Just one day after the NCAA men’s basketball tournament concluded, Cowan baseball coach Seth Paul found himself comparing his team’s sectional to the recently-completed big dance.
The sectional, which includes Cowan, Daleville, Wes-Del, Monroe Central, Liberty Christian and Southern Wells, has had four different champions in the past four years. Monroe Central won the 2013 crown, Daleville won in 2012, Wes-Del won in 2011 and Cowan took home the title in 2010.
Paul said the sectional seems to come down to which team is playing well at the end of the season, and that he expects this year to be no different. Daleville is the only team receiving votes in the latest state rankings, checking in tied for ninth in this week’s poll. Daleville opened the season with a 7-1 win against sectional foe Monroe Central on Tuesday.
“Mid-season matchups will be out the window,” Paul said. “Like we play Daleville next week, I don’t think that will have any bearing on the sectional.”
Wes-Del coach Jesse Fennell has a similar view. He remembers his team going through struggles at times last year, entering the sectional with a losing record. Wes-Del then went on a run, defeating Daleville and Cowan to advance to the sectional championship game, when Monroe Central finally ended that streak.
“For us, we kind of got going on a roll there at the end,” Fennell said. “And it’s not about playing the best baseball in April, it’s about playing the best baseball come Memorial Day. Which, I think for the most part, last year, we took care of.”
As the winners have rotated, so has the host site. Daleville will be hosting the event this year. Wes-Del hosted the sectional last year, and Cowan hosted the year before.
Even though hosting the sectional requires some additional maintenance work, Daleville coach Daniel Hanson said the Broncos are treating the opportunity to host the tournament as an honor.
“It’s awesome,” Hanson said. “I think it says a lot for our school and for our kids. Because we’ve worked really hard in keeping our field up to the best we can, and doing little projects year-in and year-out. And I just think it’s something that we’ve kind of strived to do.”
Like his colleagues, Hanson believes the sectional his team will host this year has plenty of parity.
“Everybody goes in every year with a mindset, ‘Who’s playing well at the right time?'” Hanson said. “And you can come out with a win.”