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Eastern Division playoff chase tightens

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The battle for the final playoff spot in the Jayhawk Conference-Eastern Division intensified during the first two days of this week. Labette took three of four games from Allen Monday and Tuesday, passing Independence in the standings.

Labette, ninth in the division going into last weekend, passed Indy for eighth place and would be the final qualifier from the East for the Region VI Tournament if the season ended today.

The top eight teams from the East qualify for the tournament. The Western Division qualifiers are set as Dodge City plays at the Division II post-season level. The top two teams from each division host Sub-Regionals during the first weekend of the tournament, May 5-7.

Fort Scott is in last place in the East, two games behind Independence after taking three of four from the Pirates last weekend. The Greyhounds play at Labette this weekend and at Highland to finish the regular season April 28-29.

But Labette's series win over Allen as well as Neosho County taking three of four from sixth-place Highland have brought the losers of those series down to the pack fighting for playoff berths. Allen and Highland are tied for sixth just one game ahead of Labette.

The Greyhounds have been able to climb back into playoff contention after dropping their first 13 games in division play. Since then, they've won seven of their last 15 conference games.

Finishing seventh or eighth forces a team to travel to one of the Western Division host sites for a Sub-Regional. Finishing fifth or sixth means a team still has to go on the road, but would play at an Eastern Division host site and take a much shorter trip.

A look at each of the teams fighting for playoff position:

* -- Highland is currently ahead of Allen for sixth place on the basis of a better record versus second-place Johnson County. The Scotties travel to Iola to face Allen County this weekend before hosting Fort Scott to close out the regular season.

The Scotties hold tie-breakers over Labette (3-1 head-to-head) and Independence (better record vs. first-place Cowley).

* -- Allen hosts Highland this weekend and closes out the regular season at fourth-place Neosho County. The Red Devils hold a tie-breaker over Fort Scott, a 4-0 series sweep at Iola in the opening series of conference play that the Greyhounds have been fighting to overcome. They also hold a tie-breaker over Independence (better record vs. Cowley). Labette (3-1 head-to-head) holds the tie-breaker over Allen.

* -- Labette hosts Fort Scott this weekend and Kansas City next weekend. The Cardinals only hold a tie-breaker over Allen as they went 1-3 against Highland and Independence.

* -- Independence was able to stay ahead of Fort Scott by winning the last game of last weekend's series. But Fort Scott owns the tie-beaker over the Pirates since the 'Hounds won the first three games of the series.

Indy plays at Kansas City this weekend and finishes up at home against Johnson County, giving the Pirates the toughest schedule of any of the contenders. They're the only one of the contenders who won't be playing at least one of the others in the final two series.

Independence holds a tie-breaker only over Labette (3-1 head-to-head). They drop tie-breakers vs. Highland and Allen -- because both of them had better records versus Cowley -- and against Fort Scott.

* -- Fort Scott holds the tie-breaker over Independence and has the chance to win the tie-breakers over Labette and Highland by taking three games in each series. Allen is the sticking point. Fort Scott has to finish a game ahead of the Devils should the final playoff spot come down to those two teams.



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