After two years of a traditional district tournament, the 5A District Three baseball tournament is returning to its championship series format this spring.
The format guarantees the top two teams in the regular season standings automatic berths into the state tournament. Those two teams then meet in a three-game series to determine the district champion and state seeding May 8-10.
Rocky Mountain coach Joe Santa Maria said the revised tournament creates a sense of urgency all season long.
“It just makes the conference games throughout the season so much more important,” Santa Maria said. “We’ve been stressing to our players all season long pretty much every game is a district tournament game.”
Rocky Mountain clinched its district championship berth Saturday with a come-from-behind win against Mountain View. Entering Monday, Capital and Timberline are battling for the second berth. Timberline trails Capital by a game, but it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against Capital.
The remaining 10 teams in the conference duke it out in a tournament for the final two state berths and one state play-in game berth. The four lowest-seeded teams start the postseason with a play-in round May 6, then advance to an eight-team tournament.
Capital Athletic Director Steve Sosnowski said in addition to rewarding regular season success, the format opens the doors for lower-seed teams to make it to state because they don’t have to face a juggernaut in the first round.
“Our league is pretty balanced if you go from No. 3 down, in terms of everybody seems to have a really good No. 1 pitcher,” Sosnowski said. “So No. 8 could end up beating No. 3 just as much as No. 3 beating No. 8.”
Eagle swept Capital in two games in 2014 the last time the championship series format was used. The 5A SIC also determined its champion with a series in 2004, when Borah beat Timberline in three games.