Four teams are bunched near the top of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, and with one last weekend of conference play to go, each team is still chasing the ultimate carrot: a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. With no conference tournament and only six member schools, winning the regular season is the only way to advance to postseason play.
The PCSC: a level playing field
Four teams are bunched near the top of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, and with one last weekend of conference play to go, each team is still chasing the ultimate carrot: a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
With no conference tournament and only six member schools, winning the regular season is the only way to advance to postseason play. And in the PCSC, that task is made increasingly difficult by the surprising parity within the conference.
Just two games separate fourth-place Portland State (26-27, 9-7 PCSC) from first-place St. Mary’s (26-23, 11-5 PCSC). Two schools, Loyola Marymount and Sacramento State, are locked in a tie for second place with identical 10-6 conference records.
After this weekend, one of those teams will taste postseason competition, while the other three will spend an offseason trying to wash the taste of disappointment from their mouths.
Since the inception of the PCSC in 2002, only three teams have won the conference title: Loyola Marymount, Portland State (in 2006) and the Vikings’ foes this weekend, Santa Clara. According to the PCSC Web site, 2008 is the fourth year that the conference’s regular-season champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
While a number of factors play into the league’s parity, one thing is clear: It all makes for some darn good softball. For the last few weeks, each of the top four teams has had a real chance to take control of the league with a dominating sweep.
Instead, those teams have been beating one another into a pulp. Portland State split with St. Mary’s and with Loyola Marymount, leaving one last weekend to win it all or go home. However, because the Vikings were unable to claim a winning record over either of those two teams (and because they went 1-3 against Sac. State), they are no longer in the conference driver’s seat.
In all likelihood, either St. Mary’s or LMU will claim this season’s regular-season championship. Portland State must not only sweep its series against Santa Clara, but the Vikings must also have St. Mary’s and LMU split and have the Hornets lose at least two games.
Still, for a fourth-place team to have even a shot at the conference title in the season’s last weekend is the reason why the PCSC works so well. For the most part, the teams are evenly matched in terms of resources and player skills.
With just four games to go, anything can happen. Just the way the PCSC likes it.