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Debut of Open Division raises questions

05/18/2013, 10:44pm PDT
By John Maffei

Based on this season's records, some teams don't appear worthy of top level.

There were the usual long faces and grumbling coaches who felt their teams were seeded too low. But the bulk of the talk Saturday at the San Diego Section baseball seeding meeting centered on the new Open Division.

The creation of Commissioner Jerry Schniepp, the Open Division features eight teams judged to have the best programs based on records over the last three years.

The Open Division this season, however, features only one league champion — Rancho Bernardo from the Palomar League — while Division I has six league champions.

Three of the Open Division teams — Rancho Buena Vista (13-16), Poway (14-15) and Torrey Pines (13-17) — have losing records.

Arguably, only four of the eight Open Division teams — Rancho Bernardo, Granite Hills (22-8), La Costa Canyon (20-11) and Vista (20-11) — are Open Division worthy based on this season’s records.

“Certainly this is a work in progress,” Schniepp said. “And we’re open to suggestions. We may make some changes as this evolves.

“The idea behind this is to match the best programs based on their history. Yes, there are Open Division-type teams even beyond Division I, teams like San Dieguito Academy (24-6) and La Jolla Country Day (23-5).

“But I want lower-division teams who are having one great season to have a chance to win a championship in the division where they fall, not have to play with the big boys for one season.”

That, however, wasn’t the feeling of several committee members and a number of coaches.

Carlsbad, for example, has had a good program, is 23-6 this season and 12-1 against Open Division teams. Yet the Lancers are the top seed in Division I.

“Sure I’d like to be in the Open Division,” said Carlsbad coach Chris Greene. “But I understand the situation. There are an awful lot of good teams this season, and there is no way we think we’re breezing through Division I.”

Chula Vista coach Jim Westlund made a suggestion after the seeding meeting that Schniepp said he’ll consider: Put the 24 teams from the Open Division and Division I in one pool. The top eight teams, determined by the seeding committee, would play in the Open Division playoffs with the next 12 being in the Division I playoffs.

“That idea makes a lot of sense,” Schniepp said. “For now, though, this is our format. We’ll consider other ideas at another time.”

Overall, the top seeds went as expected.

Rancho Bernardo is No. 1 in the Open, Carlsbad in Division I, La Jolla Country Day in Division II, San Dieguito in Division III, Castle Park (18-10) in Division IV and Foothills Christian (15-9) in Division V.

The Open and Division V are eight-team brackets while Divisions I, II, III and IV are 12-team brackets. All divisions feature a double-elimination format.

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