Softball games to see this week
This is it. The last week of the regular season (Wednesday appears to be the last regular season slate of games), and given the schedule and current power rankings (as of Monday), a whole lot of shaking will be going on.
Obviously, with three days left, one day’s results can change the significance (whether more or less) of the next day’s games.
Remember, the top 24 teams in each division qualify for the postseason, with the top four teams in each of the three sections (12 total) receive automatic spots. The top eight teams in each division (based on power rankings) receive a first-round bye and a home game for the second-round elimination games.
This is especially important to note in Division I, because Section I currently has three schools in the top 24 (Centennial, Willow Canyon, Cibola) and a fourth school (Millennium) at No. 30. So if Millennium doesn’t move into the top 24 on its own this week, it’ll still wind up as the No. 24 seed and knock out whichever school was No. 24 in the rankings.
That means “bubble teams” other than Millennium will most likely need to finish No. 23 or higher in the rankings to make the postseason.
A similar scenario is unfolding in Division II, as it relates to Section III, with five teams currently in the top 24 (notably Betty Fairfax at No. 22 and Seton Catholic at No. 23), plus Gila Ridge at No. 25 and Sunnyslope at No. 26. How the bottom of that bracket shakes out between these schools will be dictated by whether any of them lose this week, whether others win, and whether any of these knock out a team from a different section for that 24th spot in the end.
There are a slew of top-quality games across the East Valley and especially beyond, and we’ll touch on a few of the really-good-games-no-matter what. But we’ll keep most of this to East Valley schools and matchups featuring “bubble” teams vying for spots in the top 24 of the respective division, or top 8.
The brackets for all four divisions are expected to be unveiled on Thursday, April 25 sometime early-to-mid afternoon.
(All games at 3:45 p.m. unless otherwise noted. All rankings and records are power rankings games as of Monday morning April 22).
MONDAY APRIL 22
Red Mountain at Dobson: The Mustangs (No. 33 at 6-9 in Div. I) pretty much have to win both of these games and then beat Sierra Vista Buena on Wednesday in the finale. Despite Red Mountain lofty ranking at No. 5, even a split (which would still be a huge win for Dobson) and a win over No. 19 Buena might not be enough since the target goal has to be No. 23 in the rankings. These two schools will face each other again on Tuesday (April 23) at Red Mountain.
Mountain View at Desert Mountain: This is one of those just-plain-good matchups. Both teams are safe for getting into the tournament. Mountain View (No. 8 at 12-3 in Div. I) is coming off a 2-1 loss to Horizon in a doozy and the Toros would love a win here against a hot Wolves’ team to help cement a spot in the top 8. The Wolves (No. 11 at 14-2) have taken off on a nine-game winning streak since their last loss, a 3-1 decision against Mountain View in early March. Val Kaff and Andy Wellins have been two of the best in the circle, and no reason to think this won’t be another pitcher’s duel. Desert Mountain’s schedule (as you’ll read further below) is tough to end the season.
Mesa at Desert Vista: The Jackrabbits are out of the playoff picture, but D.V. (No. 21 at 11-5 in Div. I) absolutely has to win both this game and against Maricopa on Wednesday to stay in the playoff picture, because neither school is going to help the Thunder’s strength of schedule rating. A 6-1 loss to a solid Highland team early last week, followed by a 6-5 defeat to Salpointe Catholic a few days later, put D.V. on the bubble. Even with two wins to end the season, there are no guarantees the Thunder will stay at No. 23 or above.
Hamilton at Xavier (6 p.m.); Hamilton at Casa Grande (7 p.m. Tuesday): Guess who begins this week at No. 24? Hamilton, which has played a difficult schedule and gone through plenty of peaks and valleys while this extremely young team stays in contention. Since Xavier is No. 11, a win here might be enough to keep Hamilton in the playoff picture if the Huskies lose (again) to Casa Grande (No. 14 in Div. II) on Tuesday. Even a loss to the Gators might not spell doom for Hamilton because Xavier’s rankings will help the Huskies’ cause, possibly enough to keep them at No. 24 or even No. 25. The question then will be how much a win against Casa Grande (which would be an absolute requirement) would help in keeping the Huskies at No. 23 or higher.
Seton Catholic at Queen Creek: This is probably it for Seton Catholic (No. 23 at 14-2). Win here, and Q.C.’s No. 18 ranking (Div. II) will help Seton immensely in moving out of the 20-something rankings cluster in Div. II. Lose here, and the Sentinels are likely on the outside looking in with a finale at Higley on Tuesday (which Seton should win but won’t help the weak schedule rating). The strength of schedule has just not helped Seton at all this year (Seton didn’t have much control over that as it relates to power rankings games), and the Sentinels stayed alive with a big 3-2 win against Maricopa late last week which basically began their “playoffs,” and Seton’s “elimination” games continue from here on out. Queen Creek should be playoff-bound even if the Bulldogs lose here, but won’t get any help from its remaining games (Apache Junction and San Tan Foothills), so any loss outside Seton could spell real trouble for the Bulldogs’ chances.
