I hope someone who works with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association can explain this to me.
After recording 20 wins in 25 games and finishing tied for second in the Southeastern Conference’s regular season standings, Richmond’s reward is another game with Scotland tonight in the league tournament finals.
And for what?
Not much, other than a conference tournament title. Nothing will change in the seedings for the state playoffs because win or lose, Richmond will still be the No. 2 seed, while Scotland will be the top team.
Why bother playing the game when a major injury could sidetrack a team’s chances in the playoffs?
That was Richmond coach Ricky Young’s biggest fears heading into the SEC tournament. After the Raiders lost the coin flip for the conference tournament’s No. 2 seed with Pinecrest, Young knew his pitching staff would be taxed playing three games in four days. He talked about losing starters Nic Bullard or Ryan Mercer to an injury or another key cog to the Raiders’ success this season in basically meaningless games.
Yes, the tie between Pinecrest and Richmond needed to be broken, but do it on the field, not in an office with the flip of a quarter. And that could have been arranged this week instead of marching all six SEC teams to the diamond.
In fact, the other SEC tournament games this week in girls soccer and softball should have been shelved in favor of playing outside competition.
Scotland softball coach Patrick Williams after his team’s win over Richmond on Tuesday said he was tired of playing SEC teams he wanted to battle new competition sooner than later.
A quick informal poll of coaches around the SEC shows the majority are against having a tournament. Yet, one is played each year.
For teams on the outside looking in — Purnell Swett and Hoke County in both baseball and soccer, and Lumberton and the Bucks in softball — the conference tournament is the last gasp to make the state playoffs. And the only way they would have gotten into the playoffs would have been to win the tournament and bump out the No. 4 seed.
Which cheapens the regular season in my opinion. Those schools had 10 chances to get it right during the conference schedule and failed to do so. So why reward a team with a postseason berth if it happens to catch fire with a three- or four-game winning streak?
This isn’t the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with 37 at-large bids that allows for a Kentucky, North Carolina or Duke to stub its toe in the conference tourney and still make the “Big Dance.” There is one wild-card berths in baseball, softball and girls soccer in reach region on the 4A level.
Which puts pressure on every No. 4 seed in a conference to make sure it wins or face the possibility of being turned away from the playoffs at the end of the day.
Again, I ask someone explain to me how this is fair.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org