Finding a level of parity
Maybe the bigger issue is competitive imbalance between the divisions. While the Chesapeake Division in baseball and softball is home to the bulk of the conference’s top teams, the Potomac Division has no real parity. La Plata (currently 8-0 in division play) and McDonough (8-1) are the lead horses in a two-horse race in baseball, while La Plata (7-1) and North Point (7-2) are in the same positions in softball.
La Plata baseball has been among the most accomplished SMAC programs since it won the 3A championship in 2008. The Warriors have won four more regional championships since then, and have reached two more state finals. For a program that has consistently been competing in that realm, not being tested with a similar level of competition could create an issue in the postseason.
“We don’t have the parity in the Potomac Division that exists in the [Chesapeake] Division, but that’s a double-edged sword,” La Plata head baseball coach John Childers said on the topic. “The imbalance will lead to some Potomac Division teams receiving inflated playoff seeding. However, the teams in the [Chesapeake] Division are seeing higher-quality pitching on a more regular basis which will be a huge advantage in the playoffs. Talented teams like Patuxent and Calvert will be battle-tested before heading into the playoffs by playing tough games three days a week.”
In the fall, Chesapeake Division champion Huntingtown faced Potomac Division champion Lackey in the first-ever SMAC championship game. Huntingtown’s field hockey team, which had gone 5-1 in its Chesapeake schedule, shut out Lackey 4-0, which was perfect in the Potomac Division. Lackey suffered a grand total of five losses on the season — all to Chesapeake Division teams and none by fewer than three goals. Calvert, which at 2-4 in the Chesapeake finished sixth in the division, defeated Lackey 3-0 when the teams met on Oct. 13.
Every sport is different, but there are very few that seem to have any parity across both divisions. It isn’t just an issue in regard to trying to get the most deserving teams playing for the conference championship, either. The All-SMAC teams are now just a list of two first teams — one for each division. So now players in a loaded division, say softball in the Chesapeake Division, face much longer odds of attaining postseason recognition when their performance may well be deserving.
Whether for recognition or competition, finding some level of parity would be beneficial for ever ybody involved.
“I honestly don’t know what could be done. I understand the thought process behind the divisions, but with some sports, especially with softball, it’s definitely not balanced or fair competition for ever ybody,” Bruno said. “I think that in order to make it more effective, I think we should be able to choose, instead of playing division teams twice, play everybody once and then choose outside games, somehow, someway. Look at the schedule and just balance it and make it a little bit more fair.”
For the previous eight years, each softball season has ended with Northern’s girls raising a new state championship trophy. A common denominator through those years is the team always scheduled the best nonconference competition it could find. That the team has also enjoyed success is not coincidental as far as Radford is concerned.
“It’s been invaluable,” he said. “What it does, on a national basis, when you’re playing teams the likes of [Bishop] O’Connell (Va.) and Laurel, of Delaware, and you beat those teams that have national recognition it’s great for both the school and the conference. But when you can’t go outside of your conference to play anybody it really handcuffs you, particularly when you have a talented bunch of athletes. It’s not fair to them. I think somebody needs to re-look at the thing and allow for some kind of revision to let us schedule. ... It’s all about getting ready for the playoffs. This game today [a 2-1 Northern win at Leonardtown on April 11] was a good game. So was the Chopticon game [on April 6, a 4-3 Northern win in eight innings]. Anytime you can prepare your kids to get better, that’s what you’re looking to do.”
“I understand it’s a two-year deal and they want to put the schedule out, but what they could do at the SMAC meetings is, if I was a coach with all freshmen, I’d be in that room saying, ‘Guys, we’re not going to be very good this year. I would suggest if you can find another game, go get it and i’ll be glad to let it go on my end.’ … I’m thinking as a coach. I want my kids to get better and be challenged. I understand there are haves and have-nots and one day we’ll be have-nots, but right now we’re not.”
Capt. Dale Coon of Fishamajig Guide Service (240-587-8307) has been catching some impressive post-spawn crappies, including 15-plus inch citation fish. He expects this will be the last week to cash in on the big crappies.
Patuxent River — You might try your luck fishing for croaker on the pier at Greenwell State Park in Hollywood. Their favorite eats are bloodworm, squid, shrimp, clam snouts and cut bait such as alewife and spot. The $25 gift card and bragging rights for the first croaker of the season award at the Tackle Box are still up for grabs. Lamb reports that there are catfish in the upper Patuxent up to 50 pounds that are being taken on fresh cut bait.
Tip of the week
Capt. Dennis Fleming of Fishamajig Guide Service (240-5381260) said because farm ponds heat faster than large lakes, this is the perfect time to go fishing in your favorite pond.
It is also a great time to take the kids fishing. Scrounge up some local worms in ditches where the leaves have been laying all winter. These are the very best worms and when fished on small light wire hooks and a small bobber, the action will be fast and furious for small pond bass, crappies, and bluegills.
Cane poles ($8.19 at the Tackle Box) are the ticket for the youngsters, or you can even go high-tech with a $15 telescoping fiberglass pole. Remember, it is about them, not you. So leave your rod at home, and besides, you will be way too busy helping the kids.