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To be a WPIAL baseball section champion next season, teams will need to be like a good poker player and have more than one ace.

The WPIAL approved a new scheduling format this week and it’s designed to prevent teams from pitching their ace against the same section opponent twice in a season. Instead of playing a section foe once and then again several weeks later in the season, WPIAL baseball teams will play a two-game, home-and-home series on consecutive days. This will be against each section opponent.

The new format will begin with the 2021 season.

“This is something we have talked about for years,” said North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto, who is chairman of the WPIAL’s baseball committee. “It eliminates a good team always seeing an opponent’s No. 1 pitcher. Now, you’ll face him only one time.”

Bozzuto, who is a former manager and coach of the Washington Wild Things, added that baseball is designed to be played in a series format. He said the WPIAL even considered using a three-game series format in sections that will have only five teams – there will be only one such section next year – to create 12 section games. That idea failed to get enough support for approval.

Bozzuto also indicated that section games will be scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays, making it almost impossible for a team’s ace pitcher to appear in each game.

Jefferson-Morgan head coach John Curtis, who has more than 350 career wins, says the new rule will be more impactful at smaller schools, where the talent gap between the ace of the pitching staff and the No. 2 pitcher is usually greater than at larger-enrollment programs.

“It will impact the smaller schools more, but to me it doesn’t really matter when we play each team,” Curtis said. “I’m just glad we don’t have play ’em three times.

“I can remember my former athletic director, Charlie Barno, saying that if you’re going to be the best, then you have to beat ’em. So it doesn’t matter to me when you play somebody.”

The WPIAL also revealed its section alignments for baseball and softball that will run through the 2022 seasons.

Baseball has more changes than softball. The most significant changes in baseball have Peters Township dropping to Class 5A, Beth-Center and Washington dropping to Class 2A and California moving up to 2A.

Peters Township and Bethel Park both dropped to Class 5A and will play in Section 4 along with Trinity, Albert Gallatin, Connellsville and Thomas Jefferson. Canon-McMillan will be the only local team in Class 6A. South Fayette remains in Class 5A but will play in Section 3.

Section 1 in Class 2A has been reworked. Newcomers Beth-Center, California and Washington will be joined by holdovers Bentworth, Carmichaels and Frazier. Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry have been moved out of Section 1 and placed in Section 4, which also includes Brentwood, Carlynton, Clairton and Seton LaSalle.

Avella was moved out of Section 2 in Class A and put in Section 1, where it will be the southernmost member. The Eagles will play section games against Cornell, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, Quigley, Rochester, Union and Western Beaver.

Section 2 will still have Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen and West Greene, but those teams might need to keep a Rand McNally or compass handy when playing on the road because their other section opponents are Bishop Canevin, Geibel and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Two local softball programs, McGuffey and California, will be moving up one classification to Class 3A and 2A, respectively. No softball teams will drop to a lower classification.

Chartiers-Houston will move out of Section 3 in Class 2A and will play in Section 1, along with Aliquippa, Burgettstown, Carlynton, Fort Cherry, OLSH and Sto-Rox. California replaces Chartiers-Houston in Section 3 and will join Bentworth, Beth-Center, Carmichaels, Charleroi, Frazier and Washington.

West Greene, which has won the past four WPIAL Class A championships, will be in Section 2 along with longtime opponents Avella, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown and Monessen. The section will add Geibel and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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