Pam Pack proves NCHSAA needs to revamp playoff system

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday began another addition to Washington’s rich springtime postseasons, as the Lady Pack soccer and softball teams embarked on forays into the playoffs with home-field advantage.

But one team is missing. Washington’s baseball team, after hammering Northside 13-0 to win its Easter tournament, stumbled down the stretch. It went 2-5 with its two wins coming against the other two 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference teams that also missed the playoffs.

The Pam Pack knew the system. It knew its league ranking would determine whether or not there would be a postseason. It couldn’t get the job done as it finished 6-6 in arguably the state’s most loaded 2-A conference.

That means Washington shouldn’t be in the playoffs. It also means the system is broken.

The Pam Pack missed out despite being ranked No. 12 in the state in 2-A by the NCHSAA’s beloved MaxPreps system. That’s right. The 12th-ranked team didn’t get a bid into the 64-team field.

Mind you, Washington climbed as high as No. 1 in 2-A with a non-conference win at J. H. Rose earlier in the spring. Its 12 wins are as good or better than 11 of the 32 playoff teams in the east, which includes fellow ECC members South Lenoir and Greene Central. First Flight (12-8) finished the season about the same as the Pam Pack (12-7) and earned the No. 7 seed and a first-round home game.

The whole purpose of the postseason is to determine the state’s best team. Washington spent the entire season competing with the best teams in the state. It did so on the back of a pitching corps led by junior Campbell commit Logan Everette. It did so on the back of one of the state’s strongest infields. It endured the loss of senior outfielder Carson Asby. The defensive-minded group had seven regular players bat well over .300.

But here we are, with the postseason about to begin, and Washington is watching from the sidelines. Its resume is stronger than half the 2-A east field, but according to the system, the Pam Pack doesn’t deserve to compete for a championship.

The system is broken. The NCHSAA has tried time and again to find a scheme that works. This one doesn’t, so here’s one that’s simple enough: give each conference champion an automatic berth and seed the rest of the field from there. Let strength of schedule factor in. Reward teams for challenging stout non-conference teams. Don’t hold back a team like Washington that belongs to a strong conference while inherently rewarding those in weaker leagues — leagues that the NCHSAA determines.

Simply put, let the best teams compete for the right to call themselves the best.

The most unfortunate part is that this likely provides no consolation to the Pam Pack seniors. Those players put in so much work to bring the program to this point, only for their careers to be ended prematurely.

That’s the toughest pill to swallow.