AURORA | The prep softball season is drawing to a conclusion and the playoff picture will come into sharp focus on the final day of the regular season Oct. 8.
With RPI determining this season’s Class 5A regional playoff field, four Aurora programs — Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Grandview and Smoky Hill — sit firmly inside the top 32 as of Oct. 4.
The question is still where they will end up for Oct. 15 regionals.
Cherokee Trail and Eaglecrest both recently lost to Mullen, but with the Mustangs dropping into 4A for the postseason, both the Cougars (currently No. 4 in the RPI) and Raptors (No. 6) will take the Centennial League’s two automatic spots in the 5A regionals.
They also happen to face off on Oct. 5 (at 4:30 p.m. at Eaglecrest) with the winner is virtually guaranteed a chance to host one of the eight regional tournaments. Even the loser might have a chance to host depending on the final RPI standings.
Coach Caley Mitchell’s Cherokee Trail won a 7-5 decision over coach Yvette Hendrian and Eaglecrest last season.
The Cougars came into the season intent on ending the program’s surprisingly long state tournament drought and a strong regional seeding could go a long way towards doing that. Cherokee Trail features one of the top pitching duos in 5A in seniors Emily Bell and Audrey Pickett and an explosive offense capable of double-digit runs and hits each time out.
The Raptors reloaded with youth after losing a large class to graduation and have hardly skipped a beat. Sophomore slugger Rachel Sabourin (nine home runs) and her team had 14 wins with two games left — one win shy of last season’s total — and carry plenty of confidence after navigating a difficult schedule.
Grandview’s two-year reign as Centennial League champion comes to a close as the Wolves can finish no better than fourth overall and third among 5A teams after a recent 10-5 loss to Cherry Creek.
With a very tough schedule throughout the regular season, coach Dave Thies’ Wolves sit 22nd in the RPI standings with a record just over .500 going into their finale against league-leading Mullen.
Smoky Hill — a 5A state tournament qualifier last season — has double-digit wins and is 26th in the RPI standings. The Buffaloes face the team just below them, No. 27 Cherry Creek, in their season finale on Oct. 5.
Vista PEAK qualified for the 4A regional playoffs last season for the first time and could make a return. Coach Eddie Sanchez’s Bison moved over to play a variety of 5A teams in the EMAC this season and sat on the edge of the 4A postseason at No. 33 going into their Oct. 4 finale against Thornton, which they won 17-7.
As of Oct. 5, Vista PEAK still sat one spot out of the postseason, but holds out slim hope one of the teams in front of it could slip in the final days.
The rest of Aurora’s programs finish up the regular season without playoff berths ahead.
Regis Jesuit has two games on the last two days as the Raiders cap the first campaign under Meredith Feik, who returned this season. At 4-12, Regis Jesuit sat in the No. 43 spot in the RPI standings.
Rangeview (54th), Overland (56th), Aurora Central (60th) and winless Gateway (61st) and Hinkley (62nd) have or will complete their seasons on or before Oct. 8. The Olys and Thunderbirds play each other in their finale.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel