The postseason landscape in high school baseball will look dramatically different this season.
With the WIAA disbanding the summer baseball program after the 2018 season, 31 schools needed to be incorporated into the 2019 spring baseball postseason format. The majority of those were Division 1 schools from the suburbs of Milwaukee.
The impact of the revised playoff pairings will be profound for a number of area teams.
Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker have played in a 12-team sectional tournament for more than 50 years. That will stay the same under the new setup, but with a big change geographically. Seven Big Eight Conference teams played in the Craig Sectional last year. Craig, Parker and Beloit are the only Big Eight teams in the Oconomowoc Sectional this season. The Classic Eight Conference has seven teams in that same sectional.
And unfortunately for second-ranked Craig, one of those teams is state powerhouse Hartland Arrowhead. The Warhawks have been to three straight state tournaments and beat Craig 2-1 in a state semifinal last year.
“With the majority of the teams coming into spring baseball having fairly large enrollments, some of the smaller Division 1 programs bumped down to Division 2,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said. “And because of that, you’re going to see some very tough sectionals with five or six really good teams.
“I guess my biggest concern is what happens come seeding time when seven Classic Eight schools are represented at the seeding meeting and there are only three Big Eight schools? Hopefully, our record speaks for itself, but you never know.”
Under the Division 1 format, the top four seeds will get a first-round playoff bye and automatically advance to a regional final game. Craig is currently the only team ranked in the Oconomowoc Sectional.
Division 2 picked up a number of Division 1 schools with the demise of the summer program.
Monona Grove, Stoughton, Baraboo, Portage and Reedsburg all played in Division 1 last season. This year, they’re lumped into the 28-team Baraboo Sectional that includes area teams Beloit Turner, Edgerton, Elkhorn, Evansville and Whitewater.
“We basically picked up all the Badger Conference teams,” Edgerton coach Mike Gregory said. “We lost Clinton and Brodhead to Division 3 and added a bunch of Division 1 teams from last year.
“It has been a very tough sectional to come out of for a long time, and now it just got even tougher.”
Of the 28 teams in the Baraboo Sectional, Turner is currently ranked second and Adams-Friendship eighth.
The state tournament format will stay the same despite the influx of summer teams.
The Division 1 state tournament will remain an eight-team format, with the quarterfinal and semifinal games being played on Tuesday, June 11.
The Division 2 state tournament, despite having 114 schools in the field compared to 96 Division 1 schools, remains a four-team state field, with all Division 2-4 semifinals played Wednesday, June 12.
Regional play begins May 23 for Divisions 2-4 and May 28 for Division 1.