Douglas in the Class 8A regional finals tonight. "I wish they would go back to it. If you want to determine the best overall team, it comes down to more than one game. It shows who has more depth and that's part of being a team."
According to FHSAA baseball administrator Dale Klaus, another reason the experiment did not last past two seasons was the pressure it put on pitchers. According to state rules, a player cannot pitch more than 14 innings in a week (Monday through Saturday) and can't pitch more than 10 innings on consecutive days.
"It always comes up for discussion," Klaus said of the playoff format. "These are the things that come out of baseball advisory committees and our internal meetings."
The best-of-three system is used in other states. In Georgia, each round of the state playoffs involves a best-of-three series.
Similar to the format used in Florida for two seasons, high school teams in Georgia play a doubleheader on the first day and play the third game, if necessary, on the following day. Teams are given four to five days of rest between each series.
"We've been doing it for years," said Millard Daniel, who is a high school baseball umpire in Georgia. "I think it's a very fair system. It shows more depth in the team. A team may have one superstar pitcher. But the sign of a good team is how much depth they have. I think it's more of a balanced system."
For now, Florida's teams will have to wait if they want change. According to Klaus, the FHSAA does not plan to change baseball's playoff format in the near future.
"Honestly, I just think it's easier for them to do single-elimination," said Dwyer coach Frank Torre, whose team will travel to face Hialeah-American in the Class 7A regional finals today. "I know the coaches would probably rather have two out of three. It is what it is. You just have to hope you get a little lucky and go after it."
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Today's regional finals
Class 8A Parkland-Douglas at Park Vista, 7 p.m.
Class 7A Dwyer at Hialeah-American, 4 p.m.