by Earl Watt
Leader & Times
Usually by the 10th game of the Jayhawk League season, there has been a team that has shown early dominance, and the rest of the league begins a season-long chase.
Not this year.
Four Jayhawk League teams are within a game of first place, and the first-place team has changed with regularity.
This is both good and bad news for the league.
For one, it shows the quality of competition that the Jayhawk League attracts.
But due to the way the National Baseball Congress selects its teams, it is highly likely that at least one of the competitive teams in the Jayhawk League’s top four won’t be invited to the national tournament in August.
What if at the end of the season the standings remain much the same, and only one game separates the top four teams in the league? Will they all be invited, or will some obscure team like the Wichita Dirtbags once again receive an invite without playing 50-plus games all summer simply because they attended a qualifying tournament and was the only non-high school team there?
Usually it isn’t a problem. The wheat separates from the chaff and the cream rises to the top, leaving the rest of the teams in mediocrity.
But this season has a different feel to it. Four quality teams are battling for the title in the early going, and the fifth place team is a five-time national champion.
There is no room for a slump. There may not be a chance to catch up.
Winning the Jayhawk League has so far proven to be more difficult than winning the national championship for the Bee Jays.
Liberal has not won a league title since 1999, but won the NBC World Series in 2000 and 2010. Liberal still has more league titles than any other team with 12.
The Bee Jays might be in the tightest league race since the beginning of the conference in 1976, and perhaps it would be one of the more special titles to win.
There are still 25 league games to be played, and in the end, the goal is to win the national title. But it is also time to end the drought in the league, and the 2011 champion will have earned it.
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