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Play-ins, playoffs are fast upon us

St. Helens leads 21-6 after a quarter, but them stumbles out of 5A playoffs
by: Self-portrait, Sports Editor John Brewington

Nothing is for certain yet, but by this time next week all the local ball teams will have their 'play-in' opponents and probably ball games determined.

As of Monday, league championships are still at stake for some, while others have a fairly good idea of where they will finish.

The Scappoose Indians baseball team was in the best shape of the locals teams to either win the 4A Cowapa League championship outright or tie with Astoria as co-champions and take the No. 1 slot in the play-ins.

For those who forget or never knew, play-in games are played to determine which teams actually get into the state championships. They are not well liked by the higher level teams and many of the lower level team coaches despise them as well because it can mean a long road trip that their team will have little chance of winning. Still, it's the system now so it matters.

The Tribe baseball team lost to Astoria last week but beat them twice earlier in the season. Astoria lost a game to Yamhill-Carlton last week and that left them tied with Scappoose starting this week. If both win out, Scappoose breaks the tie by virtue of the two earlier wins. Scappoose narrowly won a make-up with YC on Monday night, so they kept pace.

The play-ins are preset for the Cowapa League. The No. 1 team will host the No. 4 team from the Tri-Valley League. No. 2 will host No. 3. Currently, North Marion is No. 4 and Molalla is No. 3.

The other thing Scap-poose has got going for it is that they are ranked No. 1 in the Oregon School Activities Association power rankings (RPI). They will stay near the top and that means they will host teams in the state playoffs until the championship. That's a really good spot to be in.

Until Monday's tough 1-0 loss to Rex Putnam, the other team with a shot at a league title was the St. Helens Lady Lions' softball team. Mathmatically, they still could win the title, but it becomes much more difficult. The Lady Lions are in the unenviable position of having to play six straight games this week. Postponements due to rain are the main reason. They tried mightily to get in their game with Rex Putnam last week.

That game was finally played Monday afternoon. Putnam is still tied with Liberty with one loss apiece, while Sandy has two losses and St. and #8200;Helens three now. St. Helens also plays Liberty twice this week (Wednesday and Saturday).

The St. Helens Lady Lions gave Putnam some of their toughest opposition this season. They beat them once in nine innings, and Monday's game went down to the wire.

The 5A classification has a different playoff system than the 4A. In it, they have a Northern Division and a Southern Division-16 teams make the play-ins in each. The No. 1 teams hosts No. 16, No. 2 hosts No. 15, etc. The winners then advance and are seeded into the state playoffs depending on OSAA ranking. St. Helens is currently 11th overall. They will have a home play-in game, but probably won't have a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Their second-round state game could be at home.

However they finish now, the Lady Lions have certainly made their presence felt in the Northwest Oregon Conference this year and shown a lot of improvement. They are capable of going a long way in the playoffs.

The Scappoose Lady Indians will finish third in the Cowapa League and will travel to the No. 2 team for the play-ins-that's either Gladstone or Madras. Those two teams played on Tuesday. Scappoose will face the loser of that game.

The St. Helens Lions baseball team will also have a play-in game, but will have to travel to play one of the top teams in the Northern Division.

All the play-ins must be done by the end of the day, Saturday, May 19. The state playoffs start the following Wednesday, May 23.