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Softball poised to take the regular season crown

Freshman+infielder+Halle+Hollatz+eyes+the+incoming+pitch+against+NDSU+at+Mary+Ellen+McKee+Stadium+in+Macomb.
Freshman infielder Halle Hollatz eyes the incoming pitch against NDSU at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb.

Freshman infielder Halle Hollatz eyes the incoming pitch against NDSU at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb.

Angel Strack

Angel Strack

Freshman infielder Halle Hollatz eyes the incoming pitch against NDSU at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb.

Campbell Atkins

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With just three more conference matchups remaining in the regular season, the Western Illinois softball team (10-5 in Summit League play) is on the cusp of clinching the number one seed in the postseason tournament. The team is still in a great position to get the job done despite their first league series loss of the season to the North Dakota State Bison (7-5) over the weekend.

The Bison along with the IUPUI Jaguars (7-5) are tied for second place in the Summit. The Bison and Jaguars each have six conference games remaining while the Leathernecks have just three. Western will round out their slate against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (4-8) while the Bison play SDSU and Omaha. IUPUI will face Omaha and Fort Wayne.

In order for the Leathernecks to lose their stronghold on the regular season conference title, either IUPUI or NDSU will essentially have to win out in the Summit or Western will have to plummet in Brookings over the weekend.

Teams 4-7 don’t pose any threat to the Leathernecks and their quest for regular season prominence. South Dakota (8-7) sits at 4, Omaha (4-5) at 5, SDSU (4-8) at 6 and Fort Wayne (2-7) is last. Every team makes the conference tournament with the exception of 1. This means Fort Wayne will have to fight hard to try and make up their 1.5-game deficit to SDSU if they wish to keep their hopes alive.

Regardless of what could happen to shake things up in the next couple of weeks, the Leathernecks will more than likely get a bye in the first round of the tournament. If they finish the job and clinch the 1-seed, they will face the winner of the 4/5- seed matchup. After passing the first round, the loser is then guaranteed to still compete.

The winner of the loser’s bracket will face the winner of the winner’s bracket in the championship round. In order to walk away as champions, the loser’s bracket contender will have to defeat the representative from the winner’s bracket twice. Essentially, one from the loser’s bracket must ultimately win twice as many games in the tournament as the winner’s bracket team.

The first round of the tournament consists of a 4/5 matchup as well as a 3/6. They will take place on Wednesday, March 10 before the winners advance to the second round to face the 1/2-seeds and the first-round losers go home for the season.

While the losers of round two will then face off in the opening round of the loser’s bracket, the winners will meet in the semi-finals. The semi-finals will take place on Friday, May 12. The championship round will take place the following day at 1 p.m. and again at 3:30 if the losers bracket contestant wins.

Last season, the Leathernecks just missed a bye in the opening round and settled for the tournament’s 3-seed. Western was upset in the opening game by IUPUI. They got down 3-0 early and couldn’t quite crawl back. Their season ended with a 3-2 decision in favor of the Jaguars.

The Bison won last year’s Summit Championship as the league’s top-seed. They have won it three straight years.

Western will try and claim their first Summit League regular season title since 2010. But a win in the tournament means more and automatically gets you a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Leathernecks have not won the conference tournament since 2008.

Twitter: @campbellatkins4

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Softball poised to take the regular season crown