The eight-team field for the Ohio Valley Conference softball tournament is just about set as the league heads into its final two weekends of the season.
Eastern (3-15), Tennessee State (3-13) and Morehead State (0-12) have all been eliminated from tournament contention. But nine other teams still remain in the picture, with eight teams looking like shoe-ins for the tournament while one, Southern Illinois Edwardsville (5-7), is on the fringe.
The Cougars hold the conference’s ninth spot currently and sit behind Belmont, Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee Tech, all of which have 8-8 records, for the final tournament spots. Those three teams will likely hash things out over the six, seven and eight seeds in the conference tournament, but the Cougars are still in that mix.
Southern Illinois Edwardsville has three wins to make up in the race and has eight conference games left to do so. The Cougars’ push forward begins this Friday with a doubleheader against Tennessee State, where the Cougars will likely be favored to win in both games.
If Southern Illinois Edwardsville does pull off a sweep against Tennessee State and picks up two of those needed three wins, then the Cougars will be faced with a crucial series on Sunday. The Cougars will be squared up against Belmont, one of the three teams they are chasing, in a doubleheader on Sunday.
The ramifications of that doubleheader could be amplified even more as Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin have a doubleheader scheduled on Sunday as well.
In a narrative that pretty much writes itself, the four teams all competing for three tournament spots will face each other this Sunday. Come Monday, the conference standings could look a whole lot different, or for that matter, they could look very similar.
The four teams stationed at the top of the conference for the most part have their tournament tickets punched, but there are still seeding disputes that need to be settled amongst them.
Jacksonville State holds the conference’s top spot with a 14-4 record, two games ahead of both Southeast Missouri and Eastern Kentucky, both of which have 12-4 records.
Murray State is nestled right below that trio with an 11-5 conference record.
Like the teams competing for the last tournament spots, the teams at the top of the conference will see each other on Sunday as well.
Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri will meet in a doubleheader that will feature a lot of the conference’s best offensive and pitching fire power. Southeast Missouri boasts the conference’s top offense and pitching numbers as a whole.
Jacksonville State however has the conference’s top pitcher in Faith Sims who leads the conference with a 1.79 ERA and innings pitched (148.1), while also staking claim to one of the OVC’s best hitters in Taylor Beshears who is second in the OVC with 13 home runs and second with a .421 batting average.
The conference has a lot of room to change this upcoming weekend, but it also could stand pat and look no different come Monday.
JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]