HIGH SCHOOLS – After years of discussing the possibility, two weeks ago the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s executive committee changed the state softball tournament from one day to two days, effective this June.
The Ballston Spa coach involved in the game that likely pushed this over the finish line, however, has mixed feelings about its passing.
Amanda Fifield guided Ballston Spa into the 2019 tournament, in which it defeated Sayville 2-1 in the Class AA semifinals in a tournament-record 20 innings. Until then, no state tournament game had gone past 13 innings. The Scotties went on to lose the championship to Williamsville East 3-0.
“It’s been something a lot of people have discussed for a while, mostly as an equality issue,” Fifield said. “The boys’ baseball tournament is two days, why not the softball? But I have a lot of mixed feelings over this.”
Specifically, she knows her 2019 team would have been in bad shape if it had to play a second day.
“If you go back to 2018, when we made the state final, Sarah Pritchard probably could have benefitted from a two-day tournament, and some pitchers would,” said Fifield, who recently became a part-time pitching coach at Saint Rose but will remain coaching Ballston Spa. “But Lauren Kersch, if she had to come back the next day, she couldn’t have done it. After that semifinal, they asked me how much time I wanted before the final, and I said, ‘Give us enough time to eat, and let’s go.’ And at the time, they had adrenaline going.
“I saw Lauren the next day, and she said, ‘My hips hurt, my legs hurt.’ Ana Gold was coming down with the flu. I’m not opposed to [the change], but how often are you going to get a 20-inning game,” Fifield said.
Fifield said the idea that the Scotties were compromised in the championship because of the semifinal is false. Most of the game was scoreless before Williamsville East scored a few late runs.
Mike Glenn, the Section II Softball chairman and member of the State Softball Committee, said the state committee and executive committee overwhelmingly felt that changing the tournament to two days makes it more fair, citing the Ballston Spa semifinal as “the driving force.”
Glenn said he understands the argument of keeping it one day, noting that a lot of club teams sometimes play three to four games over the course of a day.
“But just looking at the player safety factor, we thought it would be better spread out over two days,” Glenn said.
Glenn pointed out that individual sections’ playoffs have time spread between semifinals and finals, and yet the state tournament did not.
“So your two biggest games of the year are on the same day with no rest. To us, that was a player safety issue,” Glenn said.
The state softball committee had to wait to make sure its participating team hotels could accommodate players a second day, but once it was assured they could, they voted to make the change as soon as possible.
“My question is,” Fifield said, “would they have even proposed this if we had won the championship?”
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