By: Joe Lawrence


With only one week left in the regular season, here's how things have shaped up on the West side of the HRL.



Hopkins West:


 The Redmen boast the league's best winning percentage heading into the final week of competition.  They'll face off against rival Padres next Thursday night, with their 4th consecutive division crown already wrapped up.  The last night of the regular season will most likely be devoted to spectacular grilling, and celebrating a number of record setting seasonal performances by this group of all-stars.  Regardless of how the games turn out though, the Braves have a first round playoff date with the runners-up in Hopkins East.  Either way, it'll be Braves vs. Sox…with only the stocking color not yet fully decided.

  After a rough start to the season, the Padres got back on track and surged right along with the heat index of summer.  If not for the strong 1st year showing by the upstart White Sox, they'd once again be in the thick of the Wild Card race out in Hopkins.  However, as it stands, even if they were to win all their extras games, their potential 20-18 record would still have them on the outside looking in.  They'll be fighting the Braves next Thursday for second place divisional rights, looking to stay just ahead of a Colt team that has been nipping at their heals all year long.


 The revamped 45s certainly showed they could hang with the tough competition in Hopkins West this season.  With all their extra games used up, they take on their old namesake Eagan Mets in this year's season finale.  Not playoff bound, they'll still have something to play for, as second place bragging rights are within their grasps.  They'll need a little help from the Braves to do so, but if they lose one less game than the Padres do next week, it'll force the Daddies to play (and win) some extras to fend them off as runners up.



Hopkins Central:


  Pacing their division all season long, the Twins hit a few speed bumps after the all star break.  Their record has fallen closer to .500 than they hoped, and has helped keep other teams' hopes alive, although just barely.  A sweep of the Pirates in Week 14 was desperately needed to right the ship and put some serious hurt on an advancing Brewers' squad.  With 5 extra games left at their disposal, the Twins control their own destiny and are in good shape to represent the Central in the playoffs again this year.  Only a devastating last week collapse against the Crew and A's could keep them from dancing.


  A brutal mid-season stretch, in which the Crew dropped 14 of 15, once again has the BCN all but eliminated from the HRL postseason.  With 4 scheduled and 3 extras games looming in the final week, there's still the potential for these guys to climb above .500 and post a respectable 20-18 record.  If they could pull that off, it might just force the Twins to win some extra games of their own to hold onto their crown.  Still, the odds are stacked against the Crew, and losing even one game in the vital Battle-for-the-Barrel series next Wednesday night could seal their doom.


  With modest preseason expectations, the A's have made noticeable strides throughout the year.  Although they're locked in to their number 3 spot in the Central, they have possibly the biggest spoiler potential in the HRL for the week ahead.  Both the make-up series with the Tigers next Wednesday and a final rumble with division leading Twins on Thursday could have playoff implications.  The Tigs are in the midst of a 4-way muddle in Eagan, and if the A's can take even one game against the powerhouse, it makes the Royals-Tigers finale that much more interesting.   The Twins game is likely to be less influential, but if the Brewers miraculously manage to sweep their games, the A's could have an important final say in the 2007 Hopkins' standings.



Hopkins East:


  The world champions are once again in the driver's seat for the Eastern title.  After taking two of three from the White Sox last night at Central, they're one game up and now hold the division tie breaker, should they happen to need it. Both Sox have 2 regulation games and possibly one extra to play…putting the effective magic number at 2.  A Tug-less series with the Rangers next Monday is by no means a sure sweep, but it seems unlikely that the Red Sox won't ultimately prevail.  Assuming they can hold on, a first round playoff with the Central Division champ awaits.


  The Sex have admirably challenged the Red Sox all season long, continually jockeying for first place in Hopkins' East.  Their tough match-up against the Reds next week, coupled with losing the Red Sox tie-breaker, more than likely has them destined for the Hopkins' Wild Card spot.  Stranger things have happened, but no matter what, this rookie team is playoff bound…which is a great accomplishment.  A first round fight with the dangerous Braves looms if they remain in second place, but if the Red Sox falter, a more favorable match-up with the Twins could be in their future.


  Another team that has suffered at the hands of the White Sox' impressive play, the Rangers may finish near the .500 mark, and will only be rewarded with a 3rd place finish in the East.  As disappointing as that may be, they have the opportunity to make a statement at next Monday's game against the Red Sox.  If they can pull off the upset sweep, a crack for a White Sox comeback could emerge.

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