St. John’s baseball coach Jerry Haugen and his players went on an emotional roller coaster ride Thursday.
In the end, though, the Johnnies’ season will continue. Haugen received a call from MIAC officials Thursday night informing him a mistake had been made in the tiebreaker calculations that originally left St. John’s on the outside looking in when it came to the six-team, single-elimination conference tournament that begins today and runs through Sunday at Veterans Field in Minnetonka.
When the right calculations were applied, St. John’s (9-9, 18-15) became the No. 5 seed and will take on No. 4 seed Bethel at 3 p.m. today.
“This is just goofy,” Haugen said Thursday night. “I mean it’s just crazy.”
Because the conference season was compressed into a few weeks due to weather, MIAC coaches had previously agreed to expand the conference tournament from a four-team, double-elimination competition to the new six-team format.
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.
That’s where 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.
An upset Haugen had said earlier Thursday that he did 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, St. John’s and Gustavus were announced as the two teams eliminated
But McKane said the league had miscalculated records for both St. Olaf and St. Mary’s on its tiebreaker scenario grid when it came to the specific scenario that played out on the final day of regular season play Thursday: Concordia sweeping St. Mary’s and Augsburg and St. Olaf splitting a doubleheader. When those records were corrected, the Oles were out of the field and the Johnnies were in.
“We made a typo and we went off that when we originally seeded the tournament,” McKane said. “We had nine scenarios in play and within them were multiple tiebreaking possibilities. It was just an unfortunate error that didn’t get caught.”
McKane then had to telephone St. Olaf coach Matt McDonald and inform him of the change.
“That’s one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever had to make as the MIAC executive director,“ McKane said. “Matt is a great person and a great competitor. He challenged it, as he should. But when we walked though all the scenarios, we both came to the same conclusion.”
Meanwhile, Haugen was calling his players to tell them their season would continue.
’“I’m calling as many of them as I can get ahold of,” Haugen said. “Fortunately, I called one guy and another six were there with him sitting around. So they’re spreading the word.”
McKane said the whole process was rushed – due to the compressed nature of the season and the fact that games were still being played the day before the conference tournament is scheduled to start.
“The new take-home is that we need to make sure we’re working ahead in the future and we have all these scenarios worked out solidly and accurately well in advance,” McKane said.
“And we need more than an hour to turn around playoff seedings. Things just got really rushed today and we need to make sure we’re taking our time and doing things right.”