For the fourth time in four years, WDA baseball has a new way to determine their regular season champion.
This season, the West region teams will play 16 counter games and 16 non-counter games.
“We play more games in a shorter amount of time than more states that have a lot better weather than we have,” St. Mary’s baseball coach Mike Feldman said.
For the month of April, Tuesdays will be when teams play their counter games.
“If you’ve got three guys,” Bismarck High baseball coach Jim Patton said. “You’ll throw them on seven days rest four weeks in a row. Then throw your four, five six guys in your non-conference games.”
In May, teams will play games that count toward the region standings twice a week.
“You’re staff better be a little deeper than it is at the beginning of the year,” Patton said.
Also, the games will be two, seven-inning contests, instead of a seven-inning and and a five inning.
“Some people didn’t like that,” Century head coach Kent Schweigert said. “Such a short game being a conference game.”
With only 16 games that count toward the standings, clubs will play more teams from the East.
“Gives us the opportunity to go out to Fargo for a weekend,” Patton said. “Which we couldn’t before because all 32 games were tied up into conference games.”
Unlike last season, teams will not play a home-and-home series with every West regionmate.
“It’s going to be on a rotation,” Schweigert said. “There are teams in our conference that we only play one time.”
Coaches say the change will result in several benefits.
“With the schedule change,” Mike Feldman said, “I think that we are going to keep guys fresh. We’re going to be able to use our pitchers a little longer. We’re going to try to extend games a little bit.”
However, they also feel this new format will impact the seeds for the conference tournament, which play a large role in who qualifies for state.
“Playing 32 conference games is definitely going to sharpen you for tournament baseball,” Patton said. “We’ll see this year if it has a negative effect on that.”
Change is potentially not done. Next season, Watford City joins the WDA and the coaches and athletic directors will have to re-evaluate the current system.