In the marathon that is the West Virginia Conference baseball season, the playoffs could be decided by a photo finish.
Teams are leap-frogging back and forth over each other in the power ratings. Last week, Salem International was No. 9, and Alderson-Broaddus was No. 6. With ratings updated Thursday, SIU is No. 6, and A-B is No. 9.
The Tigers went from not making the playoffs last week to having a first-round road game this week, and the Battlers went vice-versa.
Of course, since the regular season doesn't end until May 1, all of this is relative. But it's indicative of the kind of year the WVC has had.
"Anybody can win the North right now," Fairmont State coach Ray Bonnett said. "The conference is getting stronger each year. The race is getting tight. A lot of things can happen."
While Shepherd and Fairmont State have a commanding one-two lead in the North, SIU, West Liberty State, Davis & Elkins and A-B are within five ratings points of each other.
"Everything's a log jam," Tigers coach Brad Warnimont said. "We continue to split with people. There's some teams that we need to sweep. West Liberty's sitting there at 5-7, but they swept (West Virginia State), so they're going to get a ton of power points. We sat there in that same position two years ago."
The key for all of these teams in contention is to forget about the playoff race. As long as the teams keep winning, everything will be fine. But that's easier said than done.
"We're in the situation, as many teams are, that we control our own fate," Battlers coach Brian Sutphin said. "A lot of teams are playing for something this late in the year, and that's good for our conference. Right now, if you worry about yourself and your team plays well, you give yourself a chance."
It's hard to put a number on the amount of WVC victories a team needs to make the playoffs, Warnimont said. Twelve or 11 could do it for the right team. But that's not what the playoff pairings are based on; it's the power points.
"With these power points, it's interesting," he said. "I've never been in a situation like this, but it really rates your big wins."
There are four sets of doubleheaders (eight games) left in WVC play.
Today, key twinbills include SIU hosting Charleston, Fairmont State traveling to West Virginia State, and in South Division action, West Virginia Wesleyan travels to Bluefield State. All doubleheaders start at 1 p.m.
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com.