By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We all believe that, right?
Rain – and snow for some – has been the buzzword of this spring sports season. Just about every newspaper is writing about it and every athletic director, coach, player and parent is dreading it on a now-daily basis.
But eventually, we expect the weather to clear up and teams to play catch-up. To that end, there are limitations teams in some sports face when attempting to make up their games – but also opportunities to take advantage of while trying to fill out their regular-season schedules.
- Girls soccer and girls and boys lacrosse teams may play only three games during a week, Monday through Sunday. A weekend tournament – which generally includes 2 to 3 shortened games – counts as only one in this equation.
- Baseball and softball teams can play as many games as they want in a week, but no more than two on a school day – and baseball pitchers must not pitch for two days following their 30th out in a week.
- For tennis, an individual may not play more than three matches in one day – unless she or he is playing in a league championship tournament featuring more than eight schools for which a fourth match would decide the championship. That player also could not have played more than six sets that day heading into that fourth and final match.
- Golf and Track and Field do not have weekly contest limitations. Track and field athletes can compete in only four events per day.
As expected, a number of teams – especially for baseball and softball – are scheduling to smash in as many contests as possible into the next four weeks. Postseason play for tennis and lacrosse begins May 16 – three weeks from today.
But teams do have options.
One rarely used but anticipated to be used more this spring is an opportunity to continue playing regular-season contests through the final day of the MHSAA tournament in that sport. For example, a baseball team can continue making up games through June 15, the day of the MHSAA Finals in Battle Creek. A tennis team can play regular-season matches through June 1, etc.
Also, the MHSAA Executive Committee approved Thursday to allow for this spring two additional multi-team tournament dates for soccer and lacrosse, which will give those teams an opportunity to get in a few more games. That means soccer teams will be allowed to play in four multi-team tournaments instead of two, boys lacrosse four instead of two and girls lacrosse five instead of three.
Teams will have to do some juggling, no doubt, and all other tournament stipulations still apply (games generally are shortened so more can be played, etc.). But with a little creativity, teams could at least get in a few of their make-up games in this way.
Also, the Executive Committee approved a motion to waive the four-contest MHSAA tournament entry requirement for all Upper Peninsula schools in all sports this spring. As of the weekend, snow still covered parts of the U.P.
Much has been discussed about minimums for all four MHSAA classes for 2013-14, and how they are the lowest student totals in at least a decade.
It’s true. The floor in Class A is 893 (down from 911 this school year), Class B starts at 429 (down from 449), Class C at 207 (down from 217) and Class D at 206 (down from 216).
However, there is a better way to crunch the numbers: Consider the shrinking gaps between the largest and smallest schools in each class.
For 2013-14, the gap in Class A is 1,888 students – 261 students fewer than 2007-08 and nearly 900 students fewer than in 2005-06. The gaps between largest and smallest in Classes B, C and D also are trending smaller – which means each class actually includes schools more similar in size, instead of a perceived other way around.
SAC 2013-14 on the way
We’re thankful for a valuable group of students who help us throughout the school year – our 16-member Student Advisory Council, made up of eight seniors and eight juniors from all over the state who are charged with providing feedback on issues impacting educational athletics from a student’s perspective, while also assisting at MHSAA championships and with special projects like the “Battle of the Fans.”
Selecting the next class to join is a highlight of every spring – but hardly an easy process.
A six-member selection committee, myself included, considered 62 sophomore applicants today from all over the Lower and Upper Peninsulas, representing all four of our classes and nearly every sport we sponsor.
Every candidate is impressive for a variety of reasons. That’s what makes this difficult – we could pick any number of combinations to make up our new SAC class, and no doubt leaders galore will emerge from another impressive group.
But there are only eight spots on the council. And we’ll announce who received them later next week.
PHOTO: A golfer attempts to keep warm during a round on a dreary day earlier this season. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
WATERFORD – All Waterford Mott head boys bowling coach Rob Hanson wanted to do was have a personal practice session.
Little did he know it would randomly plant a seed that would eventually produce some state high school bowling history.
More than two years ago, after finding some rare time outside his coaching duties to work on his own game at a local center, Hanson noticed a kid coming in with his grandmother to bowl.
Hanson immediately took notice of how well the kid was bowling and the fact he had a pair of Waterford Mott soccer shorts on. So he asked the kid, then-sophomore Brendan Riley, if he went to the school.
After Riley told Hanson that he did, Hanson had another question for him.
“Why didn’t you try out for bowling?” Hanson said.
Riley said at the time, his mother wasn’t familiar with the bowling team’s schedule and thought it would take too much time away from school.
Once Hanson explained the schedule to the family, Riley ended up trying out after all and made the JV team.
Weeks later, Riley worked his way up to varsity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After bowling on the varsity for a majority of his sophomore year, Riley as a junior last year won the Division 1 Finals singles championship, capping a rapid rise to the top that might not have happened if not for that chance encounter.
“It was quite surprising,” Riley said. “I wasn’t expecting to see the coach that day. I was just going up to have a good time with my grandma.”
Last year for Riley turned out to be all about his individual success, as he led the Lakes Valley Conference with a 217 average and ended up seeded No. 8 out of the Finals qualifying block.
Riley then rolled to the title, earning a 14-pin win over Mattawan’s Charlie Johnson in the final.
For Riley, his success at the MHSAA Tournament boiled down to one thing: Composure.
“I think the only reason I won was because I had the best attitude,” said Riley, who also was a member of Mott’s soccer team in the fall. “Everyone I bowled in the match play started to get upset at themselves every time they got a split or when they didn’t get a strike.”
As a senior, Riley’s average actually has been down a little compared to last year’s 207, but what his teammates have done has been a bigger testament of his success – and made it even more enjoyable than what he accomplished last year as an individual.
Riley enters Friday’s Regional tournament third on Mott in average behind teammates Dylan Keating and Zechariah Thomas, but that is more a reflection of the improvement those two have shown and how they were inspired by what Riley did last year.
“He hasn’t had a bad year,” Hanson said of Riley. “It’s just that his success is breeding desire for everyone else. His leadership quality is amazing.”
Mott will travel Friday to Century Bowl with four tournament titles, including winning the LVC championship, and a 15-1 record.
Bowling is as fickle a sport as any, but no doubt the Corsairs are contenders if they bowl as they’re capable.
“As a team, it feels a lot better to get more things accomplished beyond just myself,” Riley said.
Riley also has a college future, as he has signed to bowl for Goshen College in Indiana as part of the first recruiting class for the new program.
An individual title last year, team domination so far this season and a future in college bowling? That’s a great crop of greatness that was planted simply by running into Hanson that one day.
“It’s a great story,” Hanson said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Waterford Mott’s Brendan Riley finds his shot during a match. (Middle) Riley takes a post-tournament photo after winning last season’s singles championship. (Top photo courtesy of the Riley family.)