St. Paul must beat out Nestucca for last berth from Special District 1 in the state playoffs

After a strong start to the league schedule, the St. Paul baseball team's state playoff hopes will come down to the final week of the regular season.WOODBURN INDEPENDENT PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - St. Paul senior Justin Herberger struck out five in four innings in the Bucks' 11-2 win over Neah-Kah-Nie on April 30.

The Buckaroos (13-10, 8-7 Special District 1) went one-for-three against the No. 8 Neah-Kah-Nie Pirates (17-5, 13-2) last week, opening the three-game series with an 11-2 home win on April 30 before falling in back-to-back games of a road double header Friday by scores of 19-15 and 11-10, respectively.

Once 6-0 in league play, the Bucks continue to falter down the stretch this season, having dropped seven of their last nine games against conference opponents to drop into a tie with the Nestucca Bobcats (11-10, 8-7) for the final state playoff berth awarded to the Special District 1.

And while the Bucks look to be the superior team — plating nearly twice as many runs this season than the Bobcats — Nestucca has more important numbers on its side.

The Bobcats are 12th in the OSAA rankings, while the Bucks are 17th overall. But more importantly, Nestucca won the season series against St. Paul, forcing the Bucks to finish a game ahead of the Bobcats in the league standings to secure an automatic state playoff berth.

With three games left in the regular season, there is little room for error. St. Paul was scheduled to finish league play this week with a three-game series against Portland Christian (11-11, 5-10), while Nestucca will take on the Gaston Greyhounds (6-15-1, 4-11) in its final leagues series.

The Bucks will need to sweep the Royals while hoping for the Greyhounds to steal a game from the Bobcats.

Should St. Paul finish tied with Nestucca or finish behind the Bobcats, there remains hope. One final state playoff spot is awarded to the highest-ranking team that falls outside the top three of their conference standings.

The final rankings will freeze May 16, followed by the first round of the state playoffs May 20.

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