After this season, there is no more free passes to the District 2 softball playoffs.
The district is eliminating the open-tournament format, which allowed teams regardless of record to make the postseason except in Class 5A and Class A. Those two classifications are in a subregional with District 11 and use D11’s power-rating system that takes into account not only wins and losses but who they came against. Non-conference games will count as well.
District 2 will adopt the power-rating system, which it used for basketball this past season, in 2019. That means in Class 4A, 3A and 2A only the top-eight teams will move to districts unless teams ninth or worse have an overall winning percentage of .500 or better.
Class 6A won’t change since it has three District 2 teams and District 4’s Williamsport in it. However, the seedings could look different because of the power-rating formula.
The district tournaments begin this week with two Wyoming Valley Conference teams – Class 6A Hazleton Area and Class 4A Tunkhannock – looking to get back to PIAA state championship games.
Here’s a look at all six classifications.
The district’s highest classification has been a two-horse race the last six years and looks like it will remain that way.
Hazleton Area (12-1) and District 4’s Williamsport (9-6) have met for the subregional championship every year since 2012 – last year at Class 6A for the first time and the previous years at 4A. It’s doubtful that will change. The rest of the field consists of Scranton (7-6) and Delaware Valley (4-9).
The tournament will once again be a subregional with District 11, which will be represented by Southern Lehigh (15-5).
Pittston Area (8-5) is the only WVC squad in the five-team bracket. Wyoming Valley West (2-11) failed to qualify since the power-rating system is already in place for this class. The Patriots made an improbable run from the seventh seed to the title game last year and return many players from that team.
However, the field looks a bit stronger this season with defending champ Abington Heights (12-1) leading the way.
No doubt that Class 4A will be the most competitive. Even defending champ and state runner-up Tunkhannock (10-3) isn’t safe. The Tigers have lost to two teams in the bracket – Berwick (7-6) and Wyoming Area (7-6).
Nanticoke Area (8-5) recovered from a 1-3 start to snag the third seed.
Even seventh-seeded Dallas (6-7) and eighth-seed Honesdale (5-8) could make runs at the crown. Dallas lost two games by one run and two more by two runs. Honesdale has two one-run losses and three two-run losses.
Western Wayne (0-13) opted out of the playoffs, the only D2 team in any classification to do so. Considering the record, the school district smartly saw the inevitable and saved some cash it would have cost to travel to a road game.
Holy Redeemer (14-0) and Montrose (12-0) tied for the top seed, but Montrose got it via the fourth tiebreaker — a coin flip.
After winning Class 2A state titles in 2015 and 2016, Redeemer lost in the D2-3A title game in 2017. The offense isn’t as strong as in recent seasons, but pitcher Morgan Bienkowski is one of the best in the state and her arm could get the Royals back in states.
Mid Valley (10-2) is the third seed and the defending champion.
Fourth-seeded Lake-Lehman (11-3) brings a six-game winning streak into the tournament. Hanover Area (9-5) is very young and has two one-run losses, but finished 1-3 vs. Redeemer and Lehman.
Meyers (4-9) and GAR (1-13) are the other WVC teams in the playoffs, although neither is expected to make much noise.
Northwest (7-6) and Wyoming Seminary (8-6) are the only WVC teams in the nine-team field. Just their luck, they meet in the quarterfinals.
Northwest recovered nicely from a three-game losing streak in mid-April. Seminary has a couple head-scratching losses – 13-1 and 10-0 to Lake-Lehman – but otherwise has shown it could make a run at the D2-2A title.
Holy Cross (9-3), a perennial Lackawanna League power, is the top seed and defending champ.
MMI Prep (1-13), the WVC’s only Class A team, didn’t make the field for the subregional with District 11.
Forest City (6-6) is District 2’s only representative in the bracket.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar