Pitching decision simply a numbers game
Having Colton Westfall pitch two games of last week's three-game baseball series between North Medford and South Medford had some scratching their head, mostly because of who the Black Tornado would be facing in this week's three-game Southern Oregon Hybrid series.
Westfall has been North Medford's top pitcher since his freshman campaign and boosted his overall record to 6-1 with a pair of wins, 3-0 and 4-1, over the Panthers last Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.
The fact that he was making two starts in the week is no surprise. The junior right-hander takes care of himself and has always shown an ability to return on three days rest.
The fact that he was doing so against South Medford instead of setting himself up for two shots at Crater this week, however, was a bit of a surprise. North Medford (13-1, 3-0 SOH) and Crater (11-3) entered Monday's games ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Class 6A power rankings and were the preseason favorites for this year's conference crown.
According to Black Tornado head coach Brett Wolfe, however, the decision was all about the numbers.
"We have to have the right scenario, health-wise, to roll him out on three days rest and we had it in our hands so I decided to pull the trigger and run him out there (against South Medford)," Wolfe said Saturday. "The pitch counts lined up and they may not do that next week (against Crater)."
Westfall needed 96 pitches to complete a three-hit shutout of the Panthers on Tuesday, but he never labored in that time and the pitch count left open the debate on how the Tornado could best utilize the ace of its deep pitching staff.
"If he goes over 100 we'd never bring him back because that's not enough rest," said Wolfe, "but he was under 100 and the pitches he threw on Tuesday were loose and fluid and never pressed."
The decision worked out in North's favor, with Westfall needing only 88 pitches in a four-hitter Saturday. He will be available to pitch again during Saturday's doubleheader at Anhorn Field, and Wolfe noted that it would be highly unlikely that Westfall would have been able to pitch twice against the Comets regardless of whether he was brought back for a second go-round with South Medford.
"Crater has a lot of weapons in their lineup and the pitch count goes up with them," he said. "In my opinion, with the 10 seniors they've got who can really get after it, I just looked at the lineup and their ability and didn't see (Westfall) keeping (his pitch count) under 100 with those guys. They foul off a lot of balls and really battle you."
Making matters easier is that North Medford has stockpiled one of its deepest pitching staffs in recent memory. Beyond senior starter David Crofton, who improved to 4-0 with an 8-1 win over the Panthers on Saturday, the Black Tornado can utilize left-handers Isaiah Luzny and Jordan Ragan or right-handers Brett Pearson and Micah Brown.
"We've got depth in our pitching staff so I'm not worried about that," Wolfe says of putting quality arms up against Crater this week. "I have faith on all those guys."
SCHOLARSHIPS OF $1,000 apiece were awarded recently to North Medford High seniors Julian Gray, Hunter Hermansen and Jessica Pettegrew-Sam in the first year of the Coach Tom Marier Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Gray, Hermansen and Pettegrew-Sam were chosen from an applicant pool of 31 who applied for the scholarships, which were made possible by donations in memory of veteran Black Tornado coach Marier, who passed away last November.
Marier coached for the Black Tornado from 1957-2000 and remained a dedicated supporter of the school's programs up to his passing.
OSAA POWER RANKINGS may get yet another tweak for the upcoming school year if the rankings committee gets its way.
The committee said in its recent update that it supports adding the Colley system to complement the current RPI formula being used for power rankings, with each formula making up 50 percent of the final total for each team. The Colley system is a complicated math formula that has been used to help determine Bowl Championship Series standings in college football since 2001.
Strength of schedule plays a role in determining the totals in an RPI or Colley-based system, and the committee said it is also looking to re-emphasize strength of schedule after putting it on the back-burner for the 2013-14 school year.
Originally, the power rankings formula was weighted 25 percent for a team's winning percentage, 50 percent for its opponents' winning percentage and 25 percent for the winning percentage of its opponents' opponents. Prior to this school year, the committee dropped the third factor and raised it to a 40-60 system for winning percentage and opponents' winning percentage, respectively.
It was said that the old formula put too much emphasis on strength of schedule, while this year's change had many suggesting not enough emphasis was put on playing quality teams. It's unclear whether the committee will choose to adopt a different breakdown in current percentages used for its RPI power ranking or if there will be a return of the opponents' opponents category.
One change that may occur, and many will need to be mindful of in scheduling, is that cross-classification contests will not be counted by the Colley system but will remain for calculating RPI figures. That way it doesn't preclude teams from playing cross-classification contests, but it will only be calculated in half of the system used to determine a team's power ranking.
The committee's contention is that a .500 team at the 4A classification is different than a .500 team at the 6A classification and should not be treated equally, as is currently the case with just the RPI in place.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry