Playoff teams deal with weeklong hiatus
Beaver Falls coach Mike Kirschner wants his players to take their minds off baseball for a little while.
“You have to be able to relax,” said Kirschner, whose Tigers play Wednesday in the WPIAL Class AA championship game against Burrell. “If you have a team that’s thinking about it 24 hours a day, that’s going to add a lot of pressure. You have to prepare for the game, but not get caught up in the magnitude of the game.”
Having to wait seven days doesn’t help.
The WPIAL baseball playoffs have taken a weeklong hiatus. Since the semifinals last Tuesday, either six or seven days will have passed before the championship games are played this Tuesday and Wednesday at Consol Energy Park in Washington.
This would be Beaver Falls’ first baseball title since 1975.
“You have to make sure it’s not weighing on them too heavily for six or seven days,” Kirschner said. “It’s kind of like the Super Bowl, where teams have to wait around for two weeks to play the big game.”
And, soon, they’ll rest some more.
After the WPIAL champions are decided, the state qualifiers will wait another five or six days before beginning the PIAA playoffs June 7. So, during an 18-day span, these eight finalists will have played only three games.
“At this point, the team that can keep its players the freshest is going to win,” said Serra Catholic coach Brian Dzurenda, whose top-seeded Class A team scrimmaged Saturday with Hopewell, the No. 1 seed in Class AAA.
Beaver Falls scrimmaged Thursday against Hopewell and yesterday against Neshannock. Playoff teams can only scrimmage other active playoff teams, including those awaiting consolation games, so the current pool is 14 teams deep.
“We would rather be playing every other day, but obviously you can’t do that this time of year,” Dzurenda said. “The long layoffs make you stale, and it’s definitely tough on your pitching. They’re used to pitching at least a couple innings every third or fourth day. You try to simulate that, but it’s not the same.”
The WPIAL’s baseball steering committee designed the schedule with some flexibility to allow rained-out playoff games to be rescheduled without much hassle. That happened in the first round when games were postponed for two days, but the tournament stayed on schedule.
It also happened more influentially in 2009, when the WPIAL Class AAA and A championship games were delayed four days by rain. As a result, rules requiring rest prevented Moon, Chartiers Valley, Carmichaels and Serra from using their No. 1 pitchers in the first round of the PIAA playoffs
But this past week has been mostly warm and sunny.
“At this point in the season, practices are starting to get a little bit old,” Dzurenda said. “We try to hit every day. But you’ve been through the drills 1,000 times since February.”
Kirschner will allow his players to take today off before returning to practice Monday and Tuesday.
“You can’t let it consume you every minute of the day that there’s a big game coming up,” Kirschner said. “Think about some other things: Watch some TV or hang out with friends and go to the graduation activities to keep occupied. Think about baseball when you’re at the park.”
WPIAL Baseball Championships
Consol Energy Park, Washington
AAAA: North Allegheny vs. Pine-Richland, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
AAA: Hopewell vs. Moon, Tuesday, 5 p.m.
AA: Beaver Falls vs. Burrell, Wednesday, 5 p.m.
A: Serra Catholic vs. Neshannock, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.