Barring an epic collapse, the Lynchburg Hillcats should be crowned as Carolina Northern League Division second half champions during the holiday weekend.
Lynchburg is 38-27 for the second half of the season and leads the division by three games with five games to play over Wilmington (35-30) and 3.5 games over Potomac (34-30). The Hillcats magic number to clinch is three.
Last week, the Lynchburg enjoyed a 6.5 game lead, and had a magic number of six to clinch the division, but went on to lose five of seven games. At the same time, Wilmington stayed alive by winning six of seven games and Potomac won five of seven games.
Working in the Willcats favor is the scheduling of Wilmington and Potomac, which will play their remaining five games against each other, so at least one team will lose each night.
Of course, the best way to move closer to the division crown is to win games and the Hillcats control their own destiny.
Lynchburg finishes the regular season on the road with five games against Salem (30-35) that starts tonight at 7:05 p.m. and then includes a double-header on Saturday. Sweep those three games and the Hillcats are in the playoffs. Salem has dropped six of its last eight games. If the division is not clinched with wins, there is still a comfortable cushion with a few more chances to clinch.
Justin Garza (4-6, 4.00) will make the start tonight vs. Salem. It will be his fourth start after missing a month due to injury. Garza isn’t likely to pitch deep into the game as has pitched just 9.2 innings in his previous three starts.
As I mentioned last week, four clubs will qualify for the postseason, the winners of each half in each division. So Lynchburg would face Potomac, which won the first half with a record of 37-30.
The Carolina Division League series is scheduled to begin on September 5 and continues on consecutive days until there is a winner of the best-of-five series. Provided that the Hillcats clinch, the first two games will be held in Lynchburg with the remaining necessary games played at Potomac.
The Division League Series will then play in the Carolina League Finals that are scheduled to begin September 13.