OPINION: Gators Miss Fair Shot at Postseason

Aaron Lynch, '11, and the rest of the Gators were kept out of the playoffs this year by something they couldn't control. Photo by Charlie Magovern/The Campus

By Charlie Magovern

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Mother Nature deserves some recognition this season, because she managed to keep the Gators out of the postseason without a single hit, stolen base or double play.

And in her speech at the awards banquet, she can thank the NCAC for giving her the opportunity to dictate Allegheny’s season.

It’s pretty obvious that northwestern Pennsylvania isn’t the best place to try to play baseball in April. Trust me, I rode the pine on the Allegheny baseball team my freshman year, and when the bats get priority over the non-starters for the area in front of the space heater, you probably shouldn’t be trying to play baseball.

But despite sitting through my share of freezing cold doubleheaders for a team that didn’t make the playoffs, the fact remains that we at least got to play all of our NCAC games. Every game that mattered, we played. Our performance was what determined our fate.

That didn’t happen this year, as Allegheny’s baseball team only played 11 of their 16 scheduled games due to an unfortunate string of rainy weather.

In fact, they were one game shy of being eligible for them.

That’s right. The Gators needed to play 12 NCAC games to be eligible for the playoffs. It’s not fair, and even if Allegheny had been able to sneak into the playoffs with just 12 games, it’s still hard to see any fairness in the way the conference handled this season.

There are two sides to this problem.

The first is that other teams in the conference had more games to determine their fate. Imagine bombing the first exam of a class, knowing you’ll have three more to make up for it. But then your teacher decides that you can’t take the final, but someone else can.

This is what happened to Allegheny, which dropped three of its first four conference games in early April. Most coaches will tell their players that seasons aren’t defined in the first week of play. Allegheny’s season was, since they never were given the chance to play their final five games.

So you’re probably thinking that if the Gators had done better earlier in the season, they would have been playing yesterday. That isn’t fair either. That’s like that same professor telling you that you’re guaranteed an A after the first three exams and not making you take the final one while everyone else does.

Normally, everyone finds a way to get all 16 games in before the deadline, and everything in the NCAC is peachy. This year, Ohio Wesleyan University was the only team to reach the magic number. And the only reason for all of these problems is the weather.

I’m sure the NCAC spent time reserving the field in Chillicothe, Ohio and probably spent even more time designing the logo for the event, which I’m sure is printed on all kinds of apparel.

But honestly, with the NCAA regional tournament not starting until May 18 and many teams, including playoff teams, still awaiting their non-conference games scheduled for next week, why couldn’t the NCAC push back the dates of the tournament a few days for the sake of fairness?

What’s the rush?

Allegheny is nationally ranked in the top 10 in offense and has two pitchers in the top 10 for ERA in the conference. They are a playoff caliber team, and deserve the chance to prove that on the field.

My point isn’t to throw out a bunch of “what if” scenarios, but rather to point out that Allegheny, and the league in general, was done a disservice by the policies of the NCAC. I get that you have to have a deadline at some point. But this year was an extreme case warranting an exception. At a very basic level, the regular season didn’t necessarily determine the best four teams to move on.

Teams can expect to have their season ruined by all kinds of things. A bad call here, a tough bounce there. Maybe the center fielder loses the ball in the sun. But the weather should never keep team in or out of the postseason. So kudos Mother Nature, you done good this year.