SJU out of MIAC baseball tournament and not pleased

The St. John’s baseball team is not going to the MIAC tournament and head coach Jerry Haugen is not pleased with the way that came about.

Because the conference season was compressed into just a few weeks due to weather, MIAC coaches had previously agreed to expand the conference tournament — scheduled for today through Sunday in Minnetonka — from a four-team, double-elimination format to a six-team, single-elimination competition if all league games weren’t completed.

In the end, a doubleheader between St. John’s and St. Olaf was all that could not be played. That was enough, though, to trigger the switch. And after the final day of regular-season competition Thursday, five teams (St. Mary’s, Bethel, St. Olaf, St. John’s and Gustavus) were tied for the final three tournament berths. Each team finished with a .500 record in league play.

And that’s where the issues arose. MIAC executive director Dan McKane said also discussed on the conference call in which coaches voted for the tournament change was a plan to alter the league’s tiebreakers — throwing out the first (head-to-head record against all tied teams) and going to the second (results against all other teams in the playoffs). From a conference perspective, McKane said that was part of the package the coaches were approving.

Haugen said he does not remember that being part of the vote and was operating under the assumption the first tiebreaker was still in place until he was informed otherwise by the conference Thursday morning. If the first tiebreaker had still been in place, St. John’s (which was 4-2 against the other teams in the five-way tie) and Gustavus (which was 5-3) would have been the first two teams in the field.

As it turned out, those were the two teams eliminated. St. Mary’s (4-4), Bethel (3-5) and St. Olaf (2-4) are all in.

“I wanted to make sure I went on record with the conference that I don’t remember voting for or against anything that had to do with tiebreakers,” said Haugen, whose team, which was 8-2 over its last 10 games, was unable to play Wednesday or Thursday due to finals. “I don’t recall that being a part of this at all.

“I’m just bitterly disappointed by the communication in this process. In this day and age of text messages and e-mails, the communication here was not very good.”

Even under the new criteria, the only way the Johnnies could have been eliminated Thursday was if Concordia  swept St. Mary’s and St. Olaf and Augsburg split. Both happened. And St. John’s finished its season 9-9 in MIAC play and 18-15 overall.

“I’m not happy with the way the situation turned out,” McKane said. “The two take-homes from this for me are: 1. Don’t change things on the fly. You have rules that are approved long in advance for a reason. And when you change them on the fly things like this happen. 2. Be more detailed. Looking back on it, as a conference, we should have been more clear and made sure all the coaches understood the changes that were in place.

“Unfortunately, in this case, I think some of the details kind of got lost in the momentum of approving the six-team tournament.”

McKane said the idea of altering the tiebreakers was to make them equally applicable.

“It was determined that winning percentage would not be evenly based because not all teams would have played the same number of games,” McKane said. “The idea was to have the tiebreakers be equally applicable throughout.”

But Haugen said the end result was not fair.

“The two teams that have the best record against the other teams they are tied with are the two teams that get eliminated,” Haugen said.

“The conference says this was discussed in the conference call. But there was never a vote. There was never anything in hard copy sent out saying we were eliminating the first criteria. It’s just really disappointing.”

Frank Rajkowski

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