“Rain may be this year’s champion,” said tournament co-director Brian Tate after rainy and cold weather took a bite out of Friday’s schedule and erased Saturday’s slate in the Eastman Invitational.
It’s one of the worst years, weather-wise, for the 22-year-old Kingsport event.
“There was a year before I was director, back in the late 1990s or early 2000s when they didn’t get but maybe one day in,” Tate said. “There were a couple of other years where they missed a whole day, but nothing to this extent.”
There were several factors forcing Saturday’s postponement.
“It has been a wet spring and we’ve not had a whole lot of warm sunny days to get all that moisture out of the ground,” Tate said. “We were rolling pretty good the first couple of games Friday, but then the rain set in and the fields started puddling up. And then we had the soaking rain all night.”
Tate said if it had been a postseason situation — one in which teams were faced with putting their fate in the hands of a coin flip if a game could not be completed — the fields could have been used by late Saturday afternoon.
“But it’s the middle of the season and we didn’t want to see somebody get hurt,” he said.
The general plan for Sunday is to make up the pool-play games that were washed out. The games originally scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday will be played at 10 a.m. Sunday. Tate said he anticipates pool play will finish around 4:30 p.m. After that, the round of 16 will be played — or the single-elimination bracket might be reduced to eight teams.
Tate said even with the 55-minute time limit on games, he doesn’t know if the tournament will play all the way out to have a champion.
Because of the revised schedule, travel concerns and upcoming league schedules, five teams have chosen not to continue playing in the event, Tate said. But he added that the shortened games will increase excitement and put pressure on teams to get off to good starts.
“The last time we did the 55-minute limit, just about every coach liked that format,” Tate said. “If you don’t come ready to hit the ball and score runs, you can find yourself behind the 8-ball. You can get saddled with a loss in just three or four innings.
“I think it will still be highly competitive games,” he added. “And the high-profile teams haven’t left. They’re here to play.”