ASAA splits baseball classification, Fairbanks-area schools in new division
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Since baseball became a sanctioned high school sport in Alaska, there has always been one classification with one division. It was a free-for-all to claim the coveted State Championship trophy, with schools competing against each other in the tournament no matter the size. The 2012 State Baseball Tournament for example, featured the Monroe Catholic Rams with an enrollment of fewer than 150 students, with schools like Service and South Anchorage High Schools that boast well over 1,000 students also participating in the same tourney.
The Alaska School Activities Association has been exploring the reclassification for high school baseball over recent years and their changes will go into effect this upcoming season. The baseball landscape will be split into two divisions; Division I will feature schools with 851 students or more, while Division II will include schools will less than 850 students.
West Valley and Lathrop will be the only Fairbanks North Star Borough School District programs that will participate in Division I. They will be a part of the Mid Alaska Conference along with Colony and Wasilla, the 2019 State Champions. The remainder of the FNSBSD schools will compete in Division II, with the Mid Alaska Conference comprised of North Pole, Delta, Hutchison, Monroe and Eielson. With more schools adding baseball to their activities, such as Homer and at Grace Christian High School in recent years, ASAA felt it was time to reclassify the sport. Executive Director of the regulating body for high school sports in Alaska, Billy Strickland, also believes this will inspire more schools to join.
“We think splitting baseball might encourage more small schools to get involved because you’re not going to be asked to compete with schools that may be four or five times your size,” said Strickland. “We are hoping we might see some growth in baseball in the Southeast and maybe some other communities that haven’t played it in the past.”
Ultimately, this is provide FNSBSD schools with a greater chance at success in the postseason. For reference, no Fairbanks-area school has won the State Baseball tournament since it began in 2000. The only school to reach the championship game was Lathrop in 2002.
The Southeast Conference of Division I will feature the Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain, Sitka and Ketchikan, while the Cook Inlet Conference will be a battle between Bartlett, Chugiak, Dimond, East Anchorage, South Anchorage, West Anchorage, Service and Eagle River. At the Division II level, the Southcentral Conference is comprised of Homer, Houston, Kenai, Kodiak, Grace Christian, Palmer and Soldotna, while the Southeast Conference will be represented by Petersburg.
Schools who qualify for Division II had the option to compete in DI and Wasilla elected to compete in the top division.
High school baseball in Alaska is scheduled to begin when student return from Spring Break on March 15. It is expected that schools will compete with other schools within the same region or district. The 2021 DI State Baseball Tournament is set for June 3-5 at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage. The 2020 State Tournament, along with the entire baseball season, was canceled last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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