There seemed to be so much clarity 48 hours ago. While leaving Mead Park following Monday’s Staples-New Canaan game, I mentioned to Dave Stewart, who among many other responsibilities runs the FCIAC website, how it seemed like we were going to get off relatively easy on the tiebreaker scenarios this year. Seven of the eight baseball playoff spots had been filled, which seemed highly unlikely just days before, when 10 teams were alive for the final four berths.
I’ve been doing this too long to speak so prematurely. It was like jinxing a no-hitter with fifth-inning talk about the possibility, or commenting on a fast-moving game that then inevitably slows to a slog.
Yesterday’s storm, which caused a key game between Wilton and Brien McMahon for the final playoff berth to be halted with the score tied at 4-4 and wiped out most of today’s schedule, further clouded the situation, with no end to the regular season in site.
The FCIAC Tournament was supposed to begin Friday, but as we will see that is no longer possible. So what is the outlook for the playoff seedings and schedules, and which are the teams to watch?
We will try our best to catch you up. Just get league commissioner Dave Schulz and athletic directors some Advil.
— Which team has the inside track on the eighth seed? Right now Wilton and McMahon control their own destiny. The Senators were the only team that got a game in today and defeated Bridgeport Central 11-10. It took a walkoff three-run homer by Korey Morton to topple the winless Hilltoppers.
That gave the Senators a one-game lead with one partial contest left. Yesterday’s game with the Warriors was suspended after six innings with the score tied.
That was supposed to be resumed tomorrow but will get pushed back until Friday because of today’s rainouts. If Wilton loses to Fairfield Ludlowe tomorrow it is out of the chase. If the Warriors win, then the continuation of their game with McMahon will determine the final spot.
— Can anyone besides Wilton or McMahon get in? Yes. Wilton would be eliminated with a loss to Ludlowe but then could play spoiler with a win over McMahon. In that scenario, there could be as many as five teams — McMahon, Ludlowe, Norwalk, New Canaan and Fairfield Warde — with eight losses. The tiebreakers would depend on the number of teams involved, but the Falcons with a win over Wilton would be in the most enviable position. Their only loss in that group came on Monday against Norwalk.
— What are the quarterfinal matchups? While we know all but one of the teams in the playoffs, we have only locked in two schools’ seedings. Ridgefield has clinched the No. 1 spot and Staples is the second seed, so they will have home games…whenever the playoffs start. At this moment, the order for the third through seventh seeds are Danbury, Darien, St. Joseph, Trumbull and Greenwich. No school has more than a one game lead over the team behind it.
The Hatters still have to play two games, against Trumbull and Greenwich, which will shake up the standings. Further complicating matters: Danbury has canceled school tomorrow for the second straight day. As of now we don’t know if the game at Trumbull will be played: Usually teams are not allowed to compete when their schools are closed except for certain holidays, unless the superintendent signs off on it.
What does that mean for the playoff schedule? That remains to be seen. The regular season cannot end before Friday, the scheduled date for the quarterfinals. And if Danbury cannot play tomorrow, the earliest it would finish is Saturday, when the league was currently hoping to start the quarterfinals. The good thing is because of the original schedule, the league has a lot of flexibility to play all three rounds next week. That was the way the format used to be. Schulz said the league has open access to Cubeta Stadium, the site of the semifinals and championship.
When the playoffs begin, which team is the favorite? Since baseball is not a single-elimination sport, lower seeds have won the tournament as often as top four teams for the past decade. Ridgefield and Staples by their status have to be considered the favorites. Neither team has a weakness.
Darien was looking like the frontrunner but has lost four of five. Danbury has won four in a row and eight of nine. Trumbull has also won eight of nine. Greenwich has won four in a row.
Higher seeds want to avoid teams with a strong No. 1 pitcher. It is conceivable Ridgefield could open against an eighth-seeded Trumbull with Ben Fero on the mound.
Right now the tournament again looks wide open…if it ever gets under way.