LATHAM — The next couple of weeks are going to be fun.
The Class AA high school baseball bracket is a prime example of that. The teams have beaten each other up since early April, and now it comes down to whoever can make it out of a gauntlet in sectionals.
Seven of the level’s 11 playoff teams won double digit league games this season, led by top-seeded Shenendehowa and two-seeded Bethlehem who had 12 each. This type of high-quality play from so many teams is one to create a fantastic playoff tournament as so many teams are similar and have similar records.
“From what we’ve seen, there’s a lot of parity. Teams with two or three losses are very similar to teams with six losses,” Niskayuna head coach Chris Bianchi said last Friday. His Silver Warriors squad earned the #6 seed and are hot right now, having won three in a row and four out of five to close out the regular season.
Five teams earned a first-round bye. Those teams are Shenendehowa, Bethlehem, Colonie, Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa.
When the quarterfinals are played on Tuesday afternoon, expect some wild games. The game between fourth-seeded Saratoga Springs and fifth-seeded Ballston Spa is one that sticks out. Both teams have star power in Saratoga’s Brian Hart and Ballston Spa’s Luke Gold, and whoever wins that will likely face Shenendehowa in a semifinal matchup at Joe Bruno Stadium that could very well have game of the year potential. Shenendehowa beat Saratoga in the sectional semifinals last year.
“If you can scout a team and look at their prior at-bats against you, maybe shift the defense and prepare for hitters and such. Just like it’s a regular season game you got to come to play, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It could be the top seed or the low seed, it’s really a who’s better that night,” Saratoga Springs head coach Andy Cuthbertson said last Friday.
If all three higher seeds win their respective first-round games this weekend, none of the eight quarterfinal teams will have less than nine league losses. That creates potential for upsets and teams surprising and moving on. That happened last year, with eight-seeded Shenendehowa knocking off top-seeded CBA in the sectional quarterfinals and getting all the way to the final, where they would eventually lose to Niskayuna. If CBA was to win their first round game, it would be a rematch of the Shenendehowa-CBA game from last year in the same round.
There is even more parity in the league this year than there was last year, so there is potential for a low-seeded team to make a run. It is clear that the seeds do not matter that much, and it just comes down to who is better in that single game.
“I don’t know that the positioning matters as much as how confident and how comfortable a team is feeling heading into the tournament,” Bianchi said.
The action gets started on Saturday with the three first-round games between #10 La Salle and #7 Columbia, #11 Shaker facing #6 Niskayuna and #9 CBA taking on #8 Guilderland.