Designated Hitter: The curious case of Berkshire County baseball and Western Mass. seedings
Anyone who took or saw a photo of the Western Massachusetts Division I baseball champions, saw players with five fingers raised in the air.
Those five fingers were to remind the rest of the region that the D-I champions were the No. 5 seed in the field.
The Taconic players could also have held up three fingers, as in three Berkshire County baseball teams played on Earl Lorden Field Saturday afternoon for Western Mass. championships.
Of the three, only Division III champion Wahconah had a high seed. The Warriors were seeded second. Mount Greylock was also a fifth seed.
In five of the last six years, at least one Berkshire County team has won a Western Mass. championship. Two teams won Western Mass. titles in each of the last two years, and since 2012, three different county schools made it to Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field to play for the state championship. Mount Greylock went in 2015, Monument Mountain in 2014 and Mount Everett in 2012. The jury is out on this year, as both Taconic and Wahconah play Tuesday in the state semifinals.
With a resume like that, one might think that Berkshire County baseball teams — size and league not withstanding — might get more respect.
"It's like this every year, every single year," Mount Greylock coach Steve Messina told me Saturday.
You could sense the anger among members of the Berkshire County baseball community when Taconic received what was perceived to be a slight by the baseball tournament committee.
Remember that the Walker Statistical Instrument used to determine seeds is a statistical instrument, and it doesn't take into consideration the eye test. After all, if any coach or athletic director doesn't think Taconic is the best team in Western Mass. right now, I don't know what they have been watching.
"This is the third year in Division III that a Berkshire County team has won it," said Messina. "Last year, Lenox and McCann were in the Division IV final. Baseball in Berkshire County is good, solid, and it's been solid for years. We play good baseball, and every year in tournament time, it shows.
"There are always teams playing in the championship."
Taconic coach Kevin Stannard issued no "I told you so's," to reporters, preferring to let his team do the talking on the field. The 2017 Braves spoke loudly.
But Stannard, who is second only to Messina in Berkshire County seniority with 25 years at the helm, responded to the same question I asked Messina.
"It says they underseed us every year and underestimate the quality of baseball that's played in the Berkshires," Stannard said. "For Steve and obviously [Wahconah coach Rob Cowdrey], a great season for both of them. Unfortunately, one had to lose.
"The brand of baseball they play up at Greylock and Wahconah is solid every year. For us to go through Berkshire County undefeated and to play quality teams like those two every year, says a lot about these kids and it speaks volumes of how good the brand of baseball is that we play in the Berkshires."
The Taconic coaches would not call this road to a title the Taconic Revenge Tour, but the players seemed to feel that.
After all, the Braves likely lost a quarterfinal home game by falling to Pope Francis in the regular-season finale to go 19-1.
So what happened? Taconic gets Pope Francis in the quarterfinals back at Forest Park, and this time, beats the Cardinals 1-0. From there, it was a date with top-seeded Westfield, who beat the Braves 3-2 in last year's semifinals. Then it was second-seeded Minnechaug in the championship game. The Falcons had beaten Taconic last year.
"Yeah, no doubt," Taconic catcher Brett Murphy said, when asked about the so-called revenge tour. "When we got to 19-1 and the five seed, we knew we had something to do. We said we weren't coming out of here until we were on top. That's exactly what we did."
Which, at the end of the day, tells much more than the numbers do.
Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @howardherman.
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