The pennant chase is officially heating up.
The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference baseball tournament opens on Saturday and teams have through Wednesday's games to jockey for positioning.
While some of the teams appear to be locked into the tournament, there are some bubble teams and some head-to-head matchups that could certainly play a role in the seeding for the five classes.
One notable change in the OVAC baseball tournament is the fact that the semifinals will not be played at one host site as has been the case in years' past. The higher seed will now host the semifinal round on Saturday and the winners will advance to play at Vacarro Field in Steubenville . The 2A and 3A divisions will be held on Friday at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.
In Class 4A, the Harrison Central Huskies, despite suffering their second loss of the campaign on Saturday to Edison, maintain a 20-point cushion on Steubenville for the top seed.
Big Red checks in with better than 38 points in their average column against yet another top-flight schedule.
The race is for the third and fourth spots. Oak Glen currently sits in third with Martins Ferry beginning the week in fourth. However, the Purple Riders, who've dropped three straight, lead Buckeye Local by 11 hundredths of a point.
The Panthers have dates with Union Local, John Marshall and St. Clairsville before the cutoff. None of those teams have a record better than .500. Ferry, meanwhile, hosts Bellaire, treks to Barnesville and welcomes Harrison Central.
In Class 3A, Magnolia has been the cream of the crop in this division all season. Outside of stubbing its toe against River earlier this month, it's been nothing but victories for Coach Dave Cisar's squad.
The Blue Eagles are 19-1 and have a solid 3-point cushion on 15-2 Linsly, which has also been highly impressive. The Cadets are the defending 2A champions and in 3A for the first time. They were hit hard by graduation, but Jay Cartwright's machine has kept rolling.
Perennial entrant Fort Frye is 13-5 and currently Shenandoah maintains the fourth spot at 7-3.
The Zeps are being chased by Buckeye Trail and Bellaire. Ironically, those are the two schools that met for the 3A crown last season with the Big Reds prevailing.
In Class 2A, four teams seem to have a pretty good handle on the bids, but there's a tight race in the middle of the standings for the second and third seeds.
Bridgeport is currently sitting in the second spot. The Bulldogs are 12-4 on the season and have had a very solid campaign with sophomore talent Bailey McGrath leading the way.
Shadyside is currently sitting in third place and trail the Bulldogs by 92 hundredths of a point. The Tigers have lined up against a challenging slate, made up of schools primarily bigger than them.
Ironically, the Bulldogs and Tigers are scheduled to meet this afternoon in Brookside and on Wednesday they'll play at Fleming Field.
Toronto and Steubenville Central would be first and fourth if the tourney opened today.
In Class 1A, Bishop Donahue appears headed for the top seed. The Bishops are currently 11-5 and have better than a 12-point cushion on Madonna for the number one spot.
Conotton Valley and Paden City are currently third and fourth. The Wildcats hold a slim eight tenths of a point lead on St. John Central, which is 4-7. Trinity Christian and Beallsville are within striking distance, but both would probably need three wins and help.
In Class 5A, Coach Mike McLeod's Wheeling Park Patriots have developed into one of the stories of the season. Park is 16-2 and is currently atop the big-school standings. Wheeling Park hasn't won an OVAC baseball title since 2006 and the school only owns two in its history.
Edison, Morgantown and Cambridge are currently in the second through fourth spots. The Bobcats hold just over a 3-point lead on Parkersburg South and Indian Creek.
The complete standings can be found on today's scoreboard page B4.
Mother Nature looks as if she'll be in a cooperating mood, so this should be an exciting week of prep baseball.
Harrison Central is one of those teams that's headed for the OVAC Tournament and a home game on Saturday. However, the Huskies may be without one of their top players. Senior Nick Pelegreen is slated to take part in Saturday's prestigious Ohio North-South All-Star Football Classic in Dayton.
Pelegreen hits in the middle of the Huskies' order, boasts a solid glove and is their No. 2 pitcher, so the impact could be felt on Saturday.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org