WARWICK – For the Tolman High baseball team, a tough season was officially laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon.
The question is, will the realignment guidelines dictate that the Tigers remain in the state’s top division in 2022?
A 14-0 loss on the road to Pilgrim was the final salvo in a campaign that saw an outmanned Tolman squad struggle immensely in its casting as a Division I school. The Tigers didn’t win a single league game. They were mercy-ruled in 12 of 13 games.
Mixing conventional wisdom with common sense, Tolman should be on their way back down to the familiar and much more forgiving ranks of Division II. Yet it’s never that simple in the cut-and-dry world of alignment.
The Tigers have been a very good D-II program throughout this century. As this season illustrated, they were grossly miscast as a D-I program. Removing all the losses from the equation, head coach Theo Murray only had 12 players at his disposal. It was a razor-thin predicament that came close to serving as the impetus to form a co-op with Shea High.
Again, does this sound like a D-I program?
“My understanding of this process going into it was that this was a one-year realignment,” said Murray, standing outside the visiting dugout at Mezzanotte Field. “But after the numbers, we still might drop from 16 to 20. If they decide to do 20 teams, we could be there again. Then we would have to hope for a team that’s low in the 21-27 range wants to come up.”
The “16” that Murray referred to is where the Tigers ranked among the state’s 50 high school baseball programs when the latest realignment figures were crunched. The Interscholastic League signed off on a 20-team Division I that was divided into four five-team subdivisions.
“This year when we had our meetings, we came up with [20 teams in D-I],” said Murray, also a member of the RIIL Baseball Coaches Association. “Whether they went 16 or 20 teams, we were still going to be in Division I.”
There are 20 teams in Division II and 10 teams in Division I. Murray says he’s not alone in advocating for a bigger Division II.
“If you’re dealing with 50 teams, my feeling is that there should be 28 in Division II,” he said. “Then you can chop up [Divisions I and III] any way you want.”
Personnel-wise, the Tigers will still be a jam heading into next season. Tolman is graduating four players from this year’s 12-player roster.
“I don’t know how many eighth-graders are coming up. Usually, I get a buzz where ‘Oh, there’s six to eight kids.’ I know of two kids,” said Murray.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03