A total of seven points separate the top five teams in the Nova Scotia Intermediate Baseball League standings heading into play this weekend.
Two of the biggest games will take place in Hantsport Sunday afternoon starting at 1 p.m. as the homecoming weekend comes to a close.
The fourth place Hantsport Shamrocks will take their 9-3 record and 30 points into a doubleheader against their archrival, the visiting Windsor Knights.
The Knights currently occupy fifth place in the standings, having 29 points for a record of eight wins and five losses.
The Knights likely do not need to be reminded how important this weekend's doubleheader will be for them, as only the top four teams make the league playoffs. Only the top three teams at the end of the season will advance to the Nova Scotia Intermediate AAA Baseball Championship tournament.
The Shamrocks’ team spokesperson, Deron Moores, told the Hants Journal that he cannot recall a year where the games between the Knights and Shamrocks have not been close.
“The Knights are scrappy and give every last ounce of effort they can, whether they are trying to score 10 runs in an inning or simply plate a single run,” said Moores.
The Shamrocks are expected to start David Pilat and Steve Best in the two games against the Knights.
Moores said the pitching by Pilat and Best is a large part of the reason why the Shamrocks have had the success that they have in the league standings. Pilat has pitched two shut-outs in the three games he has started while Best is 2-0.
It will be even more important that Hantsport gets solid efforts once again from Best and Pilat as another key component of the Shamrocks’ staff, Matt Lloy, will be away for the weekend.
“Runs will be scarce,” said Moores, noting he fully expects to see Dave Swindall and Jason Hanes starting games for Windsor.
The top three teams in the division are the Yarmouth Gateways with 36 points, Shelburne who occupy second place with 34 points, and the Noel Road Blue Jays sit in third place with 33 points.
Each team earns three points for a win and a single point for a loss and because of this, it is the reason Shelburne with a losing record at 8-10 are in second place.
The 3-12 Kennetcook Braves will have a big say in how the league playoff picture looks after this weekend as they travel to Shelburne July 25 and return home Sunday for a doubleheader with Yarmouth.
As for make-up games because of the rain, which has washed out an above average number of games this season, Moores said it is especially difficult to find time to play these make games up.
For example, the Shamrocks have four games to make up with the Pictou County Royals.
Hantsport has notified the Royals that they are prepared for a weeknight twin-bill in Pictou County. However, since the baseball field in Stellarton is so heavily used, the Royals are finding it difficult to find a night for the two games.
As for the Royals and the twin-bill that was postponed on Sunday in Hantsport, Moores said it is really hard to ask Pictou to come down on a week day night to play a single game as “a doubleheader is impossible because of the lack of lighting” at the field.
Noel Road blanks Windsor in mid-week game
On July 15 in Noel, the Blue Jays dominated the game with the Windsor Knights. The Blue Jays scored three runs in the opening inning, added a single run in the second, four more in the fourth and two in the fifth before the game was called because of the 10-run rule.
Justin Campbell gave up a single hit and a walk in going the distance for the Jays while his team connected for 11 hits to go along with their 10 runs.
Pat Benedict homered and drove in three runs while Nate McCulloch went three for three with two RBIs and Aaron McPhee went tw