Vidalia’s falling short highlights system’s flaws

Published 12:01am Sunday, May 5, 2013

It was a case of will they or won’t they for the Vidalia High School baseball team last week.

No, the players weren’t debating in their minds — as far as I know — whether or not they wanted to ask certain girls out. While a high school sweetheart can leave a lasting memory, this particular question concerned another possible lasting memory for the Vikings — especially the seniors.

And unfortunately for those seniors, that memory was not to be. But not without some drama at first.

The Vikings finished the regular season 14-9 overall, with a 5-5 record in district play. Their final game came Monday, April 22, against Avoyelles High School. It was head coach Kale Davis’ understanding that if his team won, they would be in the playoffs.

Vidalia beat Avoyelles 4-1 that day. And the next day, they were in the playoffs. But then, they weren’t.

Something strange happened that resulted in the Vikings being on the outside looking in with postseason play. The original power points ranking system had Vidalia ranked No. 31 in the Louisiana High School Activities Association Class 3A classification. You have to be one of the top 32 teams to get in, and it looked like Vidalia had made the cut.

But then the LHSAA website announced there was a glitch in the rankings, and they were being redone. When the final rankings came out, Albany High School jumped Vidalia to No. 31, while Vidalia settled in at No. 32. But the No. 33 seed De La Salle got in instead of Vidalia because of De La Salle winning its district, thus getting an automatic berth.

Davis protested the new results, to no avail. According to Davis, Albany played a game April 22 that was canceled earlier in the season in order to boost their power point rankings. That game was allegedly played after the cutoff date for makeup games, Davis said.

If this is true, then the Vidalia seniors were cheated out of at least one postseason game. Sure, beating a high-seeded team would have been a tall task, but just making the playoffs is a special honor for these players. Try putting yourself in Davis’ shoes and explaining to them why they didn’t get to play in one more game. If things went down the way Davis said they did, what is he supposed to say to his seniors?

“Sorry boys, you were in, but then you weren’t. Isn’t life funny sometimes? Haha.”

Somehow, I doubt anyone on that Vikings team saw any humor.

This issue also somewhat sheds light on a much bigger issue — the flaw of using the power point system to rank baseball teams to begin with. Former Vidalia High School baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir is strongly against a prep baseball team being measured by a power point system.

“When your season is hinging on how your opponents fared, that’s not right,” Hoffpauir said. “You get power points based on how many games your opponents win. That’s beyond your control.”

He’s right — things were better under the old system, where the district champs and the district runners-up got automatic berths, followed by wildcard teams. The current system is, to be blunt, a convoluted mess.

According to the power point system this season, Jena High School finished ahead of Vidalia at No. 29 — this despite Vidalia finishing with a better overall record and district record. How does that make sense?

It doesn’t, and Louisiana should go back to the way things were when district champs and runners-up drove the postseason discussion. No need to have fixed what wasn’t broken.