Baseball teams in squeeze mode as playoffs loom
Mount St. Charles takes infield practice after Thursday's game against Cumberland was postponed due to rain.
The recent string of rainy weather, resulting in a myriad of postponements, will not impede the high school baseball playoffs from starting on time.
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The Interscholastic League sent out a reminder to coaches on Thursday â€“ the fourth consecutive day that wetness impacted the high school scene â€“ that Monday is still the last day of the regular season. The brackets in Division I and II will be distributed to the schools on Tuesday with Wednesday serving as the official opening of the postseason.
Itâ€™s the same schedule thatâ€™s been in place since the start of the season, before Mother Nature decided to wreak havoc and force teams to scramble just to fit games in with limited time remaining in the regular season.
While coaches may bemoan the RIIL keeping the status quo instead of pushing back the start date of the playoffs, there isnâ€™t much the league can do to accommodate such a request at this late juncture. When the schedule is pieced together, Interscholastic League officials first target June in relation to when dates are available to hold the finals at McCoy Stadium. Once those dates are secure, the league will then work backwards, rounding out the postseason before tackling the official startup of the regular season, which is usually the first week in April.
For this go-around, the finals at McCoy are slated for June 6-8. The format is best-of-three, with June 8 serving as the â€śif necessaryâ€ť date. The Pawtucket Red Sox are away for most of the week, returning home on Saturday, June 11. Itâ€™s conceivable that PawSox officials could grant the RIIL possibly one or two additional days in case rain impacts the postseason, but itâ€™s standard procedure for the McCoy grounds crew to set aside one or two days prior to the PawSox returning in order to get the field fit and ready for the primary tenants.
While reaching McCoy is obviously the goal of every team, the question hovering over many programs is what kind of mental and physical shape they will be in once the playoffs kick in. Back-to-back affairs and three-games-in-a-row are quickly flooding the slate just as quickly as the puddles appearing on the infield surfaces at neighboring ballfields.
Tolman and Shea will play Friday and Saturday before playing each other in a non-leaguer set Monday afternoon inside McCoy. St. Raphael, which needs one more win to feel good about its chances about inclusion in the 16-team Div. I format, will play Saturday (home to Cumberland), Sunday (home to La Salle) and Monday (at Moses Brown). Besides visting SRA, Cumberland will play Sunday at Mount St. Charles and Monday at home vs. Smithfield.
The one local team with strong playoff aspirations that has not been decimated by the string of rotten weather is Woonsocket, which has only one game left, Friday at winless Davies Tech. The Novans sit at 14-3.
Then thereâ€™s the trying-to-fit-everything-in maneuvering Lincoln High is doing. The Lions, currently the top team in I-North at 12-3, will take part in a rare doubleheader this Sunday at Chet Nichols Field against Moses Brown (12 p.m.) and North Providence (4 p.m.) before facing La Salle on Monday. A win over second-place Moses Brown (11-4) would clinch the division crown for Lincoln and allow Ed Huntâ€™s club to remain in the hunt for the second overall seed.
Lincolnâ€™s twinbill is two of eight games scheduled to take place on Sunday, normally a day of rest for high school competition. A total of 48 league games in both divisions are on the docket between Friday and Monday, a day in which no team is allowed to begin a game past 4 oâ€™clock. The Interscholastic League is banking on all games finishing up around 6 p.m. so that the playoff preparations can get under way soon after.
How the playoffs will work leading up to the final round at McCoy is as follows: from next Wednesday until Sunday, May 29, teams in both divisions will be broken up into four four-team regional brackets. The format for this will be double elimination, with the highest remaining seed enjoying home field advantage.
The survivors of the regional tournaments will advance to the best-of-three Final Four series, which are scheduled to be played June 1-3. Division I will take place at West Warwickâ€™s McCarthy Stadium, while Pierce Field will serve as the backdrop for Division II.