PROVIDENCE — Changes in membership and divisional alignment are in store for Division I softball come the next two seasons.
At Monday’s Principals' Committee on Athletics meeting, the R.I. Interscholastic League’s governing body approved unanimously (10-0) to form one Division I softball league featuring 17 teams. Two of those 17 teams include newcomers Tolman and Woonsocket, both of whom have competed in Division II in recent seasons.
The 17-team arrangement means that teams will adhere to a 16-game league schedule that features each team playing one game against one another. That means that former Division I-North competitors Cumberland, Lincoln and Mount St. Charles will be matched up just once as opposed to the two times per season that became common for area softball followers to enjoy.
This marks the first time since 2009 that Division I is not divided into subdivisions. Ironically, that particular campaign marked the last time Woonsocket competed in the state’s premier league, compiling a 3-13 finish. The Novans were dropped down to Division III the following season before moving up to Division II beginning in 2011.
In Tolman’s case, its placement in Division I came just six seasons after joining the fast-pitch softball ranks. In most realignment cases, the win-loss record compiled over the previous eight seasons is taken into account, a figure that makes up 70 percent of the RIIL’s realignment formula. The 30-percent of the derivative is based on the school’s enrollment, depending if the sport pertains to males or females.
The entire Division I entry list includes Barrington, Bay View, Chariho, Coventry, Cranston West, Cumberland, East Providence, La Salle, Lincoln, Mount St. Charles, North Kingstown, Smithfield, Toll Gate, Tolman, Warwick Vets, Westerly and Woonsocket.
Division II softball includes four subdivisions with either five or six teams in each. Those teams in the north and south subdivisions will play 16 league games while the east and west subdivisions will utilize an 18-game slate.
Locally, you have Burrillville and North Smithfield grouped with Cranston East, Johnston, Ponaganset and Scituate in Division II-North. In Division II-West, St. Raphael and Davies Tech are with Central, Classical and North Providence.
In Division III, there will be one, eight-team league that will play by a 14-game league schedule. The league includes Bishop Keough, Block Island, Central Falls, Hope, Mount Pleasant, Narragansett, Rogers and Shea.
The playoff formulas in each division have yet to be ironed out by the softball committee.
Changes are also afoot in baseball, with the PCOA approving the alignment proposed by the sport’s committee. On the local front, Mount St. Charles is dropping down to Division II after spending the past two seasons in Division I. Likewise, Woonsocket was bumped up to Division I after a two-year stay in Division II. Also, East Providence dropped from Division I down to Division II.
Division I was broken down into two, 10-team arrangements while Division II features three subdivisions with nine teams placed in each.
In Division I-North, you have Bishop Hendricken, Cranston East, Cranston West, Cumberland, Johnston, La Salle, Lincoln, North Providence, St. Raphael and Woonsocket. In Division II-North, you have Burrillville, Central Falls, Mount St. Charles, North Smithfield, Ponaganset, Scituate, Shea, Smithfield and Tolman. Davies Tech and East Providence are in Division II-Central.
Golf, outdoor track and boys’ tennis also went through the realignment process Monday. The only sport that has yet to present its proposal to the PCOA is boys’ volleyball.
Based on recommendations from the RIIL’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the PCOA approved to implement heat acclimatization guidelines for student-athletes participating in fall sports. The legislation addresses how long teams can practice, hydration and recovery time.
“A lot of schools already go by this, but now it’s in writing,” said Tom Mezzanotte, executive director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.
In tennis, the following legislation was drafted and approved – a player must complete in a minimum of three league matches prior to the seed meeting for the individual and doubles tournaments. Such a stipulation no doubt stems from last spring, when Jared Donaldson joined the Ponaganset boys’ tennis team after being home schooled.
The PCOA asked the Interscholastic League to research the ramifications of a school that’s already on probation that goes on to commit an additional transgression. In response, the RIIL has come up with a “tool box” that is based on finite standards.
“We feel that it is helpful for a school that maybe isn’t aware of what a good athletic program should be,” said Mezzanotte. “It’s based on making sure that the school doesn’t suffer further penalties.”
Prior to the start of the upcoming boys’ and girls’ hockey season, players, coaches and on-ice officials will have to watch a 15-minute video that centers on serious injuries caused by serious body contact.
“It shows what is wrong and what is right and how to correct it,” Mezzanotte noted. “The idea is to minimize the risk of serious injury.”
Several co-op teams received approval, among them North Smithfield/Smithfield girls’ hockey along with Lincoln/Cumberland girls’ hockey.
On the subject of girls’ hockey, the PCOA wants the RIIL to look into the direction the sport is heading in following a decade on the scene.
“We’ve allowed girls’ hockey some latitude (in the co-op department) because it’s an emerging sport. The question is how long is it going to be an emerging sport?” Mezzanotte mentioned. “The more we co-op sports, the less they become school-based athletic programs, which is something that needs to be taken into consideration.”
The 2013 RIIL Hall of Fame induction ceremony will feature 11 honorees, among them Mount St. Charles athletic director Richard Lawrence and former East Providence hockey standout Ron Wilson.