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St. Paul must sweep Portland Christian to have chance of beating out Nestucca for last automatic playoff berth

PMG 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. 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.

The Buckaroos (13-10, 8-7 Special District 1) went 1-for-3 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 on Friday by scores of 19-15 and 11-10, respectively.

Once 6-0 in league play, the Buckaroos continue to falter down the stretch this season, having dropped seven of its 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 slated 12th in the current OSAA rankings, while the Bucks are 17th overall. But more importantly, Nestucca won the season series against St. Paul, forcing the Buckaroos 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 on Thursday, May 16, followed by the first round of the state playoffs on May 20.


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