Campo Verde at Poston Butte; Williams Field at Campo Verde (Tuesday): Sitting right next to Seton in Div. II is Campo Verde (No. 24 at 10-6), and boy is this going to be tense. It’s already a gotta-have-it game for Poston Butte (No. 29 at 11-5) to have any chance of leapfrogging a couple teams and get into the top 24 (one win won’t be enough). Meanwhile, these two teams played to a 4-3 result in favor of Campo Verde on April 12. Campo Verde probably can’t afford (though it’s possible) a loss here, even with a win against Williams Field on Tuesday because the Black Hawks (No. 39) aren’t going to help Campo’s schedule strength. Of course, Campo lost 6-5 to Williams Field on April 3, and while the Coyotes have won the five games in a row since then, it could be one that haunts the Coyotes if they don’t get in.
TUESDAY APRIL 23
Horizon at Desert Mountain: Horizon (No. 7 at 13-2) might face the most difficult task of any “bubble” team trying to nail down a top-8 spot in Div. I, because this game plus Wednesday’s matchup with Xavier is known as a “back-loaded” schedule. Desert Mountain (No. 11 at 15-2) beat Horizon, 3-1, on Feb. 28 and this will be another pitchers’ duel. With Mountain View and Horizon, the Wolves face a similar “back-loaded” schedule, so pay attention to Desert Mountain’s outcome against Mountain View from Monday, because a win there coupled with a win here should launch the Wolves into the top 8.
Basha at Gilbert: Talk about heavy hitters. Div. I semifinals matchup anyone? This could absolutely happen again somewhere around the second week in May. Both teams are within the top 5 in Div. I, so a win or loss here won’t necessarily threaten to push either out of the top 8, so the playoff implications in this one are fuzzy at best. But it’s a dang good matchup. Basha won 4-3 in tournament play early in the season, then beat the Tigers, 6-2, on March 26. You know what they say about beating a team three times in a season? Add that cliche atop the concept that Gilbert is good.
Highland at Desert Ridge; Basha at Highland (Wednesday): The Hawks lost, 7-1, last week, and it’s been a frustrating season full of injuries and inconsistency (mostly injuries) for Highland. Nobody has anything close to as difficult a stretch run as Highland had/has (Red Mountain, Desert Ridge twice, Basha), but despite a couple losses, it’s exactly what’s kept the Hawks alive (No. 27 at 7-9). Whether this game (and it’s hard to say whether a win here would be enough) or against Basha on Wednesday, the Hawks are going to have to win at least one of these final two games — probably both — to reach No. 23, and, more importantly, stay there. Similar to Desert Mountain, if the Hawks win here, that home game against Basha on Wednesday gets extremely interesting (and the Bears might have locked up a top 8 seed by then, so who knows how much they’d really have to play for).
Paradise Valley at Cactus Shadows: Riding a nine-game winning streak and one of the few teams not being uber-squeezed to fit games into the final week of the season, the Trojans are in good shape at No. 7 in Div. II (15-2). It’s been a rebuilding, mostly miserable season for Cactus Shadows, but the Falcons can play partial-spoiler. A P.V. win here keeps the Trojans in the mix at No. 7-8-9, but the Trojans will have to scoreboard watch and wait as teams around them win or lose (Sahuaro, Flagstaff, Greenway, Coconino) in determining whether P.V. stays in the top 8. If the Trojans somehow lose here, there’s practically zero reason to worry about a top 8 spot anymore.\
Valley Christian at Bourgade Catholic: Sitting on the fence of a top-8 seed in Div. IV, Valley Christian (No. 9 at 12-4 in Div. IV) pretty much needs to win its final two games (the other being vs. Horizon Honors on Monday played at Seton Catholic H.S.). The good news is V.C. already hammered Horizon Honors once this season, but the Trojans haven’t played Bourgade (No. 19 at 10-4 in Div. III), and while VC is favored, a loss will drop them out of first-round bye contention since Bourgade won’t help the strength of schedule.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 24
Westwood at Mountain Pointe: Count Mountain Pointe (No. 23 at 11-6) among those not feeling the final-week crunch of games played, but that just means this one is all-or-nothing. The Pride won a 14-0 blowout against Westwood in late February. That bodes well for the Pride in the wake of winning a couple easy games last week after a rough three-game stretch (two losses to Desert Vista including a 3-2 decision that could leave the Pride kicking themselves). Still, even a win here doesn’t secure Mountain Pointe’s spot in the postseason because of Hamilton’s games, Boulder Creek (No. 22) and the unfolding of Section 3 school(s) getting an automatic bid.
Horizon at Xavier: We touched on both schools earlier in the week, but while this is a primo matchup, it’s also Xavier’s third game in three days to end the regular season (Hamilton and Ironwood being the others). But that also means a three-game sweep this week (highlighted by a win here) could be enough to get Xavier into the top 8, dependent upon other schools’ results. Horizon won this matchup, 2-0, in mid-March. Regardless, don’t sleep on Xavier. The Gators have a couple budding freshman pitchers and a few girls who can hit, starting with Katie Park.
Tags: Basha, Campo Verde, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge, desert vista, Gilbert, Hamilton, Highland, Horizon, Mountain Pointe, Mountain View, Paradise Valley, poston butte, Queen Creek, Red Mountain, Seton Catholic, Valley Christian, Xavier