Updated: Jun 4
By Jason Zaleski
With only two conference games remaining for all the Wisconsin Valley Conference softball teams, time is nearly up to make a case for playoff seeding. Nearly.
Oh so near and yet so far, as the top of the conference standings are a green, orange, red, and black colored heap of undecidedness. Heading into play June 3, the standings show D.C. Everest leading the pack at 9-1, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids neatly tucked in underneath at 8-2, and SPASH sitting at 7-3. The final night of play on Tuesday, June 8, could come to an end with Rapids as conference champions, or maybe Marshfield, or possibly Everest. The only team of the quartet without title hopes are the SPASH Panthers. It's worth noting that this 2021 season will be the first season since 2015 that SPASH has not claimed a Wisconsin Valley Conference title.
Lucky for all involved, even nervous coaches, it will all be settled on Tuesday night as Everest hosts Rapids and SPASH clashes with Marshfield.
How does this all get solved, you ask? Let's start with the easiest scenario; Everest sweeping Rapids. That happens, and D.C. Everest claims the conference championship. Next easiest to digest scenario? Everest and Rapids split, Marshfield sweeps SPASH and the Tigers are conference champs. How can Rapids claim an outright title? The Red Raiders need to sweep the Greens and get a SPASH/Marshfield split. More complicated? Rapids and Everest split, Marshfield sweeps SPASH and, tada - it's a Marshfield and Everest co-championship. Or, Marshfield and Rapids both sweep and your Wisconsin Valley champs are the Marshrapids Red Tigers.
Now that we have a clear understanding of Tuesday's possibilities, we turn now to the implications of the Tuesday night games. Playoff seeding. With seven teams in the regional pod that leaves only one team earning a bye with the one seed, the very important one seed.
Projected playoff seeding (D1 Sectional A):
#1 - DC Everest Evergreens (12-3, 9-1): The Greens, coached by Mike Mathies, have work to do in order to earn this spot. Any losses between now and seed meeting day on June 9th will drop Everest quickly down this list. It starts on Friday, June 4, with a pair of home games against No. 1 seed contender from Sectional B, Chippewa Falls (14-3). The Cards are 4-2 against Valley teams this season and Everest will need to win both to avoid giving the top spot to Superior. Everest will also need to be conference champs at Wednesday's seed meeting to present a valid case for this top spot.
#2 - Superior Spartans (17-1): The Spartans have laid waste to all but one opponent this season, including wins over Chippewa and SPASH. Superior has outscored its opponents by a staggering 161-48 margin. Emma Raye (.594) and Brooke Hendry (.494) hit the laces off the ball and lead the offensive attack for coach Michael Sather. With a combined remaining opponent record of 11-36, Superior will likely move to 22-1 come seed meeting time. Only downfall for the Spartans is being an independent team and not able to boast of a conference championship. Look for coach Sather to make a compelling case for the one seed, sans conference title.
#3 - Marshfield Tigers (12-4, 8-2) The Tigers sweep SPASH on Tuesday and it's a three seed. Should Marshfield be able to capture a WVC title, max is the two as they would lose the one argument with Superior. A split with SPASH and the seed situation for coach Danny Costa could move his Tigers to the four line, getting swept by the Panthers and the seed would bottom out a five. As the Tigers have split with Everest, Rapids, and Chippewa it makes the seed selection after Tuesday very predictable.
#4 - Wisconsin Rapids (11-6, 8-2) The Red Raiders have been beat by Chippewa three times in 2021 to go along with losses to Marshfield, SPASH, and Hortonville. Those losses, minus a sweep over Everest on Tuesday, will see all in attendance at Wednesday's seed meeting agree with coach Isaac Holberg that his Wisconsin Rapids squad is a solid four. Nothing wrong with a four seed, guarantees you one home playoff game on June 14. Should an Everest sweep happen, look for the Red Raiders to argue for the third position.
#5 - SPASH (12-8, 7-3) As mentioned above, 2021 will not see a Panthers' Wisconsin Valley Conference title no matter the outcome Tuesday. What coach Tom Drohner will look to do is prep his girls for a playoff run and turn his team back into the often-feared SPASH Panthers. Our projections point to a first round SPASH vs Wisconsin Rapids matchup. The only thing left to determine is the location. A Panthers' sweep on Tuesday has the potential to move themselves into home position as the four seed, any other result and the five will be locked in.
#6 - Wausau East (5-11, 0-10) The Lumberjacks have shown glimmers of hope during the 2021 season. East scored 10 runs in home losses to Marshfield and put seven on Everest in a loss back on May 4. The conference runs scored for the Jacks (27) edge them ahead of West as the six seed. East will stay in this spot unless, see below.
#7 - Wausau West (1-14, 0-10) One lonely win for West in 2021 has them looking up at the rest of the playoff field. What's that, there's a chance to move up, you say? Indeed, there is! West and East tangle Thursday afternoon and a sweep by either side will flip seed positions. Split with East and coach Jamie Hughes's speech at the seed meeting will be just words long.