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The final week: Tracking the area conference softball races
The regular season reaches its conclusion this week
The toughest week of the season is upon the Linn-Mar Lions.
But they have a cushion, a little margin for error.
Linn-Mar has a 3 1/2-game lead in the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division with six league games to play, a tricky Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday swing of three consecutive doubleheaders.
The Iowa high school softball regular season reaches its crescendo this week, with Class 1A teams transitioning to postseason play Friday.
Here’s a look at the area conference races:
Locked in a tight race in the Mississippi Division with Iowa City Liberty for most of the season, Linn-Mar (27-4, 22-2) gained the upper hand with a 6-0 league run last week.
The Lions will try to have it wrapped up before a potential winner-take-all twinbill at Liberty (23-8, 18-5) on Thursday. The Lions precede that with home doubleheaders against Cedar Rapids Prairie on Tuesday and Dubuque Hempstead on Wednesday.
Hempstead (22-4, 19-3) has taken control of the Valley Division race. A combination of three league wins and/or Cedar Rapids Kennedy losses means an outright title for the Mustangs. The Cougars are 18-14, 16-8.
Ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, Mount Vernon (27-3, 18-0) has run away with the East Division championship.
The West Division race should come more into focus Monday night. Clear Creek Amana (24-5, 16-2) holds the advantage on Williamsburg (23-8, 16-4). Both face challenges Monday — the Clippers host Solon for a doubleheader; the Raiders end their league slate at Benton Community.
CCA is at Mount Vernon on Wednesday.
Northeast (18-8, 11-0) is the North Division champion, and West Liberty (16-4, 7-1) is one win from clinching the outright title in the South.
The Comets host West Branch on Monday.
Lisbon (29-4, 18-2) clinched the East Division title a couple of weeks ago. North Linn (24-7, 17-1) is closing in on the West.
The Lynx need one more win to wrap up a title share, two to win the West outright. They’ll take a shot at it Monday night at home against Alburnett.
Central City (28-6, 16-4) and Springville (19-9, 13-5) are mathematically alive and play Wednesday at Central City.
Decorah (10-5, 6-3) still has title aspirations. The Vikings face the top two teams — Crestwood (12-6, 7-3) at home Tuesday, Charles City (13-6, 9-2) on the road July 5.
South Iowa Cedar
If Sigourney (19-5, 13-1) can avenge its only SICL loss Monday night at Belle Plaine, the Savages are outright champions. If not, they’ll likely share the title with Colfax-Mingo (16-6, 12-2).
Only one team (Turkey Valley) has an overall winning record, but the UIC boasts the area’s most wide-open race, with four teams within one game of each other.
Turkey Valley (13-6, 10-2) and Lansing Kee (12-14, 10-2) share the lead, and both still have a doubleheader with South Winneshiek (12-12, 9-3) this week.
North Fayette Valley (9-13, 9-3) has the easiest remaining schedule.