State softball playoffs begin Oct. 13 with a new format designed to reduce missed school time and cut travel costs.
Instead of 16 teams traveling to one site for a sectional tournament, the first two rounds consist of higher-seeded teams hosting best-of-three series. The finals remain in Columbus, in the usual eight-team, double-elimination format.
"With the old system, all schools had to travel and some teams had to take the entire day or half a day off," GHSA associate director Ernie Yarbrough said. "We had one school last year that traveled from Augusta to Lovejoy, got rained out Friday and Saturday, and they had to stay and finish Monday. The biggest thing is trying to keep kids from having to miss class. Now half the schools have to travel, rather than 100 percent."
Collins Hill coach Billy Dooley, whose team is one of the favorites in Class AAAAA, sees lots of pluses in the new arrangement.
"It gives your kids a chance to play at home and it's saving us money," he said. "In years past we had to jump on the road, drive an hour away, and might have to stay in a hotel...If you get the higher seed, you've got a chance to host and actually make some money, which has never happened before after the region tournament.
"We're not a sport that gets a ton of big endorsements," Dooley added. "Every little bit counts. It's definitely going to help, especially this year."
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