Absegami High School athletic director Steve Fortis hit a walk-off home run Monday.
In his final act as president of the Cape-Atlantic League — Egg Harbor Township’s Michael Pellegrino will sit in the CAL’s Oval Office beginning next fall while Fortis takes over as treasurer — Fortis announced the league will add “Final Four” tournaments for baseball, softball and boys and girls lacrosse starting in the 2019-2020 school year.
“One of my goals when I took over as (CAL) president (four years ago) was to add more league championships,” Fortis said. “I’m glad that we were able to make it happen.”
The latest moves came on the heels of the league’s wise decision to add boys and girls soccer tournaments last fall, as well as girls volleyball.
Crew, field hockey and wrestling are the only sports in which CAL schools compete without a league championship tournament or meet, though local boats all traditionally participate in the Atlantic County Rowing Championships.
Football doesn’t count, since all the CAL teams now compete in the West Jersey Football League.
Soccer, basketball, girls volleyball and now baseball, softball and boys and girls lacrosse all have team tournaments. Cross-country, golf, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field stage one-day individual championships.
There’s a good chance field hockey could soon add a four-team tournament, though it might be easier to just hand the trophy to Ocean City, which has won 21 of the last 22 CAL American Conference titles and six of the last seven South Jersey Group III titles.
It’s time to add a wrestling individual tournament that could serve as a warmup to the start of the state competition. The District 32 event used to suffice, but for some ridiculous reason CAL teams are forced to compete in various, out-of-the-way locales that ruined fan interest and destroyed local rivalries.
The new lacrosse tournaments should prove to be a hit, especially since tentative plans call for a boys-girls championship doubleheader at the same site, just like the enormously popular CAL basketball championships at Stockton University.
As Fortis indicated, the key would be to find a site with lights and ideally an artificial turf surface to help ward off weather concerns. Again, Stockton would appear to be the logical choice for the games, though Atlantic City, Ocean City, Pleasantville and St. Augustine Prep high Schools would be contenders.
If possible, I think the league should consider offering St. Augustine a spot in the boys tournament, even though the Hermits play an independent schedule. The Hermits are still the dominant local program, but the gap isn’t quite as wide. Ocean City ended St. Augustine’s 59-match winning streak against CAL opponents in 2018 and lost 8-7 to the Hermits this spring.
Baseball and softball also could be held at the same sites, albeit on different fields, obviously. I’d love to see Sandcastle Stadium in Atlantic City get cleaned up and host the CAL baseball finale.
On a related note, it’s also time for Hammonton, Wildwood and maybe Cumberland Regional to part ways with the Tri-County Conference and rejoin the CAL.
Football scheduling is no longer an issue since the formation of the WJFL.
The Blue Devils and Warriors, especially, were part of some of storied games and rivalries in the CAL for decades. There’s no reason Wildwood’s basketball teams should be making 100- 120-mile roundtrips for 7 p.m. games against Clayton and Woodstown, et cetera, and getting home at midnight when the Warriors could be taking on fellow Cape May County teams Cape May Tech, Lower Cape May Regional, Middle Township and Wildwood Catholic.
But that’s an argument for another day.
Kudos to Fortis and the CAL’s other athletic directors for finding a way to expand their menu of championships.
It makes high school sports that much more exciting.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.