What's a coach to do?
Your team is ahead of the opponent, say, 12-0 after two innings. You know if your team keeps playing it straight at it might be 20-0, or worse, by the time the fifth inning rolls around and the slaughter rule takes effect.
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So what's a coach to do? Some will say tough, that's the way it is, and do nothing except let the game play out. Others will have runners leave early, or bunt back to the pitcher, or have their hitters intentionally swing at bad pitches -- anything to get it over quicker and not embarrass the other team.
But does the latter hurt the integrity of the game and send the wrong message to impressionable student-athletes? Or does the former do the same thing?
It's a debate I've heard forever, both during the high school season and in my summer softball travels, because some games can turn that way on a dime.
Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith has been on both sides of the coin, as have many coaches. In the infancy of the Bartlett program, Wolfsmith and his Hawks had to endure plenty of days where the Upstate Eight Conference powerhouses were putting a hurting on the young Hawks. Now, Bartlett has become one of the powers of the area and Wolfsmith has to decide how to handle games his team has that 15-0 lead in the second inning in.
"Our general rule is that when you get to the slaughter rule you don't take extra bases on wild pitches or passed balls," Wolfsmith said. "We take what the hit is. If it's a clean double, we take the two bases. But if the outfielder bobbles it or makes a bad throw we don't take the extra bases. I don't bunt because that can cause the other team more embarrassment if they don't make the play. I'll tell the umpires to call my kids out for leaving early. I don't think it brings any harm to the game."
One coach recently told me his team was ahead 18-0 in the third inning, so he told the base umpire he was going to start having his players leave early to create outs. The umpire, the coach said, emphatically told him if he did that not only wouldn't he call the runners out but he'd eject the coach from the game and report him to the IHSA.
OK, so the umpire may have gone a bit over the edge with that one but it does beg the question of how far do you go and not make a mockery of the game. As adults, we need to be very cautious about decisions we make and the message we send with those decisions. Many times doing things like having runners leave early to create outs causes laughter among teammates and that can be as degrading to an opponent as a couple of home runs in a row.
Some coaches choose to use either side of the issue for teaching moments.
"When we're up like that we work on the things we need to work on and we give non-starters more of an opportunity to play," said St. Edward coach Jaci Corn. "We also encourage the other team. We do those things when we're down, too, and we keep positive energy. Either way we keep our mental focus and play as hard as we can."
When Wolfsmith would have to go through the downside, back in Bartlett's early years, he also tried to make it a teaching experience.
"Anytime you're in that position it's hard on everybody," he said. "Teenagers have a harder time seeing the big picture so we would focus on the little things, like making a nice catch. We would make positives out of the little successes."
Postseason set: The IHSA released pairings Wednesday for the Class 3A and 4A postseason and one thing that sticks out is the amount of games scheduled for Memorial Day. Over the past several years Memorial Day has been a day that only Class 1A and 2A supersectionals were scheduled but with the IHSA's shift in the calendar this school year, the 3-4A postseason starts a week later than it has for the past 5-6 years.
In Class 3A, the play-in game of the Burlington Central regional between fourth-seeded Hampshire and No. 5 Sycamore will be at Hampshire on May 26. The winner plays top seed BC the next day with No. 2 Kaneland and No. 3 Genoa-Kingston playing May 28.
Also in 3A, St. Edward got the No. 9 seed in the Glenbard South sectional complex and was assigned to the Nazareth regional in LaGrange Park where it will play the No. 6 seed and host Roadrunners on May 28.
In Class 4A, Jacobs will host Crystal Lake Central in the play-in game of the Cary-Grove regional with the winner playing No. 1 Barrington the next day and No. 2 Cary-Grove facing No. 3 Crystal Lake South on May 28.
In the Huntley regional, No. 5 Dundee-Crown plays at No. 4 Rockford Jefferson on Memorial Day with the winner getting top seed DeKalb the next day. No. 2 Huntley plays No. 3 Rockford East on May 28.
Larkin will travel to Addison Trail on Memorial Day as part of the AT regional, with the winner playing No. 4 seed St. Charles North the next day. Bartlett is the 5 seed in its own sectional complex and will face No. 12 Glenbard West in a 7 p.m. game on May 27.; And, in the St. Charles East regional, No. 14 South Elgin gets a Memorial Day home game against No. 18 Streamwood with the winner taking on No. 3 SCE the next day. The May 28 game is No. 6 Elk Grove against No. 11 Elgin. Glenbard North and Conant are the 1-2 seeds in the Bartlett sectional.
Speedy Sara: Hampshire senior Sara Finn has become one of the most efficient basestealers in the Fox Valley area since 2009 Burlington Central graduate Kayla Oranger, who went on to a stellar career at Texas-El Paso and is now back at her alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach. Finn has stolen 35 bases this season and been caught once, that just happening last week when Prairie Ridge catcher Alyssa Doomis put a throw right on the bag to nab Finn at second base.