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District IV Stands Tall

Earlier this month, as the area school’s doors closed for the summer, hundreds of senior graduates stoically marched into their ceremonies to the familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance. Then they sat, listened to speeches, heard their name called, received their long-awaited diploma, and happily tossed their mortar-board tasseled caps into the air and departed, officially ending their high school career.

But for dozens of others, it was not-so-fast; their high school days still had some unfinished business to attend to, and they were most happy to stick around to see it through. Baseball teams from Montoursville and South Williamsport and softball squads from Williamsport, Muncy, Montgomery, and South Williamsport proudly saw their high school days extended as they had all earned their way into the PIAA State playoffs in their respective sports.

Tucked away in our own little corner of the PIAA’s District IV, local scholastic teams enjoyed a collective banner spring sports season while at the same time serving notice that some of Pennsylvania’s best baseball and softball is played right here in our backyard. All six teams won their opening-round state games. While five fell in the quarter-final round Montgomery’s senior-dominated softball squad carried local hopes all the way to the state Single A championship game.

Rightly or wrongly, whenever the PIAA playoffs occur, there are often accompanied grumblings from the populous. As was the case in the fall, many objections and consternations continued to be raised over the newly established ‘you-must-buy-your-ticket-on-our-online website-and-pay-the-accompanying-handling-fee-if-you-want-to-see-the-kids-play-because-no-tickets-will-be-sold-at-the-door’ policy. The policy is an ‘easy-money-don’t-have-to-do-much’ deal for the PIAA big boys done with little regard to the difficulties and inconvenience it causes some ticket-buying fans. But that is another very long story, perhaps best left to another chapter.

Some questions were also heard pertaining to seedings, match-ups, and site locations. Those questions, while sometimes confusing, are much better handled by the PIAA.

For the record, the PIAA divides its member schools’ counties into 12 geographical districts for the purpose of state championship competition. The following list is the district breakdown by county:
– District 1: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery.
– District 2: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming.
– District 3: Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York.
– District 4: Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, and Union.
– District 5: Bedford, Fulton, and Somerset.
– District 6: Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntington, Indiana, and Mifflin.
– District 7: Better known as the WPIAL; Allegheny (except for the City of Pittsburgh), Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland.
– District 8: Pittsburgh Public Schools.
– District 9: Cameron, Clarion, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, and Potter
– District 10: Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren.
– District 11: Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, and Schuylkill.
– District 12: Philadelphia Catholic League and the Public League

Traditionally for state championship competition for team sports, Pennsylvania is divided into Eastern and Western regions. Districts 1,2,3,4,11, and 12 usually make up the Eastern Region. Districts 5,6,7,8,9,10 usually comprise the Western Region, with the two survivors meeting for the state championship. However, for some sports, as was the case this year in softball for Muncy, Montgomery, and South Williamsport and baseball for South Williamsport, some east/west crossover games occurred prior to the state championship.

Seedings are accomplished via the use of a detailed formula that takes into consideration the strength of each team’s schedule as compared to the other teams in their classification. This accounts for how a team with, say, an 18-2 record could receive a lower seed than a team with a 15-5 record. This process was implemented to both encourage and reward teams that play a more challenging regular-season schedule.

The number of teams each district may receive for state tournament play is based on how many competing teams each district has in each of the respective six levels of
school size. Our District IV ranks seventh among the 12 PIAA districts in both baseball and softball, with each fielding 43 teams. District VII registers the most teams, with 124 in baseball and 121 playing softball. Statewide, 647 schools field baseball teams with 630 in softball.

Participating in this year’s tournaments, the individual District team breakdown included:
– District 1: 83 baseball, 81 softball
– District 2: 39 baseball, 39 softball
– District 3: 105 baseball, 98 softball
– District 4: 43 in both baseball and softball
– District 5: 21 baseball, 20 softball
– District 6: 46 in both baseball and softball
– District 7: 124 baseball, 121 softball
– District 8: 6 in both baseball and softball
– District 9: 28 in both baseball and softball
– District 10: 41 in both baseball and softball
– District 11: 52 baseball, 50 softball
– District 12: 59 baseball, 57 softball

Recent rule changes passed by the PIAA have also created controversy and misunderstanding. In 2018, effective for all sports, the PIAA prohibits students who transfer during the 10th grade and after from participating in the postseason for one year unless given a waiver. Effective for the 2020 season, a competitive balance rule provides that teams could be bumped up in classification depending on success or use of transfer athletes.

Regardless of the controversy, three area teams, Montgomery softball in Single-A, Lewisburg softball in AAA, and Selinsgrove in 5A baseball, played their way to State College for state championship games, making the 2022 spring season one that provided on-field proof of the competitive nature of District IV teams.

Congratulations to all!