Two-of-three series coming to 5A tournament next season

Let’s play two.

Heck, let’s play three.

That’s the way it’s going to be next spring when the second and third rounds of the Class 5A baseball tournament become two-out-of-three affairs rather than single elimination as has been the case in all other classes and, for that matter, most other LHSAA team sports for decades.

The semifinals and championship rounds will revert to single elimination played on a neutral site. The first round also will be one-and-done for the loser.

And, for an added twist, all of next year’s semifinals and finals probably will be played McMurry Park in Sulphur. The city’s parks and recreation department is the only bidder for the tournaments, with the exception of Southern University which is seeking only the Class 3A and 2A tournaments.

The LHSAA’s Executive Committee will vote on the venues at its summer meeting next month.

But the most notable change will be the two-of-three rounds.

“I’ve been a big advocate of this,” Catholic High coach Brad Bass said. “In the long run, it’s going to be better for baseball.”

If the new setup had been in effect this year, however, it wouldn’t have been better for Catholic.

The 21st-seeded Bears are in the semifinals after a 4-2 victory against No. 13 Sulphur on Friday. They don’t have to beat the Tors again.

And in the second round, Catholic beat fifth-seeded Jesuit, 8-3. That game was played in Baton Rouge. Under the new format, the Blue Jays would have been the home team because the higher seed now gets the home game regardless of previous travel.

Catholic has advanced to Saturday’s semifinals by winning once on the road (at Lafayette), once at home and once at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium. In 2014 getting as far as they have in 2013, the Bears would have had to have won five games — all of them on the road.

“We’re certainly capable of beating anyone twice,” Bass said. “And we’d love to get that second win and be able to move on to the next round.

“I am looking forward to seeing how it all works out.”

So are a lot of other people, chief among them Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll, president of the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association, which spearheaded the drive to get approval of the new setup at the LHSAA’s annual convention in January.

“There’s going to be some adjusting,” Carroll said. “But in the end, I think everybody got something they wanted out of it.”

And for everyone, there’s the weather to deal with.

As was driven home Friday, rain is always going to be a factor, especially now that there is at least one extra game to play in the second and third rounds.

Those games are locked into a Friday single game/ Saturday doubleheader (if necessary) format, and the LHSAA is saying that if a round can’t be completed by Monday, they will come up with a tiebreaker.

“We need to work with the LHSAA office to get through things like that,” Carroll said. “Rain is something you can’t avoid, and we need to be prepared.”

The eight-team 5A tournament has been around for a long time, but it’s seen better days.

Rain or no rain, Friday attendance was poor as it has been for years. Would changing the format help? It’s worth a shot, although lower seeded teams having no chance of a home game goes against the fairness grain.

Best-of-three in prep baseball playoffs are common in many other states, where the season can stretch into June.

That won’t happen here, but the notion that there are too many distractions in May, especially for seniors, may be a fallacy.

“I know all of these guys on our team and the rest of the guys here, we’d all love to keep playing,” said Catholic senior pitcher Ben Braymer. It’s always a sad day for us when the season is over because we can’t play any more. It would be a blessing to extend our season.”

So let’s play two. Or three. Or four.