Pictured: Palmer Field was originally scheduled to be the host site of the Shoreline Conference baseball tournament championship game.
By Paul Augeri
Coginchaug and Valley Regional originally were scheduled to meet for the Shoreline Conference baseball championship on Friday, but logistics and a poor extended forecast deep-sixed attempts to either move the game earlier in the week or reschedule it prior to the start of the CIAC tournament on Tuesday.
The Blue Devils and Warriors now stand a better chance of being declared Shoreline co-champions than the final playing out on the field.
After a committee made up of athletic directors met Sunday, the conference announced that if either team advances to the Class S quarterfinal round — and there’s an awfully good chance of it happening — then Coginchaug and Valley would share the title.
The other, unlikely, scenario?
“If both teams do not advance past the 2nd round then the SLC finals will be played on June 6 at Palmer Field,” the statement from a committee of Shoreline athletic directors read. “If either team advances to the quarterfinals, the SLC will name 2021 Co-Champions to Coginchaug and Valley.”
As the No. 3 seed in Class S, Coginchaug (17-3 overall) has eyes on winning a state title. The Blue Devils were in first place in the Shoreline for the length of the regular season, winning a league-best 15 of 18 games.
“I’m just disappointed that we didn’t have the foresight to get something done,” coach Mark Basil said Sunday. “I think we all knew what was in store and the likelihood of playing Friday or Saturday was remote. I wish we had played Thursday or earlier on Friday.”
Coginchaug has an outstanding group of seniors who as juniors were eager to challenge for the 2020 Shoreline title had that season been played, so there is double the disappointment of a Shoreline final likely not being played for a second straight year.
Basil said the Blue Devils are resigned to being co-champions and have “moved on” to focusing on playing in the state tournament.
“It’s all we can do right now,” he said. “The Shoreline championship was so big for us. It was the tournament we were planning for, practicing for and zeroing in on, and Valley’s always been a good opponent. Not having a shot last year was the reason we were gunning so hard for it this year.
“The only thing we can do now is look at the bigger picture, states. (Winning the title) will be a major task. We have talented players and we think we could make a run.”
If the Blue Devils beat No. 30 Windsor Locks (7-11) Tuesday, they would host the winner of No. 19 East Hampton-No. 14 Somers on Wednesday with a trip to the quarterfinals at stake.
Valley (15-6 overall) is seeded 10th and on the opposite side of the Class S bracket. The Warriors host No. 23 Northwest Catholic (10-10) on Tuesday, and a win would put them up against either No. 7 Canton (15-5) on the road or No. 26 Montville (7-8) at home on Wednesday.
Coginchaug and Valley could potentially meet in the semifinal round at a neutral site.
“As always the health and safety of all our student athletes is the top priority,” the conference said in its statement. “This decision also allows the SLC to honor the competitive integrity of the baseball tournament due to things out of our control. The SLC committee feels this is the best option for the conference and both baseball programs.”
“As we understand it is not how the SLC Baseball tournament traditionally operates,” the statement continued, “it is in the best interest of all our student athletes and coaches this year in the situation we
have been faced with.”
Valley coach Brian Drinkard could not be reached for comment.
The Blue Devils swept the Warriors during the regular season — 9-1 at home on May 3 and 8-4 in Deep River two weeks later. Coginchaug last played for a Shoreline title in 2015, when it beat Old Lyme. Valley last reached the final in 2016, losing to Cromwell.
The CIAC championships are scheduled to be played at Palmer Field in Middletown (also the scheduled site of the Shoreline final) on June 11 and 12. Palmer also is the site of at least one semifinal game on June 8.