The Ocean County softball tournament is undergoing a couple of changes for this spring.
First among them is the absence of a program which has made it a habit of reaching the championship game each of the past five seasons — New Egypt.
According to tournament director Tim Osborn, the decision not to invite New Egypt was made on a consensus basis by the Ocean County athletic directors who are in association with the Shore Conference. New Egypt athletic director Rich Carroll said he wasn’t aware of such a decision.
“I’m a little shocked because nobody communicated with me on this,” he said. “And to the best of my knowledge, (coach) Kevin (English) wasn’t told about this, or else he would have told me.”
Last season, for the first time in the tournament’s history, an overall championship game was not played due to scheduling issues.
New Egypt had beaten Central Regional in the “small school” bracket and was slated to play defending champ Toms River East, which had beaten Toms River North in the “large school” bracket, in the overall title game but the two teams never made it onto the field before the season concluded the day after Championship Saturday.
New Egypt played in the Group I final on Championship Saturday, and while tournament officials attempted to get the Warriors and Raiders to play the next day, Carroll “didn’t think that was fair to our girls.”
“We complied with all the rules and did everything we could to get our girls on the field for that championship game,” Carroll said. “But the game was never played, and I guess that was part of the reason for the decision that was made.”
Also being removed this season after a trial run is the “large/small school” separate brackets. The tournament will work down to a single champion from a full, 16-team bracket, as was done in the past.
“We got complaints from some teams about the previous format. So, we came up with the idea for the separate brackets,” Osborn said. “Then, last year, we got a lot of complaints about the separate brackets, so we went back to the old way.”
One other thing that may excite OCT fans is that the championship now has a set date, which will be Saturday, May 11, at Lacey High School. In past years, many of the tournament games fluctuated so much that the championship contest ended up being played late in the season, concurrently with the Shore Conference and state tournaments.
Osborn said the tournament committee wanted to get the OCT championship finished before the state tournament begins on May 21. Shore Conference Tournament first-round games must be completed by Saturday, May 18.
For the OCT, play-in and first-round games must be completed by Saturday, April 20, with quarterfinals contest played by Saturday, April 27, and the semifinals completed by Saturday, May 4. All games except the final are played at the higher-seeded-team’s field.
1. TR North vs. winner of Brick/Lakewood; 8. Jackson Memorial vs. 9. Brick Memorial; 5. Barnegat vs. 12. Monsignor Donovan; 4. TR South vs. Point Boro; 2. TR East vs. 15. Manchester; 7. Central vs. 10. Lacey; 6. Jackson Liberty vs. 11. Southern; 3. Pinelands vs. 14. Point Beach.