The argument both for and against playoffs of any sort is rooted in timing: Does it determine which is the best team or which is the best team right now? Sustained excellence often isn’t enough when facing a team peaking at the right time. Earning the No. 1 seed in a section can be a nod to a great regular season and a burden in the playoffs.
Take, for example, the Class 3A, Section 2 softball playoffs.
Mankato West earned the top seed by virtue of a nearly perfect season, losing only once (to crosstown rival Mankato East) by a single run.
But the fickle fastball of fate blew past the Scarlets in two section playoff games last week. After an opening-round bye, they lost to No. 8 seed Shakopee 1-0 in their first game and lost again, by the same score, to No. 4 seed Minnetonka in the loser’s bracket. Just like that, a season with so much promise went poof.
So, who is still alive? In Tuesday’s winners’ bracket final, Shakopee, on a roll after following up with a victory over Prior Lake, plays No. 6 seed New Prague, which started the season 1-4 but has reeled off 12 consecutive victories and has not allowed a run in three postseason games.
New Prague will have to go through either Chanhassen or Prior Lake, both of whom have been seeded higher, in the losers’ bracket to get a second chance at the championship game.
So much for a meaningful regular season, huh?
All Section 2, 3A games are at Miller Park in Eden Prairie, with the winners’ bracket and losers’ bracket games set for 5 p.m. Tuesday and the championship at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Here’s a quick look a few other key postseason matchups this week:
• Section 3 winners’ bracket final: Undefeated Lakeville North vs. Bloomington Jefferson, 5 p.m. Tuesday at Richfield Middle School.
• Section 6 championship: No. 1 seed Orono vs. either Hopkins or Edina, 5 p.m. Tuesday, at Pamela Park (Edina).
• Section 7 winners’ bracket final: Defending state champion Elk River vs. No. 1 seed Anoka, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Chisago Lakes.
• Section 4 championship: St. Anthony vs. Visitation, 5 p.m. Tuesday at Hamline.
• Section 4 championship: Columbia Heights vs. New Life Academy, 3 p.m. Tuesday at Hamline.
• Section 2, Second round: Waconia at New Prague, 3 p.m. Monday. New Prague handed Waconia only its second loss of the season on May 17. The 16-2 Wildcats would love to knock off the top-seeded Trojans.
• Section 6, Third round: St. Louis Park vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Parade Field. The teams have split this season, with St. Louis Park ending the Red Knights’ season-opening 11-game winning streak on May 6.