By Chris Rossetti
DUBOIS, Pa. – Until the games are actually played, site selections always seem to be a hot topic for debate when it comes to PIAA contests, and this year’s baseball and softball playoffs are no exception.
As four District 9 teams head into the quarterfinal round – two in baseball and two in softball – two site selections seem favorable to both the District 9 teams and their opponents, one seems fair and one seems over the top strange.
The two site selections that appear favorable, at least in travel time, both involve Moniteau teams making the short 10-mile, 15-minute trip to Slippery Rock University for Class AA games Thursday.
The Warriors softball team will play Ellwood City, which only has a 24-mile, 32-minute trip to SRU, while the Moniteau baseball team takes on Riverside High School, which is also located in Ellwood City.
So grading out the site selection on this one I would say it’s an A-plus. The site is pretty much about as neutral as you can get when having two schools from different districts playing.
In Class A softball, DuBois Central Catholic will make the hour-long trip (62 miles) to Bald Eagle Area High School to take on Conemaugh Valley High School, which is about 1 ½ hours from Bald Eagle (83 miles).
This location seems a bit strange only because it takes a pair of teams that are pretty much on the same longitude and are both traveling east to play.
While Indiana or Marion Center may have made more sense in this case, this isn’t terrible for either team and the PIAA should get a B-minus for the site selection.
Now onto the head scratcher.
Punxsutawney baseball will play District 3 champion Hamburg at the Greene Township Field in Scotland, Pa.
It’s always a bit tricky when the PIAA gets away from the traditional East/West breakdown.
In this case, Hamburg is located between Harrisburg and Allentown. Scotland is near Chambersburg, about an 1 ½ hour drive from Hamburg (100 miles).
Meanwhile, Punxsutawney is only 29 miles farther away but it’s not an easy trip for the Chucks. In fact, it’s a two-hour, fifty-minute journey at least if not pushing three hours for Punxsutawney to get to Scotland. And a trip over the mountains to boot.
This site makes little sense if any for this game and would have made even less sense if Blackhawk had beaten Punxsutawney – the game location was announced before that game was concluded. Scotland is 208 miles and at least 3 hours and 10 minutes from Blackhawk.
The PIAA gets a major failing grade here. There is no excuse for this location. None at all. It clearly favors the team from the Eastern half of the state.
When I asked the District 9 committeemen, who were at the Punxsutawney-Blackhawk game, why the Scotland location was chosen I got various responses including the fact that a pair of facilities – Penn State and Williamsport’s Bowman Field – weren’t available.
But seriously, there was no location somewhere in between that would have been available? I find that hard to believe.
You have to wonder if Lock Haven University was contacted. Or Bald Eagle High School – we know Bald Eagle was willing to host a softball game, why not a baseball game too? Or the facility in Boalsburg where PIAA games use to be played. Why aren’t they played there anymore?
I understand, and to a point, sympathize with what I was being told by the committeemen. It’s not easy to find site locations. It’s not easy to have schools – especially now that school is out in a lot of places – want to host games. It doesn’t always make sense. Especially when you consider the money they could charge the PIAA for the facility as well as the money brought into the community, but frankly a lot of school administrators aren’t smart enough to see the benefits or are just too lazy to want to do the work involved with hosting a game.
But at the same time, I find it hard to believe that in a vast state like Pennsylvania there aren’t more than a handful of places to play games.
I find it hard to believe that with full-time staffing at the PIAA headquarters and plenty of part-time committeemen around the state that phone calls can’t be made to schools and other facilities.
I know that schools are asked during the school year if they want to host and many times not many respond. But sometimes asking someone something in April or even May at a meeting is different than actually getting on the phone with someone and calling them in early June.
No, it’s not always easy. And yes it’s time consuming. Trust me, I get it. Really all of us get it. It’s not easy doing something you haven’t done before. It’s a heck of a lot easier to just continue using facilities you have always used. But easy shouldn’t be what the PIAA is about. Doing what is in the best interest of the kids and their parents is. In the case of Punxsutawney, that wasn’t done.