Last spring, the Deep Run baseball team had built a 15-1 lead over Douglas Freeman in the Class 5, Region B semifinals. But after five innings, the game went on. Tempers flared, a batter was hit by a pitch, and the pitcher was ejected.
As the game continued, Freeman used six pitchers, and the score eventually reached 20-5. Many wondered why the game was allowed to continue for a full seven innings. The reason? According to the Virginia High School League handbook, mercy rules don't apply to the postseason.
That's likely to change next year. The VHSL's executive committee voted Wednesday to add mercy rules to the playoffs. The legislation needs to be approved again in January before it is made final.
The limited use of the mercy rule created confusion among coaches and officials and led to misapplications and violations of the rule, the league said. The new rule also provides a standardized mercy rule that would be used across the state.
In baseball and softball, the rule takes effect when one team has a 10-run lead or more after five innings.
These are the other mercy rules that would go into effect:
-- In basketball, when one team leads by 30 points, the clock runs in the fourth quarter.
-- In field hockey, if one team leads by six goals after the midway point of the second half, the game is terminated.
-- In soccer, if one team leads by eight goals after the midway point of the second half, the game is terminated.
The mercy rules for football and lacrosse are written by the National Federation of High Schools, which sets national standards for high school athletics. Those mercy rules already apply to postseason games.
There is one caveat: Districts and regions can vote before the season not to use the mercy rule.
Realignment for Classes 5 and 6 are a work in progress
Of the 53 schools slotted to play in Class 6 next year, all but seven are located in northern Virginia. That has made assigning the schools to regions particularly difficult.
The Virginia High School League said it will continue to work on the 2019 alignment of Classes 5 and 6, while the other classes had their new alignments approved.
Three Fredericksburg-area schools in Class 6 were given permission to move out of the Richmond-area's region and into the northern Virginia region. That would leave Class 6, Region A with three Richmond-area schools (Cosby, Thomas Dale and James River), seven Hampton Roads schools and one southwest Virginia school, Franklin County.
That makes for a lot of travel come region tournament time.
It also makes for unbalanced regions. As it currently stands, Class 6, Region A would include 11 schools, while Region B would have 16.
As northern Virginia schools continue to grow and move into Class 6, fewer of them are left in Class 5.
Currently, there are 13 schools in Class 5 from the Fredericksburg area and northward. Next year, there are slotted to be only nine.
That means while Class 6 becomes a mostly northern Virginia classification with a few outsiders, Class 5 will become a mostly Richmond- and Hampton Roads-area classification with others scattered around the state.
As it stands now, there will be 18 Hampton Roads schools in Class 5, Region A, 17 Richmond-area schools in Region B, nine northern Virginia schools in Region C and eight schools from other parts of the state in Region D.