The playoffs aren’t quite here yet, but the last few weeks of the regular season in the Crow River Valley League have had a playoff feel to it. Although the best part of the season is about to come, let’s not forget about the exciting finish we have coming up to the regular season.
It’s been a while since the final week of the regular season in the CRVL has had this much drama attached to it. With less than a week to go, no team in the CRVL has clinched a spot in the Region 7C Tournament. To put that in perspective, last year the Plato Bluejays locked up the No. 1 seed in the region tournament early, finishing with a regular-season record of 17-1. This year is a little different in a couple of ways.
The division titles for the CRVL North and South are still there for the taking. In the North, Winsted, Glencoe, and Watertown are all fighting for the title, and more importantly, the bye into the Region 7C Tournament. With Waconia ruled ineligible for the postseason in 2019, that opened the door for all three teams and created an exciting race for the CRVL North title.
There’s even more at stake when it comes to the CRVL North title. Not only does the winner receive a bye into the region tournament and a guaranteed top-two seed, the two teams that don’t win the division find themselves in a tough situation. Instead of being a No. 2 seed, the two teams who don’t win the North will likely find themselves in the No. 5 to No. 8 seed range come playoff time.
Things are just as exciting in the race for the CRVL South title. Carver and Brownton had leads early in the season, but the Young America Cardinals find themselves at the top of all of it now with less than a week to go in the regular season. With just six days left in the regular season, all three teams vying for the CRVL South title play crucial games the rest of the way as they look to seal their spot in the Region 7C Tournament, and possibly grab a No. 1 seed.
Adding to the unusual and unpredictable season it has been for the CRVL, neither Plato or Green Isle are contending for a division title. It’s been a long time since that’s happened as the two have been the powerhouses in the CRVL for a long time.
While they aren’t competing for a division title this season, that doesn’t mean they can be overlooked in the league playoffs. The Bluejays, despite dealing with an abundance of injuries all season, still feature Chris Odegaard, one of the top players in the entire league. Along with Odegaard are several key players such as Matt Odegaard, Kyle Panning, Tyler Lang, Joe Nix, and others who know what it takes to win games in the postseason.
The Green Isle Irish can’t be overlooked either. After starting the season 1-7. the Irish are playing much better lately as they look to have found some momentum to build on going forward in the playoffs. The Irish will be a tough matchup in the CRVL playoffs for whoever ends up matched against them.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the Winsted Wildcats. The Wildcats won just six games last season, and seven games the year before that. Now they find themselves in the hunt for the CRVL North Division title, and a possible top-two seed in the Region 7C Tournament.
The Cologne Hollanders are another team that has taken the next step forward this season. After finishing under .500 the past two seasons, the Hollanders are as hot as anybody in the CRVL right now.
After a tough loss to Young America July 13, the Hollanders responded the next day with a huge 4-3 win over the Carver Black Sox, in which they rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Cologne is finding ways to win games this season, and that’s a scary thing for other teams in the CRVL. Last year’s batting champion, Carter Clemensen continues to swing a hot bat this season, and the Hollanders have the pieces in place to make a deep postseason run.
After a surprising and impressive run at the Class C state tournament last season, the Young America Cardinals seem to be the team to beat in the CRVL right now, if you can say that. The Cardinals are not only talented, but they’re deep.
That goes for the Young America pitching staff, as well. Josh Lenz is arguably one of the top pitchers in the league. After a bursting on to the scene at state last season, Lenz is the ace for the Cardinals and gives them a legitimate chance to win against anyone. Dillon Whittaker, Jordan Kohls, Hayden Meyer, and Isaac Hormann are all talented pitchers, as well, for the Cardinals, giving Young America one of the deepest pitching staffs in the CRVL.
The conclusion of the CRVL season, however it ends, will be an exciting one. The best part is that it won’t be over for long. The CRVL league playoffs will get underway right after, and the best two weeks of summer, the Region 7C Tournament, begin in Carver and Cologne after that.
It’s been an incredible summer of amateur baseball in the CRVL. The regular season hasn’t disappointed, and it is only going to be better here in the final week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.