Usually, when a school gets bragging rights in an All-City competition, those honors only last a year before those same bragging rights are up for grabs once again.
After Mother Nature washed out the All-City baseball and softball competitions last year, it’s been more than 800 days since there’s been a chance for team to be named best in the city.
If the weather cooperates this weekend, teams will be fighting for All-City crowns once again on the diamonds of Battle Creek.
The All-City Baseball Tournament will be held Saturday at Bailey Park. The All-City Softball Tournament will be held Saturday at Battle Creek Central.
“We all gear up for bragging rights every year,” said Pennfield softball coach Pam Metcalf. “Historically, this is one of our favorite tournaments. They make it a priority to play their best in front of the hometown fans. This group of seniors have not won this tournament in their career so they are looking forward to the chance.”
Prior to last year’s tournament, Harper Creek had won the softball title three years in a row. Lakeview had won the baseball title two years in a row. But what makes the baseball and softball all-city tourneys more exciting than some of their counterparts, is that the end result is very much a question. There have frequently been eras in the history of Battle Creek prep sports where that isn’t the case in some sports. Lakeview currently has a streak of 25 straight years of winning the All-City title in boys swimming, for example.
“Our kids really look forward to competing for the city crown. The nice thing about this tournament is that anybody can win it. It is very competitive with the city rivals,” Lakeview baseball coach Jeff Sovern said.
In the baseball tourney, Battle Creek Central will open with St. Philip in a 10 a.m. game. Harper Creek will play Pennfield in the other half of the bracket, also at 10 a.m. Lakeview will see the winner of BCC/St. Philip in the semifinals. The championship game is set for 3 p.m. on Nichols Field.
In softball, where only four city teams are competing this spring, the semifinals will be at 9 a.m. with the championship game featuring the winners of those first two games in a final at 11 a.m. In the first round, Pennfield will face BCC and Harper Creek will see Lakeview.
“It is very important to win the All-City Softball tourney, as the kids love to have the bragging rights,” Harper Creek softball coach Bill Burritt said. “All the kids and coaches know each other so these games have become fun, but competitive. There is a lot of parity between the teams this year, it’s anyone’s game.”
In baseball, especially, a team has to seek a balance between trying to win the All-City event and competing for league titles. As the season winds down, with the possibility of key league games coming up early next week, coaches have to decide how to use their pitching depth in both.
“For the most part, the city tournament is a fun, exciting time for our players.”Harper Creek baseball coach Chad Dishaw said. “However, quite often it is affected by where the tournament falls in the schedule and how deep your pitching rotation is. There are times when your pitching lines up, and sometimes when it doesn’t. All in all, though, once you get between the lines, the players’ excitement comes into play and the rivalries take over.”
All-City events in the rest of the team sports in Battle Creek have always only between the city schools. In baseball and softball, for several years, outside schools were invited for what was called the Cereal City Classic. Often, no city team would get bragging rights, because squads from Charlotte or Eaton Rapids would take home the title.
In recent years, the baseball and softball events have reverted back to All-City tourneys with just the Battle Creek schools, as will be the case this year.
“The players look forward to this tournament every year. It gives the winner bragging rights,” Lakeview softball coach Brian Ratliff said. “It’s nice to see all the city coaches together at one event since our conferences are now split. It’s also neat to be a part of a long-standing tradition.”