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Monday, April 2, 2018: L.I. columnist would opt out of state baseball tourney

   Leading off today: Gregg Sarra's column for Newsday on Sunday was completely predictable ... and not all that unreasonable.

   With Long Island having been slammed by yet another dose of winter, Sarra wants Sections 8 and 11 to consider bagging the state tournament in order to start and finish the baseball regular season later in the spring.

   "The regular season currently ends May 10 -- why? We have all of the month of May to play the regular season in beautiful spring weather," he writes. "Instead, we trudge through brutally cold winds, rain and snow and bear the brunt of Mother Nature's wrath. For what?

   "More than 60 percent of Long Island's teams are done playing May 11. Why does the schedule end? It ends to start the postseason and send one team from each classification upstate for the state tournament.

   "Why not eliminate the state factor and play through May and schedule the playoffs in sunny June with the best-of-three Long Island baseball championships?"

   Sarra also made a point with respect to protecting pitchers.

   The NYSPHSAA adopted pitch counts last season, but there's nothing in place to save teens from throwing in near-freezing temperatures.

   Opinion: You've got my email address so feel free to send me hate mail, but the baseball tournament is the one state championship I'd do away with in a heartbeat, with the weather factor being the reason.

   Plenty of teams manage to squeeze in 18 games or so each spring, but many achieve it by playing five or six times in the last 10 days of the regular season. That didn't bother me much in the old days, but it matters more now that we have pitch counts.

   I'd much rather see meaningful sectional tournaments, as in best-of-three series for the semifinals and finals. As it is now, there are too many early-round "upsets" that aren't really upsets because the higher seed's was in pitch-count jail.

   Looking back a week: Continuity. It's a big word in the dictionary and a big objective in sports.

   I started thinking about it last weekend in Glens Falls during the Federation basketball tournament, specifically while watching the Jamesville-DeWitt girls.

   There are other NYSPHSAA girls basketball teams worthy of acknowledgement as dynasties -- Ossining and Irvington certainly come to mind -- but I've taken an interest in Jamesville-DeWitt because it's relatively close to the home office and some of the names have become ingrained in my mind out of sheer repetition. Seniors Meg Hair and Kasey Vaughan just completed five-year varsity careers with a Federation championship and classmate Jamie Boeheim came up during her eighth-grade season, too.

   They arrived to join upperclassmen who'd gone 39-6 the previous two years, and the winning never stopped. J-D was 117-21 over the past five seasons, with five straight trips to the NYSPHSAA finals and championships in the last year. The Red Rams topped it off with their Federation crown last month.

   "In eighth grade my role was to distribute the ball to the older girls," Hair told me after the win in the Federation final. "I didn't want to go in as a ball hog and always want to shoot it. The older girls took me in as a little sister and they pushed me hard every day in practice. They helped make me the player I am today."

   Coach Rob Siechen brought four sophomores and two freshmen two Glens Falls, and it was quickly apparent that they weren't there as window dressing, even if the seniors carried the bulk of the scoring load. Tenth-graders Andrea Sumida, Gabby Stickle and Paige Keeler plus ninth-grader Momo LaClair got half the playing time in the 59-47 win over Staten Island Academy that avenged losses in the previous two Federation semifinals.


   "I'll credit those juniors and seniors when these seniors were in eighth grade that they were willing to let them in," Siechen said. "They started that tradition where they take those younger kids and take them in. That doesn't always happen, but I saw it last year with Momo, too."

   Said Hair, who'll be off to the University of Pennsylvania this fall: "I think it was my junior year that I realized the younger girls were starting to come up to me to ask questions -- 'Where do I go on this play?' or 'What do I do if this happens?'

   "I took that leadership role and did my best. I carried it into practice every day. I guarded Momo a lot so I'd give her my 100 percent so that she could get better."

   It was LaClair who scored the winning basket in the closing seconds of the championship game against James Madison of the PSAL, and the 5-foot-9 guard perfectly positioned to be the centerpiece of the third generation of the current J-D dynasty.

   "I have never seen Momo nervous in any situation," Siechen said. "Last year we ran an inbound play for her in late-game situations, this year she is scoring the game-winning runner in the Federation championship game. She is just a cool, calm, and disciplined kid who never gets rattled by the moment."

   Said Hair: "It's a very good group of players. I don't think this is their last time here. I think they're going to be back at least one more time. I'm excited to see what happens."

   Following up: A Geneseo football player charged last year with supplying teammates with OxyContin before a game, was sentenced to probation last month.

   The teen entered a guilty plea Jan. 16 in Livingston County Court to one count of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds, a class C felony. He was sentenced to a term of interim probation.

   The unidentified student was also granted youthful offender status. He was initially arrested by Geneseo police in October 2017 and charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

   Seven Geneseo football players were accused of taking OxyContin pills before a Sept. 22 2017 victory over Bolivar-Richburg and were eventually dismissed from the team. It resulted in the school ending the season early.

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