OUA baseball playoffs raise questions about new playoff format

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

The 2018 OUA Baseball Championship was held this past weekend in Ajax, Ontario, where the Badgers looked to claim their fifth OUA title, and first since 2014. The OUA went forward with a brand new playoff system this year, including one that featured 11 teams split up into three pools.

Pool A consisted of Laurier, Ryerson, Queen’s and Guelph. Pool B was made up of Brock, Toronto, Western and McMaster, while Pool C rounded out with Laurentian, Waterloo, and Windsor.

This is where the questions start to come into fruition; why are Brock and Toronto in the same pool? Laurier, Toronto, and Brock finished as the top three teams in the OUA this year. Shouldn’t they all be in separate pools? Why does Pool C — the easiest pool as they only have three teams — not have one of the top three seeds? Why should Toronto and Brock have to battle it out gladiator style in Pool B, while Pool C could be considered a cakewalk?

This only raises more questions about Pool C. The OUA consists of 10 teams; Windsor does not play in the OUA, but is playing in the same playoff tournament as the 10 OUA teams. The two OUA teams who are in Pool C, Waterloo and Laurentian, posted a combined record of 2-28. Meanwhile Brock and Toronto combined for a 23-11 record.

It seems that Pool C is the ugly duckling of the pond, but even so, why is their path to the semifinals the easiest route? Regardless of the curious format, the games went on, with the best record from each pool advancing to the semifinals. One wildcard spot would be awarded to the team with the next best record in either Pool A or B. At least that rule makes sense, as two teams from a three team pool should not be advancing to the semis.

Brock won their first game over McMaster 7-3, with Chase Porter throwing a complete game, all while striking out 14 Marauders. Brock would easily handle Western, winning 9-1 with Jacob Ebbs and Matthew Balkwill stifling the Mustang bats. The 2-0 Badgers were set to play the 2-0 Varsity Blues, with the winner advancing to the semis. Brock fell by a score of 9-1, as Toronto looked to repeat as back-to-back champs. Queen’s came out of Pool B with a strong 3-0 record, while the Laurentian Voyageurs, who went  0-14 during the regular season, won Pool C after going 2-1 (everyone in Pool C played each other twice).

The final wildcard spot was between Brock and Laurier, who had both gone 2-1 in round robin play. Laurier ultimately held the tiebreaker (which was run differential), setting up a semifinal Sunday featuring Toronto, Guelph, Laurier and Laurentian.

Now, here’s where the rules get even more head scratching. The semifinal seeding reverts back to regular season records; not round robin records. This gave Laurier the first seed, as they were the top seed in regular season, even though they were the wildcard team. This little caveat virtually gave them a free admission to the finals, as they were matched up against the 0-14 Voyageurs. Can you guess how that went? That’s right, 10-0 Golden Hawks.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s Peter Nash had to throw a 9-inning, complete game to get Toronto past Guelph and into the finals. While the paths to the finals were confusing, nobody can argue that it didn’t lead to an entertaining game. Laurier walked it off in extra innings, as Matthew Komonen drove in the winning run in the 10th, making the Laurier Golden Hawks the 2018 OUA Champions.

For Brock, they were unable to get out of pool play, which makes it tough as last season they were eliminated in the quarter-finals as the first seed. In 2016, the Badgers reached the championship game but fell to Western.

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