Whether it takes an official bylaw, or simply the use of some unofficial common sense in the future, what happened in last Friday's Ohio Division III state high school softball semifinals at Brookside Park in Ashland should never happen again.
Make that Friday and Saturday's semifinals.
Because of a seven-plus-hour rain delay, the first D-III semifinal - Warren Champion defeated Brookville 9-1 - began around 10:15 p.m. and ended at 12:21 a.m.
Time to turn out the lights, call it a night, and resume the next day, right?
Because of a decision made earlier Friday afternoon by Ohio High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner Duane Warns, the second D-III semi - Genoa vs. Bloom-Carroll - had what is believed to be the latest start time ever for an OHSAA-governed state tournament in any sport.
After quick, 15-minute warm-up routines, Genoa and Bloom-Carroll began at 12:57 a.m. and concluded at 2:37 a.m. Saturday. Bloom-Carroll won 1-0. The Bulldogs then bused homeward, arrived at 5 a.m., departed from Carroll at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and played in the 5:30 p.m. D-III state final at Brookside Park.
No worse for the wear, Bloom-Carroll beat Warren Champion 2-0 for the state championship.
The Bulldogs should be applauded for their effort, which included a 12-hour wait in Ashland on Friday before getting to play. They had chartered a bus and had no hotel rooms to utilize during the delay.
But, whenever and however Bloom-Carroll won its championship, the Bulldogs and Genoa's Comets - as well as their respective coaching staffs and spectators - should never have been put in a position to endure this middle-of-the-night nonsense.
Would the OHSAA make two football teams play at such an hour after a lightning delay? Would baseball teams take the field for a 1 a.m. start?
"The time factor will be discussed, and I'm sure some guidelines will be developed with some kind of a curfew," Warns said. "There's also been discussion on football games. Because of the lightning we can get early in the season, we've had some games start after 10 or 11 o'clock. But none after midnight."
In his defense, Warns was under the gun and had legitimate reasons for attempting to get the games in on Friday.
The Division II and I finals were already set for 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, and those teams and fans were also traveling to Ashland. Playing one D-III semi on Friday night and not the other would have given the first semifinal winner a clear advantage for Saturday's final.
Some schools involved in the state tourney had commencement exercises scheduled for Sunday, which would have been a logical makeup day for rained-out games.
Warns also had a plausible excuse, as the four Friday semifinals collectively took much longer to play than expected based on usual time lengths of prep softball games.
Still, the Genoa/Bloom-Carroll game, played at a time when most of the population is well into a good night's sleep, serves notice that the OHSAA needs to adopt a tournament curfew to address similar scenarios in the future.
A new bylaw, setting a reasonable curfew for all state tournament events, would take the teams, as well as Warns and his colleagues, off the hook.
Speaking of a good night's sleep, that may have been difficult for residents of the homes surrounding Brookside Park, especially with the voice of the public address announcer booming through the loud- speakers and spectators cheering just as loud.
"We weren't the best neighbor that night," Warns said.
The situation also begs the question of whether or not it's time for the OHSAA to seek a new venue for the state softball tournament, which has been held in Ashland since the inaugural tourney in 1978.
With just one diamond at Brookside Park, rain delays wreak more havoc on the teams involved. Traditionally, the state baseball tournament has been held at two diamonds.
In past years, two Ohio State University fields were used. Then, Cooper Stadium, the home of the International League's Columbus Clippers, was used along with OSU's stadium.
Last year, state baseball was split between Cooper Stadium and Fifth Third Field in Dayton. This year, Cooper Stadium was the lone site, but games were spread out from Thursday through Monday with makeup time open in the mornings.
Brookside Park is a fine facility. Tournament manager Donna Williams and her staff do a superb job of accommodating the teams. And, as Warns points out, no other softball location in Ohio has appropriate seating capacity for the crowds this event draws.
But, a multi-diamond setting would enable more feasible adjustments when the weather intervenes.
The OHSAA should sleep on this and find a solution.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org