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For the third time in three years, the Southern Oregon Hybrid baseball coaches have adopted a new approach to their conference schedule.
After eliminating doubleheaders for the 2011 season in favor of single games on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the group went back to the typical single-game Tuesdays and doubleheader Saturdays for 2012.
The new twist for this season involves maintaining the same weekly schedule as last year, only this time a school will face the same opponent for each game that week instead of the typical slate where teams would face one school on Tuesday and a different school on Saturday.
For the most part, the SOH baseball coaches appear to be excited about their latest plan, which will go in effect when the conference season begins April 9. The SOH softball coaches did not adopt the schedule change, and that season kicks off today with the usual round-robin approach.
"I kinda like the change, actually," said Crater baseball coach Jay Campbell on Monday. "It puts a little bit more strategy in the pitching rotations. I think it adds a little extra competitive edge because in the past you were able to kinda move starters around compared to who you were playing based on the strength of the team you were playing. I think this is going to change that a little bit and it's going to be more even. You're not going to see someone's ace every time now."
It's that notion of not having to face a team's ace over and over again that seemed to catch the most attention when the change was discussed. Over the years, it hasn't been uncommon for the league's upper-tier teams to find a way to throw their ace against their peers and then use their Nos. 2-4 pitchers against the lower-tier teams.
"I was a big proponent of that change, I love that," said Grants Pass head coach Brian Diatte. "I think all of us get tired of seeing the same guy every time we play and often times our league is broken down not by who the best team is but who has the best arm. I just think in doing it this way, we give ourselves an opportunity to really see three different arms."
That said, it's not out of the question for a pitcher to throw on Tuesday and be available again on Saturday depending on that player's ability to bounce back.
"We've seen teams do it and we have been a team when a kid is right to have the chance to do that as well," said Roseburg head coach Troy Thompson. "It may happen where you see three different pitchers in a week and yet it may not. I don't know how people are going to play it out."
Added Diatte: "I think you can bring someone back but if you do that, you have to look at who you're playing on that next Tuesday. I know some kids are more resilient than others but if we bring a guy back from Tuesday on Saturday, we're really taking a chance and throwing yourself into the fire for that next Tuesday. We can all get ourselves in trouble because, as we know in this league, if you take somebody for granted you can easily get beaten."
No one has been more instrumental in finding a perfect fit for the league schedule than North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe, who spearheaded the elimination of doubleheaders for 2011 but quickly regretted that decision.
"We've experimented the last couple years and I've kinda led it a couple times with different ideas and suggestions to figure it out," said Wolfe. "When we went to single games I hated it because you couldn't practice and that schedule didn't fit my style at all. I like to teach and we didn't have any time for that when you're playing every other day and then having to make up games when the weather didn't work out."
The move in 2011 was made to align the Southern Oregon Hybrid with the rest of the state, which plays single games during the week and rarely plays conference games on weekends. Thompson liked that model because it also simulated what it would be like come playoff time, but he's not opposed to this year's change — so long as there's not another tweak next year.
"I haven't had a problem with any of the schedules we've run through since I've been here," said Thompson, whose team has won the last three league titles and shared the 2009 title with North Medford. "It'll be a nice thing to see each team during the week but, at the same time, I always like to see us play someone early and then maybe again a little later to see how differently we play them or if they look any different than when we played them the first time. But whatever we're going to do, let's just do it."
Despite his penchant for tweaking the plan to hopefully find the best fit, Wolfe agreed with that last sentiment.
"I think as a league we said whatever we do, let's stay with it and stop messing around," said the 19th-year Black Tornado coach. "I think this will work out just fine and we're all going to like it and enjoy playing that same level playing field."
A STATEWIDE RULES change will standardize the way interrupted contests are played in baseball and softball.
Games interrupted for darkness and/or weather shall be continued from the point of interruption at any point in the season and not just in the playoffs.
An official game is reached when the score is not tied through five innings, or the home team is ahead through 4 1/2 innings. If play has gone beyond five full innings and is called when teams have not had an equal number of completed turns at bat, the score reverts back to the last completed inning.
In the event that the official amount of innings have not been reached, or the score is tied when all factors are considered, the contest shall continue from the point of interruption with the lineup card being held over to ensure competitive integrity.
The only caveat, which played out last Saturday, is that the teams actually want/need to complete the interrupted contest. When Cascade Christian visited Santiam Christian on Saturday, rain interrupted their baseball game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Challengers ahead 5-3.
Given the trip to the Corvallis area isn't exactly around the corner and it's a nonleague showdown, Cascade Christian head coach John Bruce said it was likely that the game would be considered a no-contest and not resumed.
THE BASKETBALL SEASON may be barely hanging on these days but there will be another North Medford-South Medford matchup tonight — only this time with each school's teachers taking the court in the annual Medford Madness basketball game.
Action begins at 7 p.m. in the South Medford High gymnasium, with proceeds split between each school's Sparrow Club sponsor for the year.
Presale tickets are $3 at each school, while tickets at the door cost $5.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry