Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Admiring the jobs done by Marchbanks, Stannard, Hankey and the MIAA

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When the coffee is brewing and the bagels are toasting, you get lots of time to think about things.

For example, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association takes a lot of grief from everyone. You might be a parent, a coach, an administrator or even a member of the news media, and you might have something to complain about.

But when the MIAA does something well, it should receive a pat on the back.

That's why when the MIAA moved the cutoff dates for high school baseball and softball back by a week, it was something we could all agree on.

The baseball and softball seeding meeting in Western Massachusetts will take place Tuesday at Greenfield High School. It was originally supposed to have been held last Tuesday, at the same spot.

But the MIAA staff realized that would really put a squeeze on already squeezed schedules that were tossed in the trash after the truly awful weather we had in April and early May.

Sure, there was the Mount Greylock baseball team that seemed to play almost every day for the last two weeks because of earlier rainouts. But the Mounties' schedule was the exception. Greylock had one more game on Saturday, and then someone should charter a bus to send coach Steve Messina and his players to the Cape for two days, just to rest.

The season will roll on one week later, and to me, that's all right. Everyone got to play the number of games they were supposed to. Nobody had to play doubleheaders. Everybody will get a couple of days to rest before the tournaments begin on Thursday or Friday.

Good going, MIAA.

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High school coaches take too much grief and don't get enough credit for what they do.

The money they earn as coaches isn't very much for the amount of time they put in. So you should thank any high school coach you know.

That being said, three high school baseball and softball coaches have really had, in my view, standout seasons.

First among them is Pittsfield softball coach Greg Marchbanks, who guided the Generals to a 19-0 record.

If you think it's easy to be undefeated, think again. Especially when you're dealing with high school athletes. There might be a paper due or a final to take that has his or her mind wandering away from the task at hand on the diamond. It could be anything, but keeping a team focused on the task at hand is the goal.

Which is why Marchbanks leading the Generals to a perfect regular season is truly impressive. There is a ton of talent on the PHS roster, most of it having been grown in the Pittsfield Girls Softball program, but even supremely talented teams don't get to be undefeated without a good coach.

Then there is Taconic baseball coach Kevin Stannard, who figuratively had to hand out "My name is" tags when his team gathered for the start of practice.

You can't return one starter and two players from a state championship team and expect to be a favorite in Western Mass. That's what Stannard and his staff did with the Braves.

Going into Saturday's finale, Taconic was 15-4. More impressive is the fact that the now Division III team went 6-3 against Division I opponents.

If Stannard hasn't guided the Braves to a No. 1 seed in the Division III tournament, Taconic will certainly be no worse than No. 3.

The same could be said of Monument Mountain, and by extension, the job Tom Hankey has done with the Spartans.

"It's the second time I missed" making Western Mass., Hankey told me before the start of the season. "I don't want to make it a habit."

The Spartans will be back and with a 15-3 record heading into Saturday's Wahconah Tournament, they should be among the top teams in the Division III field. Monument also went 6-0 against the North Division prior to the Wahconah Tournament this weekend.

It was a rebuilding year for Monument, a year which included the Spartans moving into the South. Monument has taken on all comers and has pretty much done nothing but win.

So, while you can give all of your spring coaches plaudits for what they do, take a second to recognize three stellar coaching jobs.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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