By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Prospect League is back where it started.
The summer collegiate wood-bat baseball league is slated to have 11 teams for the 2013 season after the Ohio Valley League announced earlier this month the Dubois County Bombers of Huntingburg, Ind., would be joining its league in 2013. The Bombers spent the previous four seasons in the Prospect League and before that were a longtime member of the Central Illinois Collegiate League.
The Prospect League launched in 2009 with 11 teams. After expanding to 15 teams in 2010, the league has decreased in number of teams three years in a row. The league had 14 teams in 2011 and 12 in 2012.
Prospect League Commissioner David Chase said the league won't add any teams for the 2013 season, and he doesn't expect any more departures for this summer. The league was in the process of finalizing a 2013 schedule for a 12-team league, and it is now making adjustments for the 11-team structure.
"We had to go back to the drawing board," Chase said. "It's not a good way to make the schedule, but it's the hand we we've been dealt. We've played with odd-numbered teams (before)."
The plan is to have two divisions for the third straight season after three divisions were used in 2010. Plans call for a five-team West Division, which would again include the Quincy Gems and Hannibal Cavemen, and a six-team East Division.
Last season, Monday served as a league-wide day off, but with an odd number of teams, a team will be off every day this summer. Divisional crossover games also will return in some capacity this summer after 2012 was the first Prospect League season to feature no interdivisional play.
Although the 2013 schedule isn't finalized, Chase said plans call for a 60-game regular-season schedule with a four-team postseason. The goal is to keep the championship series at three games and expand the divisional round of the playoffs from one to three games.
The season opener is planned for May 28. The season will again operate with a split format for playoff determination purposes, with an all-star game to be played sometime near the middle of the season at Butler, Pa.
Chase added that a change was made to roster sizes, allowing teams to carry 28 players this summer, up from 26 in the past.
Last summer, Chase said his hope was for the Prospect League to include 16 teams in 2014. Future expansion remains as a goal.
"The number of phone calls that we get throughout the year tells me that there's certainly enough markets," Chase said. "The challenge is matching owners with markets.
"I still think 14 or 16 (teams) is certainly within reason. … Crystal balls are not working too well these days, but I think we have a legitimate chance of certainly getting back to 12 for 2014, and I don't think 14 is out of the question (for 2014)."
The Bombers are under new ownership for the 2013 season. Dubois County lost to the West Virginia Miners in the 2012 Prospect League championship. The Bombers will give the OVL six teams, with the other five teams located in Kentucky.
Dubois County will be within 135 miles of four of its five new league opponents. Only one Prospect League team – the Terre Haute Rex – was within 135 miles of the Bombers.
"The close proximity of the Ohio Valley League teams will not only cut down the transportation and lodging expenses but will also create a natural rivalry with teams such as Owensboro and Madisonville," Bombers general manager Skip Kruger said in a press release on the team's website.