It has been 14 years since the Houston area has seen anything like it, but this week the Region III championships in both Class 4A and 5A will be decided by single game playoffs as the UIL baseball playoffs continue.
The Jersey Village Falcons will stake their hopes for a first-ever state tournament appearance on a single game against the Dulles Vikings in the III-5A final on Friday night at Cougar Field on the campus of the University of Houston.
One night earlier, the III-4A championship and state tourney berth will go to the winner of the one-game playoff between the Foster Falcons and the Tomball Cougars.
It will be the first time since 1997 that both the Class 4A and 5A finals have been decided by single games. That year, the Clements Rangers defeated the Lamar Redskins, 3-1, to win the 5A regional title and Nederland beat Little Cypress-Mauriceville, 1-0, to earn the 4A regional crown.
As rare an occurrence as it has become over the last decade or more, it turns out that single-game regional championship playoffs were a common thing in the Houston area in the 1990s.
Eight of the ten 5A Region III championships were decided by one game in that decade. And, from 1992 through 1997, both Region III titles (4A and 5A) were decided by one-game playoffs.
In three of those years, the 5A winners went on to win a state crown (Brazoswood, 1992; Bellaire, 1994; Elkins 1995). No Region III-4A teams won a state title in the 90s.
Today, the common wisdom that is almost universally accepted by coaches all over the state is that the better team will usually win a best-of-three series, but single-game upsets can ruin state championship hopes for even the best of teams.
As recently as two weekends back, that type of fear was realized in the regional quarterfinal round in the Region IV-5A bracket after the Sharyland Rattlers, who entered that round with a 31-1 record and state-tournament expectations, lost a 10-9 decision to Eagle Pass in a single extra-inning game.
Afterward, Sharyland officials accused Eagle Pass coaches of dishonesty in selecting the umpires for the game. They filed a motion in Travis County court to have the loss overturned and the game replayed, but the motion was denied.
Sharyland’s season came to an abrupt ending. Eagle Pass knocked off San Antonio LBJ in a two-game sweep in the regional semifinal round last weekend and will face San Antonio O’Connor in a single game this Friday for the Region IV title.
Because of that fear, accompanied with the fact that most coaches with teams in the regional final round are confident that they have very good teams, it is rare these days to have coaches opt for one-game playoffs.
But when one team clearly feels like their best chance to advance comes with winning just one game instead of two-of-three, coaches who theoretically detest the single-game format will still opt to use it to their advantage.
How might that fact come into play this week?
In the most recent USA Today Super 25 rankings for the state of Texas, Tomball is ranked No. 5 and Dulles is ranked No. 13 in the state.
They are both very good teams. But they’ll both have to survive upset-minded opponents in one game this week to even have a chance to play for a state championship.
By the way, The Woodlands Highlanders – ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 in the nation by USA Today – face the Rockwall Yellowjackets in a best-of-three series in Austin beginning Friday for the Region II-5A trophy.
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UIL Class 5A Region II Regional Final Round
The Woodlands vs. Rockwall
- Game 1: Friday 5/31 at 7:00 p.m. | UT Disch-Falk Field
- Game 2: Saturday 6/1 at 1:00 p.m. | UT Disch-Falk Field
- Game 3: following Game 2 (if needed)
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UIL Class 5A Region III Regional Final Round
Jersey Village vs. Dulles
- Single Game: Friday 5/31 at 8:00 p.m. | UH Cougar Field
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UIL Class 4A Region III Regional Final Round
Tomball vs. Foster
- Single Game: Thursday 5/30 at 7:00 p.m. | Rice University Reckling Park