As he watched his team apply the finishing touches to consecutive Division II titles last June, Mount St. Charles head baseball coach Tom Seaver started to prepare for the impending direction the program figured to be heading in.
Based on the amount of success the Mounties had achieved during the now completed four-year alignment period, a bump up to Division I seemed certain.
The two championships stand out, but so too does the 62-10 regular season league record Seaver’s MSC squad has compiled.
With nothing left to prove in the D-II ranks, the time has come for Mount St. Charles to see how it stacks up as members of the state’s top tier.
Last week the R.I. Interscholastic League Principals Committee on Athletics announced realignment plans for several spring sports. On the baseball front, the headlining news was that come next spring Mount will be based in Division I-North.
“We’ve done very well in Division II. Now it’s our turn to move to Division I,” Seaver said. “We are excited about the move, but at the same time we know how difficult the schedule will be.”
Reached last weekend, Seaver mentioned that the Mounties applied to the RIIL in Sept. 2009 to move up to Div. I for the 2010 season, the last season for the realignment period that started in 2007. Mount was coming off its first title in 74 years, but Seaver received a reply that the league “wished to keep things consistent during the four-year realignment” of the last cycle.
“Then when we won it again last year, it just seemed a natural move,” Seaver said. “I think this will be a great experience for our ballplayers to compete against the best baseball players in the state.”
While Mount embarks on a new challenge, Woonsocket, a longtime Division I participant, will step down to D-II North. The Novans, at No. 24 the lowest possible seed in last spring’s state playoffs, have compiled an 18-44 mark spanning the last four campaigns.
The Mounties will join a league that won’t be lacking for quantity or quality. Lincoln, St. Raphael, Cumberland and La Salle have traditionally put forth strong clubs while North Providence and Smithfield, two schools who made the leap to D-I four years ago, have made strong gains. Moses Brown is also in the North after residing in I-East, rounding out a division that is unique since the number of private and public schools is equal.
“We could have a good rivalry with area teams such as Lincoln, Cumberland and Smithfield,” Seaver said.
“It sounds like a good league,” said Tom “Saar” Sorrentine, St. Raphael’s head coach.
Added Lincoln head coach Ed Hunt, “I think Mount strengthens the division and will fit in very nicely.”
The baseball committee juggled the two divisions in such a fashion that each one now houses an equal number of teams (24). The top division has gone from four seven-team sub-divisions to three sub-divisions of eight teams each. Division II remains steady with three sub-divisions, though each one now consists of eight teams instead of the previous number (seven).
While the end results have been met with favor by several area coaches, it’s worth noting what might have been based solely on the power rankings that were tallied up. Under RIIL guidelines, the appropriate committee evaluates each sport with a points system that allows 60 percent for won-lost record and 40 percent for enrollment. The winning percentage numbers is a bit misleading, since a Division I team received a point for every win while Division II is awarded 0.5. As a result MSC is slotted with a percentage of .431 despite winning over 86 percent of its league games.
The schools are then ranked 1-48, with the top 24 considered Division I schools while the bottom 24 placed in Division II. In a list obtained by Blackstone Valley Sports, Woonsocket rated No. 8 while Tolman No. 21. Mount St. Charles ended up 29th with St. Raphael one spot behind. Male enrollment played a hand as to why both parochial schools wound up where they did. The numbers, which were compiled Oct. 2009, showed 321 males at Mount and 255 at SRA.
Once the power rankings are made available, administrators then start the next phase, which is to listen to those who wish to move up or down. Accommodations are only possible when there’s the same number of teams moving in either direction.
For a case like St. Raphael, wishing to remain in Div. I is an easy fix – especially with Tolman expressing the desire to stay in Division II. By swapping the two Pawtucket-based schools, it keeps things at status quo.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened. We’ve always said that we’ve wanted to move up,” Sorrentine said. “It’s kind of like an automatic thing. We’ve just got to say that we want to play up.
“Baseball is kind of our thing and we want to play as high as we can,” Sorrentine continued. “We’re able to compete and still have some quality players, but it’s tough because we don’t have the numbers like we used to.”
What remains unresolved is how the playoffs will work. There have been whispers that a one-game single-elimination contest could be on tap for the non-division winners. That would be followed by either a best-of-three series format or pool play, which was used during the last realignment stretch.