Column: Line Drives — Changes coming for Jay sports

[This is my column in the April 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Change is on the horizon.

On Monday, the IHSAA will announce its new sectional alignments for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

While most may have hoped Jay County would drop to Class 3A in terms of boys and girls basketball, when the governing body announced enrollment numbers March 31 that was not the case.

Carmel, the largest school in the state, has an enrollment of 4,830. Jay County has 1,108 students.

Jay County is the third smallest school in 4A for boys and girls basketball. Only South Bend Washington (1,001) and Guerin Catholic (738) are smaller. Washington opted for a higher enrollment classification while Guerin Catholic, which won the Class 3A state championship in March, was bumped up to 4A because of the tournament success factor.

But change is still coming, as the Patriot baseball and softball teams dropped to 3A and will now be the biggest school in the class.

I’ve never been good at predicting the future. I’m in the wrong career if I was skillful at doing so.

I will try my best, however, to project what I think will be new sectional alignments for the Jay County baseball, softball, football and volleyball teams. I do not see the boys and girls hoops teams as well as both soccer squads changing.

The football and volleyball teams will have slight changes to their sectional opponents. The baseball and softball teams will have an entirely new lineup as they return to 3A for the first time since 2007. That is also the same year the JCHS baseball team won its last sectional championship.

So, here goes.

Baseball/softball

With the Patriots in a new class, their sectional opponents could go a number of ways.

At first thought, I figured they could just move over into the sectional with Yorktown, Blackford, Hamilton Heights, Delta and Muncie Central.

Blackford, however, dropped to 2A and Central moved up a class after its consolidation with Southside.

But I still see the Patriots heading southwest, with a couple other options for potential suitors to join.

First, Mississinewa is in a seven-team sectional with the likes of Norwell, Bellmont, Heritage, Columbia City, Adams Central and Eastbrook. The Indians from Gas City can move south with Jay County to replace the two teams lost from the Yorktown sectional. That would give the north sectional six teams and keep a five-team sectional with Yorktown, Delta, Hamilton Heights, Mississinewa and Jay County.

Or, with Tipton returning to 3A, it too could join Jay County to replace Muncie Central and Blackford. Should the tournament be held at Yorktown or Hamilton Heights, the Patriots would still have the furthest drive, but at least it’s closer than heading to Fort Wayne or Huntington.

Speaking of Huntington, the JCHS baseball team better milk all it can out of playing at Forest Glen Park on the campus of Huntington University. After this season the Patriots won’t be returning to Huntington for at least two years.

Football
Initially I thought there would be more of a change given that Delta was bumped up to Class 4A, but upon mapping the 64 schools in the class and breaking them down into the eight-team sectionals that prophecy did not come true.

The current schools in the sectional are: Columbia City, Frankfort, Jay County, Logansport, Marion, New Haven, Norwell and Fort Wayne South Side.

Norwell, the defending sectional champion, is moving down to 3A, so it’s out of the picture. Additionally, with the Western moving up from 3A, I have Frankfort moving south and out of the sectional. That leaves two open spots.

Mississinewa was bumped up from 3A and Wayne was moved down from 5A, and I see those two schools filling the empty positions in the sectional. Therefore, the new lineup is as follows: Columbia City, Jay County, Logansport, Mississinewa, Marion, New Haven, Fort Wayne South Side and Wayne.

That still leaves Logansport in the sectional, with the 90-mile drive the furthest Jay County could travel for a sectional game.

Volleyball
I only see one slight change to the sectional for the Patriot volleyball team, but it may be an unwanted change.

Fort Wayne Concordia, the 2014 Class 3A state champion and state runner-up the previous year, has been moved up because of its tournament success factor.

The Cadets went on a tear during their state championship run, losing only one game — to Bellmont at semi-state — in the postseason to win the program’s first state title and third for the city of Fort Wayne.

It makes sense, given the proximity of Concordia to the likes of Jay County’s sectional opponents Homestead, Wayne, South Side and Huntington North, to add the Cadets to make a six-team sectional.

That would also make them immediate sectional favorites. Concordia beat South Side twice and Homestead and Wayne each once last season. All four of those victories for the Cadets, who finished the season 32-6, were clean sweeps.

There are many other viable options for where Jay County may be shuffled, and given unpredictability of the IHSAA, there’s no telling what it will actually do on Monday.

Jay County is surely at a disadvantage geographically, given that the closest potential sectional opponents in any sport are Delta (football) and Adams Central (baseball and softball).

Now it’s time to play the waiting game to see what will come of the new alignments when they’re released Monday.

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