Fans of tiebreaker scenarios may not be too keen on busting up the area’s region that seemingly needs them the most.
Fittingly, Region VII-AAA baseball has put itself into position to test the math skills of its coaches and athletics directors one more time before the South Carolina High School League realigns into a five-class system next year.
St. James, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach are all tied atop the division with a 6-2 record with two games remaining in the regular season. Lake City is a game back at 5-3, leaving a four-way tie for first place a mathematical possibility. But just to make this time around extra special, a scenario exists where some postseason seeding is going to be determined by a coin flip.
Should Myrtle Beach and St. James finish in a two-way tie for first, second or third place – something that would require both teams to post the same record in their final two region games – representatives from the Seahawks and Sharks will be meeting to have their fates decided by heads or tails. Neither head-to-head record nor run differential settles anything between the two schools.
“There are so many scenarios that can happen, you can hurt your brain,” St. James coach Robbie Centracchio said. “… I’m superstitious. I try not to look that far in advance.”
Centracchio did say that he would personally prefer a coin flip to a play-in game – the final tiebreaker used until the region’s constitution was changed prior to this year – if only because it prevents the need to shake up the pitching staff for the playoffs. Either way, this isn’t the first time his team has been a part of an influential tie late in the year.
In 2011, St. James was the beneficiary of a secondary tiebreaker that allowed the Sharks to edge out Georgetown and earn a No. 1 seed for the postseason. St. James went on to win the state championship that year.
This spring, a tiebreaker may come down to more than two teams.
It isn’t likely, but Lake City sweeping North Myrtle Beach and St. James, St. James beating Wilson, Myrtle Beach beating Georgetown and then North Myrtle Beach beating Myrtle Beach would equate to a four-way tie for first place.
And be it a two teams or four, the debate each of the coaches is probably going to look at again is one step of a tiebreaker process the region revamped for this year. After head-to-head records are negated, tied teams then go to defensive runs allowed.
As most baseball guys are also proficient with numbers, the coaches typically know what they need to do or could benefit from in certain matchups. Or, in other terms, teams are basically asked to run up the score against others near the top of the standings.
“I don’t like the run differential thing because let’s say when St. James played us and it’s getting out of hand, if I’m Robbie Centracchio, I’d try to run up the score as much as possible because you know it could matter,” North Myrtle Beach coach Brian Alderson said. “I don’t think he did that. I don’t think he or [Myrtle Beach coach] Tim [Christy] would do that. But if you knew ahead of time, why wouldn’t you try to score as many as you could?”
Said Christy: “I promise you, there is no question. If someone would do the same thing to me, I would understand. If run differential comes into play, you’re going to do what you can.”
Christy said he knew his team needed to beat St. James last Friday by at least five runs to own that part of the tiebreaker. He said he is also aware that he’ll need to off-set a four-run deficit from the first game against North Myrtle Beach when the two rivals close the regular season Friday against each other.
All three coaches said the trick this week is to prevent all these potential story lines from becoming a distraction and winning out to maximize their chances. It’s the same thing football coaches at North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown were charged with in 2014 when a home playoff game was one the line. It also went for hoops coaches at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach the previous winter when a No. 1 postseason seed ultimately came down to a tiebreaker, which at the time was a play-in game.
There have been plenty of others across a number of Region VII-AAA’s sports over the last few years that determined everything from which teams were in the playoffs to which ones saw their seasons end.
If there is one source of stress relief for the region’s top four baseball teams this year, it is the knowledge that each of them have already locked in playoff berths. It is also that every single one of them are in the hunt for really good positioning.
“It speaks to the quality of the baseball here,” Christy said. “I feel as uncomfortable playing Wilson as I do St. James. If the wrong person has a bad night, especially your pitcher, you’re going to have a bad night. I love it this time of the year. Our coaches and our kids love this time of the year.”
FIVE TO WATCH
The final week of the regular season is here, and that means high-pressure games with plenty on the line. These are five that should be worth the ticket price as area squads look to improve their playoff seeding or find a way into the postseason.
Socastee at Carolina Forest softball, Tuesday: In the span of a week, the Panthers went from written off to a very dangerous squad. A win here could mean a trip to the playoffs.
Dillon at Aynor softball, Tuesday: The Wildcats are realistically the only team capable of preventing the Blue Jackets from an undefeated regular season.
Loris at Waccamaw baseball, Tuesday: The Warriors clinch a first-round home playoff game with a victory, but Loris has put itself in position to make noise of its own.
Myrtle Beach at North Myrtle Beach baseball, Friday: This one is almost assuredly going to play the biggest role in the Region VII-AAA title.
Lake City at St. James baseball, Friday: The Panthers and Sharks will be drawing just as much attention as the convoluted region games comes to a close.
STATE SOCCER RANKINGS
Eight Grand Strand boys and girls soccer teams found themselves included in the South Carolina High School Soccer Association state rankings, released over the weekend.
The Myrtle Beach boys remained No. 2 in Class AAA, while Region VII-AAA opponent St. James returned this week at No. 15. The Socastee boys moved up three spots to No. 7 in Class AAAA, and Waccamaw bumped one spot to No. 8.
Four girls teams were also ranked this week. Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and St. James were eighth, 10th and 12th, respectively in Class AAA. Waccamaw moved into the polls at No. 10 in Class AA.
SCHSSCA STATE RANKINGS
2. River Bluff
5. Nation Ford
6. South Aiken
8. J.L. Mann
9. Wade Hampton
12. Fort Mill
13. Ashley Ridge
15. James Island
2. Myrtle Beach
6. A.C. Flora
9. Hilton Head
15. St. James
1. Bishop England
2. Indian Land
3. Academic Magnet
5. Wade Hampton
10. Silver Bluff
1. St. Joseph’s
2. Christ Church
5. Governor’s School M&S
2. J.L. Mann
3. Fort Mill
5. Wade Hampton
6. Fort Dorchester
7. T.L. Hanna
8. Dutch Fork
10. James Island
14. South Aiken
15. River Bluff
6. Hilton Head
7. Blue Ridge
8. Myrtle Beach
10. North Myrtle Beach
12. St. James
13. A.C. Flora
14. South Pointe
1. Indian Land
2. Bishop England
3. Academic Magnet
5. Wade Hampton
1. Christ Church
2. Southside Christian
3. St. Joseph’s
4. Governor’s School M&S
5. Gray Collegiate