MARTINSON: The NSL is primed for a photo finish

Playoffs get everyone excited, and the North Star League has my attention in my first year covering it.

Let’s set the scene quickly as we enter the final weekend of the regular season (all scenarios as of July 20):

- Delano, Buffalo, Hutchinson and Loretto are all tied for first place with 13-4 records. Buffalo and Loretto face off July 21 at Arnold Klaers Field for a rematch of the high-octane 15-11 Bulldogs win back in June.

- There are a plethora of tiebreakers to follow with these teams all meeting each other in the next couple of days; Delano plays Hutchinson July 23, Loretto plays Hutchinson July 25. We likely won’t know any of the top four standings until Sunday evening.

- Howard Lake just knocked off Delano 13-2 in dominating fashion July 20 on the road. The Orphans are locked in as the fifth seed and I would not want to see them in the region tournament.

- There’s some jostling to be done in the middle of the standings as well. Maple Plain takes on Litchfield July 21 with big implications: if the Diamond Devils win out and either Litchfield or Maple Lake loses out, the Devils can possibly avoid the play-in tournament for the eighth seed in regions.

- Speaking of play-in tournament, Cokato is the first to complete their league schedule and can sit back to watch the drama unfold this week. The Kernels are 6-14 in NSL play and will have a tiebreaker over Dassel-Cokato and Maple Plain for the eighth spot. That means they could play at home for both play-in games if things shake out that way.

- It’s been a hitter’s league all season — who has the luxury of throwing their second or third-best pitchers first to save arms for later? The State bids available in this region could go to the teams that score 40 runs in four games first.

Play-in tourney for the eighth seed begins Saturday, July 31.

For updates and coverage, follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

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