The one-and-potentially done format of the IHSA baseball playoffs often leads to a pressure packed environment.
This season that feeling will be even heavier when you consider that most teams open postseason play Friday and in only a little over two weeks state champions will be crowned in each of the four classifications at various locales around the state.
Weather permitting, this format will have regional champions crowned Monday and sectional champions only four days later.
Who does this condensed format favor? Teams that have pitching depth certainly have to feel better about their chances. A team like Lincoln-Way East, a top seed in a Class 4A complex, has a stable of capable arms and would have to be a team to look out for. With pitch count rules still in play many teams will have to exhaust their preferred arms to survive earlier rounds.
It seems more than likely that teams will have to be creative with how and when they use their pitching and hope that the offense doesn’t go silent at the wrong time.
In any case, the next two weeks promise to be wild.
Here’s a look at the postseason draws for area teams:
Field: No. 2 seed Plainfield South (16-6), No. 7 Naperville North (15-11), No. 10 Romeoville (10-18), No. 15 Batavia
Notes: It has been an up and down season for Plainfield South this year. The Cougars got off to a quick start, but have been on both ends of lopsided scores in the second half of the season. Romeoville will look to play spoiler as they did in 2019 when they bumped off top-seeded Lincoln-Way East in the opening round.
Prediction: Plainfield South over Naperville North
Field: No. 3 seed Plainfield North (16-11), No. 6 Yorkville (14-12-1), No. 11 Oswego East (11-10), No. 14 Bolingbrook (6-11)
Notes: There’s impressive depth in this regional and even the lowest seed could provide a challenge to the top-seeded team in the group. Plainfield North has been the most consistent team in this group, but it did drop both regular season games against Yorkville.
Prediction: Plainfield North over Yorkville
Field: No. 4 seed Oswego (18-7), No. 5 Plainfield Central (17-10), No. 12 Metea Valley (10-15), No. 13 Plainfield East (12-15)
Notes: Oswego caught fire in the second half of the season and nearly won a conference championship because of the late rush. They likely will be pushed by Plainfield Central who has a postseason pedigree that they’d like to live up to.
Prediction: Oswego over Plainfield Central
Normal (ISU) Supersectional
Field: No. 1 seed Lincoln-Way East (25-2), No. 8 Sandburg (10-11), No. 9 Andrew (10-13), No. 17 Bloom
Notes: There’s reason to believe that Lincoln-Way East can make a deep run in the postseason. The combination of an offense that can produce from top to bottom and a deep pitching staff in a condensed postseason will make them a tough out. But in a one-and-done format anything can happen, so it clearly will be a one-step-at-a-time approach for Lincoln-Way East.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East over Sandburg
Field: No. 2 seed Marist (28-4), No. 7 Lincoln-Way West (19-8), No. 10 Crete-Monee (14-7), No. 15 Blue Island Eisenhower (5-15)
Notes: Marist certainly is the favorite here, but Lincoln-Way West could provide a real challenge provided they are able to get Keegan Bobbitt innings against the Redhawks. But that might be tricky because Bobbitt might be needed to help Lincoln-Way West get past a solid Crete-Monee team in the semifinals.
Notes: Not to discount lower seeds, but if the two higher seeds advance as expected, the stage will be set for a strong regional title matchup. Providence has surged at the right time having won nine of their past 10 games. Lincoln-Way Central dropped its final regular season game to Joliet Catholic, but has put together multiple win streaks.
Notes: This seems to be shaking down as chapter three in the series between Homewood-Flossmoor and Lockport. The Porters rolled to an easy win in early May, while the Vikings got revenge with a 10-8 win last week.
Prediction: Lockport over Homewood-Flossmoor
Field: No. 1 seed Minooka (17-10), No. 4 Moline, No. 5 Normal Community (17-7), No. 8 Joliet Central (3-24)
Notes: Minooka has gotten strong performances from its pitching staff this season. As the top seed, Minooka will get the opportunity to play several games at home and avoid long road trips should they continue to advance.
Prediction: Minooka over Normal Community
Field: No. 2 seed Normal Community West (18-12), No. 3 Joliet West (17-10-1), No. 6 Bradley-Bourbonnais (11-16), No. 7 East Moline United (9-12-1)
Notes: Joliet West surged after a slow start. The Tigers were 2-5 at one point, but won 15 of their past 20 games and appear capable of moving through the field. But it won’t be easy starting with a tricky Bradley-Bourbonnais team and would then require toppling a Normal Community West team that plays a strong schedule.
Prediction: Normal Community West over Joliet West
Notes: It’s a tricky regional for Morris, and if they are able to advance they likely will have to do it with all road games. The path starts with Ottawa, a team Morris split a pair of regular-season games with.
Prediction: Washington over Ottawa
Field: No. 3 seed Lemont (21-10), No. 6 Richards, No. 11 De La Salle (7-18), No. 14 Solorio (1-11)
Notes: Although Lemont hasn’t exactly powered through nonconference opponents to close the regular season, the Indians appear to have more than enough to move through this regional. Lemont’s challenges likely won’t come until the sectional round, which its rigorous schedule has prepped them well for.
Notes: Manteno is a quality Class 2A program with its only losses coming against Lincoln-Way East and Brother Rice. There’s pitching depth for the Panthers, who recently set a program record for wins in a season, and that will be key in this condensed postseason. Clifton Central is undefeated, but hasn’t played any top-level competition.
Prediction: Manteno over Bishop McNamara
Field: No. 2 seed Chicago Christian (22-3), No. 3 Joliet Catholic (21-12), No. 6 Beecher (13-10), No. 7 Watseka
Notes: Joliet Catholic appears to peaking at the right time, winning 15 of its past 19 games. The drop to Class 2A for the postseason weakens the level of competition the Hilltoppers will face, but the regional they were placed in seems strong for the 2A level and it won’t be a breeze.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic over Chicago Christian
Field: No. 1 Spring Valley Hall, No. 4 Seneca (13-6), No. 5 Ottawa Marquette (13-2), No. 8 Herscher (10-22)
Notes: Hall is the deserved top seed here, but the seeding beneath it seems a little curious when considering that Ottawa Marquette beat higher-seeded Seneca handily in a pair of regular season games.
Prediction: Spring Valley Hall over Ottawa Marquette
Notes: Reed-Custer has won 13 of its past 16 games with losses coming against Plainfield Central and twice to Manteno. The Comets will have to power through long-time rival Coal City which never is an easy task.