For the first time in several years, the Wyoming Valley American Legion Baseball League will have a different playoff format.
More teams, fewer days, a new site, and no automatic berths to next week’s Region 5 Tournament are a few of the changes.
In previous years, the league’s regular season champion would get an automatic spot into the regional tournament. And the next four squads would battle it out for the league’s No. 2 seed into the event. The league tournament was drawn out over possibly five days. This year, it has been consolidated into three days on the turf field at the Pittston Area Primary Center in Hughestown instead of Veterans Field at Mountain Post 781.
The changes came about at a league meeting when the majority voted yes, and also due to the state’s deadline to have a league champion declared earlier than usual.
“We all got together and knew it became difficult. The problem is that we would be playing using the No. 1 (pitcher) to get in to regionals and then he’s unavailable for regionals,” said league vice president Keith Segedy. “And we went back and forth and then decided to give No. 1 and No. 2 teams a bye in the league playoffs and then it keeps the other teams in the mix.”
One extra team has been added to the playoffs this year. That left just one of the nine league teams out of contention entering the final week of the regular season.
With the top two seeds, Swoyersville (14-1) and Mountain Post (12-3) getting a bye in the first round, action starts today at 3 p.m. with No. 4 seed Greater Pittston (10-6) facing fifth-seeded Tunkhannock (7-9). At 5:30 p.m., the third seed Stripes & Strikes (11-5) takes on sixth-seeded Wilkes-Barre/Wilkes-Barre Township (6-10). The losers of today’s games are eliminated. A win in the first round guarantees at least two more contests.
With the event wrapping up in three days this year, the teams that advance to next week’s regional tournament in Lackawanna County will have their pitchers on full rest.
On the field, it won’t be easy for any of the five teams to knock off Swoyersville, which returns approximately a dozen players from last year’s squad, which finished third in the state and won the state championship in 2014 and 2016.
One of the teams that may have a good shot as any of topping Swoyersville or advancing to the regional tournament is Stripes & Strikes. Based out of Hazleton and consisting of players from Hazleton Area, Marian Catholic and Weatherly, the team lost to Swoyersville twice, but defeated every other team in league at least once this season.
“We should be solid. We lost twice to Swoyersville, which is always very good,” said Segedy, who is also the Stripes & Strikes manager. “We had a nice season especially in the summer when you have kids away on vacation and with graduations going on like every other team.”
Junior playoffs underway
The Mountain Post 781 field has been used the last several years for the senior league playoffs. The field is still being used this year.
The Youth Division (also known as the junior division) tournament is being held at the field. That tourney began on Thursday afternoon with a six-team bracket in three days just like the senior division and will wrap up on Saturday.