A quick glance at a schedule for an area high school baseball team in the OCC and one distinct change stands out - back-to-back games against the same league opponent throughout conference play.
A quick glance at a schedule for an area high school baseball team in the OCC and one distinct change stands out — back-to-back games against the same league opponent throughout conference play.
In the past, OCC teams played every league opponent once and then went through the schedule again at the opposite site. This year, a team will play the same opponent when league play begins Monday, April 4, as well as on the second league date, Wednesday, April 6.
"The way this came about was from (coach) Matt Middleton at (Upper Arlington)," Dublin Coffman coach Tim Saunders said. "He proposed it and said that this is the way they do their league schedules in (Cincinnati)."
Middleton, in his second season at UA, coached Kings Mills Kings from 2004-07. He likes the idea of playing the same league opponent in back-to-back games because that's how they did it at Kings, which is a member of the Fort Ancient Valley Conference.
"I brought it up to the OCC board and a couple of other coaches were thinking the same thing, and everybody pretty much voted 'yes' for it," Middleton said. "With this schedule, we can't set up our rotation where we throw our ace every time we play a certain team. It basically solidifies that (the league title) doesn't come down to whichever team has the best ace."
Olentangy coach Steve Little is excited about the change.
"I was a big proponent of it and I pushed hard for it," Little said. "That way, the best team will win. The winner has the best overall team."
Dublin Jerome finished in a three-way tie with Dublin Scioto and Olentangy Liberty for first in the OCC-Cardinal Division last spring.
"At the end of the day, baseball comes down to pitching," Jerome coach Chris Huesman said. "We have OHSAA pitching restrictions in Ohio that prevent pitchers from throwing more than 10 innings in a three-day period. This now allows teams to not face the same 'ace' pitcher twice in the season.
"I know when we played Olentangy, I threw Nick Sobel six times in a row against them and coach Little asked if I even had any other pitchers because he saw the same guy for three years."
Westerville South coach Tim Bates sees both sides of the debate.
"The pro is you won't see the same pitcher in both games; the negative is you can't throw the same pitcher in both games," he said. "In the past, people always said pitching was the key, but really the best pitcher was the key. Now it's going to be pitching depth. You're going to need three to four top pitchers."
Jim Dougherty begins his 30th season at Hilliard Davidson and likes the idea of developing arms.
"I don't know, maybe we never have been good enough, but we don't do that with one pitcher," he said. "We always try to stay with a rotation. It was discussed playing Monday and Tuesday and then a second round on Thursday and Friday, but that (didn't pass).
"Right, wrong, whatever, you need to develop pitching and I think this might help. It will work until we get a week of rain and then it will change things."
Pickerington Central coach Chick Campbell has an abundance of good pitching, including Isaac Beller, who has signed with Wright State University.
"It's going to give us a true champion," said Campbell, whose team plays in the OCC-Ohio. "There's no more holding your ace back for the best teams. And in some weeks, you better be able to bring three pitchers capable of winning OCC games."
Grove City coach Ryan Alexander, whose team won the OCC-Ohio title last season, is in favor of the change.
"I think it will actually give the conferences a true champion because you can't put a No. 1 (pitcher) against every good team every time they come back around," he said. "It's going to be a true champion because you're going to have to use multiple pitchers to win it. I think it's a great idea."
Phil Callaghan is in his first season as coach at Olentangy Orange but coached for 21 years at Scioto and DeSales.
"The more I think about it, the more I think it's an excellent idea, because it does give you a better idea for who has the best team," said Callaghan, whose team is in the OCC-Capital. "I'm surprised how much support that (the idea) got because everyone seemed to like it. Maybe I'll feel differently a month from now, but I like it right now."
St. Charles coach Ray Benjamin said the CCL considered back-to-back league contests in the offseason.
"Actually, we were going to do that this year, but when it went to vote, the principals shot it down," he said. "I don't think they wanted to be the guinea pigs (for this format). I like it because it brings about a level playing field."
Grandview coach Brian Thomas, whose team is a member of the Mid-State League, likes the idea and would like to see his league adopt the format.
"In baseball, the game revolves around pitching, and with you only being able to throw so many innings in three days, you'd better have two good pitchers," he said. "Plus, you'd get to play a team that was still fresh in your mind. Even if you would still get to see the same pitcher for part of the game, you'd still have him fresh in your mind and how he works hitters."
One potential problem with the format is the Friday-Monday matchups, as an ace could throw both games because the 10 innings-in-three-days limitation would not apply.
"Although technically, an ace could throw on Friday and Monday and still have his complement of 10 innings, he would not be at his optimum, and the other team just saw him a couple days ago," Huesman said. "That isn't always a good idea. I felt that the OCC would now get a true league champion with no one getting through on just one dominant or ace pitcher."
Though the OCC has made the schedule change in baseball, don't look for it to do the same in softball.
"We wouldn't want it because most of the teams only throw one pitcher anyway," said Davidson softball coach Angelo Forte, whose team plays in the OCC-Central. "We did talk about having games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday because of the schools that wanted to go to out-of-town weekend tournaments, but that was voted down."
At a glance
Below are the defending champions in each of the OCC divisions:
Capital: Mount Vernon
Cardinal: Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto and Olentangy Liberty
Central: Worthington Kilbourne
Ohio: Grove City