After a couple of years with a tournament format that really rewarded the top three teams in the regular season, District 5-AAA coaches voted in their offseason meeting to revert back to a straight double-elimination tournament with a twist on the game matchups.
The seedings for this year’s format were worked out this week in the pre-tournament coaches meeting, but the realization of a flaw in the setup may mean this will be the only year it will be used.
The way this year’s seven-team bracket breaks down, Walker Valley (19-8) earned the top seed with a 10-2 district mark and is the only team to receive a first-round bye.
Because of the way the brackets were laid out on the page, it appeared the second- and third-place teams would also be receiving a bye, but in actuality Ooltewah (18-10, 9-3) and Soddy-Daisy (16-14, 8-4) are squaring off in an opening round game, meaning one will be sent to the loser’s bracket immediately.
“Other than No. 1, the best place to be is the fourth seed,” expressed Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley. “We voted for this setup because looking at it on the paper it appeared the second- and third-place teams were being rewarded. They’re not. We’ll just have to live with it for this year and address it in the offseason.”
The No. 4 seed belongs to tournament host Bradley Central (18-11, 6-6), who will open the seven-day event Wednesday at 5 p.m. against seventh-seeded McMinn County (4-22, 2-10). The winner of that opening round contest will get Thursday off before having to face the Owl-Trojan victor Friday at 5.
The other opening night contest will feature No. 5 Cleveland (11-17, 5-7) taking on sixth-seeded Rhea County (11-16, 3-9), with the loser having to turn around and play the Bradley/McMinn loser Thursday at 8. The winner advances to face No. 1 Walker Valley Friday at 8.
After splitting their games earlier this week, Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy will tangle again Thursday at 5, with the loser heading to a Saturday elimination game against the winner of Thursday night’s late game. The Owl-Trojan winner must turn around and play the early game Friday against the Bradley/McMinn victor.
Saturday’s action will begin at 1 p.m. with the Ooltewah-Soddy loser taking on the winner of victor of the opening night’s losers. Friday’s losers will square off in an elimination game at 4 Saturday afternoon, while the winners’ bracket final will hit the field at 7 that same evening.
A single elimination game will be held May 7 at 7 p.m. between winners of Saturday’s first two games, while May 8 at 7 will be the loser’s bracket final.
The district tournament championship game will be held May 9 at 5 p.m., with an “if necessary game” to follow in the event one is needed. The top two teams will advance to the Region 3-AAA semifinals on May 14, with the championship game set for May 16. The TSSAA Sectional games will be held May 18.
The District 5-AA tournament will begin Friday with fourth-seeded McMinn Central hosting No. 5 Sweetwater in a play-in game. The top 3 teams, plus Friday’s winner will begin a double-elimination event on Saturday.
Although Polk County and Sequoyah tied for the regular season title with 7-1 marks in league play, the Chiefs earned the top seed due to a run-differential tiebreaker and will host the Central-Sweetwater winner in the opening round.
As the second seed, coach Michael Carter’s first Polk County squad is 15-8 on the season and will entertain No. 3 Meigs County in Saturday’s other opening round game at noon.
Saturday’s losers will battle in an elimination game on May 7, once again at the home of the higher seed, while the winners will do the same for a spot in the district championship game, as well as a Region 3-AAA berth.
The loser’s bracket final, which also has a region bid on the line, will take place May 8 with the 5-AA title game planned for May 9. The “if necessary” game will be played May 9.
The other TSSAA spring sports will also be heading into their postseason events later this week as the softball and soccer tournaments will begin Friday and Saturday. The 5-AAA softball event will be played in Soddy-Daisy, while 5-AA softball and 5-AAA soccer play at the home of the higher seeds. Coaches meetings to finalize plans for those events will be held later in the week.
The 5-AAA tennis tournament will be held May 7-8 at the Middle Valley courts in Soddy-Daisy, while the track sub-sectional meet will be May 8 at Walker Valley.
Locals playing well
A trio of local professional baseball players and a current Tennessee Vol are all representing the area well during the current season.
Former Bradley and Cleveland State standout Ryan Casteel leads the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in hitting with a .345 battling average, while Tyler Massey, who played at Ooltewah, isn’t far behind, batting .333 for the Colorado Rockies Class A team.
Casteel has a triple among his 10 hits, plus he has stolen three bases, scored eight times, walked thrice (to help with his .406 OBP) and driven in a trio of teammates.
Massey has three home runs, a pair of doubles and a triple in his 16 hits, plus he has 11 RBIs and five walks for the Tourists, who are currently in second place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division with a 14-7 record.
Former Walker Valley and University of Memphis standout Ryan Fraser is 1-1 with a hold in five mound appearances for the St. Lucie (Fla.) Mets. He has a 1.86 earned run average in 9 2/3 innings of relief work, striking out four and issuing five free passes. The New York Met farmclub leads the South Division of the Florida State (Advanced Class A) League with a 17-4 record.
After a standout career at Polk County, Jared Allen started the college season on fire as the Vols starting right fielder. While his bat has cooled some of late (.213 BA), he still has a .388 on base percentage with 11 walks and the same number of “plunks.” He has four doubles, a triple and a homer in his 16 hits, plus he has scored 11 times and driven in 10 playing in 32 of Tennessee’s 42 games. The Vols are 22-20 on the season and 7-12 in SEC play.