Prep Blog: Spring Playoffs At A Glance
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been a frustrating spring by all accounts for any high school athlete. Snow and rain into mid-May has forced cancellations and indoor workouts.
The temperatures finally warmed and the fields got cleared, and it was game on for baseball, softball, tennis, golf, lacrosse and track and field. Now many teams have had at least two weeks outside with several games per week, so why not start the playoffs? After all, it won’t be long before it’s snowing again.
As long as the athletes are outside and under the sun, I’m not sure they care if they’re playing in the regular season or for their playoff lives. Many are just soaking up the rays as the state’s senior athletes get ready to accept their diplomas and fill themselves at the swath of graduation parties.
In a few weeks, some teams will be hoisting state championship trophies and individuals sporting gold medals. Here’s a brief look at how the playoffs could shake out in baseball, softball and boys tennis.
Boys Baseball: Eastview Looks To Repeat
Eastview is looking to defend its Class AAA state title after surprising favorite Burnsville last year, and the Lightning will have quite the competition to get back there. Eastview (12-7) is in a loaded Section 3AAA with top seed Lakeville North (14-3) and Burnsville (14-4). The team that comes out of this bracket has the best chance to win a state championship.
Keep an eye on Coon Rapids in Section 5AAA. The Cardinals (13-3) feature one of the best pitchers in the state in Logan Shore, who will take his 90+ mile per hour fast ball to Florida for college if he doesn’t sign a minor league contract.
Section 2AAA is also a loaded bracket with Minnetonka (15-5) as the top seed. Not far behind are Chaska (12-8) and Eden Prairie (11-5). The team that comes out of this bracket will be as battle tested as any for the state tournament.
On the east side of the Twin Cities, look for Tartan (16-4) and Hill-Murray (11-5) to battle for a trip to the state tournament in Section 4AAA.
In a spring condensed because of bad weather, any team that has pitching depth has a chance to make a playoff run. Many conferences played doubleheaders and had to monitor arms carefully, and healthy pitchers were at a premium this spring. They still are, and anything is possible with a plethora of pitching.
Girls Softball: Stillwater Aims For Another Title
Despite a greatly-condensed season thanks to our terrible spring weather, the postseason in girls softball looks to as competitive as ever. It’s the one sport where you can ride one dominant pitcher to a long playoff run, even if you don’t have much of an offense.
Stillwater and Maple Grove played for the Class AAA state title last year with the Ponies claiming the title. The two appear on a collision course to meet again for all the marbles.
Stillwater is 16-3 on the season and will have to get past North St. Paul (18-2) to have the chance to repeat as a state champion. The Ponies finished second in the Suburban East Conference behind Forest Lake, which is the favorite in Section 7AAA.
Maple Grove (18-1) is the favorite to win Section 5AAA, but they’ll have to get past pesky Irondale to get to the state tournament. Not to be overlooked is South Suburban Conference champion Lakeville North (18-2) whose only real threat in Section 3AAA is Eastview (12-5).
Probably the most competitive bracket in section play is down in Section 2AAA, where Shakopee is the top seed at 18-2. Prior Lake (11-3), Mankato West (15-5) and Eden Prairie (16-4) are all tough outs.
Down in Section 1AAA, it looks to be a three-horse race between Hastings (12-6), Rochester John Marshall (13-6) and Farmington (15-4). The Tigers advanced to the state tournament last year, but lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion Stillwater.
Boys Tennis: Can Usual Powers Step Up?
The section tournaments for teams and individuals are wrapping up this week for the boys state tennis tournament, which will take place June 4-7 at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis and the Read Sweatt Center. The brackets for each class in the team tournament haven’t been filled yet, but a lot of the usual suspects are expected to be there.
In Class A, six of the eight spots had been solidified as of early Friday morning. Those teams include Rochester Lourdes, Mound-Westonka, Luverne, Fergus Falls, Virginia and Thief River Falls. Two heavy favorites that will likely get there are Breck and Blake. I would pick the team title to come down to those two and Lourdes.
In Class AA, two spots were still up for grabs as of Friday morning. Many of the heavy hitters are back and it should be one of the most competitive fields in recent memory. Elk River beat Wayzata for last year’s state title. I expect Edina to come back and compete with the likes of Rochester Mayo, Maple Grove and Minnetonka.
Keep tabs on the WCCO Prep Blog as we keep things updated throughout the spring tournament season continues, of course, weather permitting.