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SPORTS BUZZ for June 6: Good riddance to semi-state series

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Change in state tourney does not come soon enough

By John Herndon

There's little doubt that crowning a champion in baseball is best done by just about any means other than a single-elimination tournament.

There are so many quirks and nuances to the game that it is the only one I know of where fans generally shrug their shoulders when a really good team is beaten by one not so good.

It happens and it's part of the game.

But I am glad to see the death of the best-of-three semi-state series format in what is actually the first round of Kentucky's high school state tournament.

The baseball purist in me says it is a better way of determining the state's final eight teams.

The high school sports fan in me says it is a misguided attempt to create something like the NCAA's Super Regionals.

Think about it.

From the start of the district tournament through the crowning of a regional champion, tournaments are one-and-done, with the exception of the district finals. One slip-up and you go home.

Why then, has Kentucky been changing the rules for one round, then go back to the one-and-done for the final three rounds?

Think about pitching matchups as well. When you are in a single-elimination tournament, coaches are often faced with the dilemma of throwing an ace pitcher one day or holding him for the next game. Eighth Region fans saw the daddy of all such moves two years ago when Oldham County gambled by not throwing Dean Kiekhefer, now at the University of Louisville, in the first round against Carroll County. After all, a semi-final date with Shelby County, the eventual state runner-up, was waiting for the Colonels.

Before Oldham knew what hit, it was too late. Carroll pulled the upset.

Those kind of things rarely happen in the best-of-three. There's no reason to hold a pitcher, since you have to win multiple games and the next round will not start, in some cases, for over a week.

Next year, all 16 region winners will converge on Applebee's Park in Lexington for a 16-team tourney. Those pitching decisions will return for all rounds of the tournament.

Plus, there's an added benefit to the Eighth Region in that it has the chance of getting a decent draw on occasion. Under the current setup, the Eighth has been playing one of the Louisville teams two out of every three years and the other season, it gets the Fifth Region, arguably the state's toughest not encompassing one of the large metro areas.

Let it be said that playing the tough teams is part of it. No one would argue differently. The Anderson County basketball team can vouch for that as it played top-ranked Elliott County in the Sweet 16 this year. But it would be nice to think you have a chance to go up against the winner of a region that might not be as strong on occasion.

For the record, Anderson's three trips into the semi-state series have been against Male (state runner-up), Pleasure Ridge Park (state champion) and Trinity (highest-ranked team left after regional play.)

Think about the Anderson softball team in 2008. The Lady Cats opened the state with Clark County, a good team, but not one of the powers. Through this year, the Eighth did not have that chance in baseball.

After watching Anderson and Trinity play, I believe the Shamrocks are just a hair better. Not much better, but better nonetheless.

But it would have been good to have a chance at the upsets that make baseball tournaments so unpredictable.

After 2009, the semi-state series is no more.

Good riddance.