Maple Lake and Pierz have ruled the Central Minnesota Conference for three straight seasons, but the Pioneers have fallen off slightly this season, giving the Irish a lead in the standings and opening the door for a relative newcomer to stake its claim as one of the league's top teams.
Paynesville has finished behind the Maple Lake and Pierz since joining the conference in 2016, and in two seasons, the Bulldogs posted a league record of 17-10. This season, they're poised to ascend thanks to a 10-1 conference mark.
Pitching has been outstanding for the Bulldogs (11-1), who allowed more than two runs in a game only twice this season, including in a 6-1 loss to Pierz in a doubleheader on May 8. However, Paynesville's pitching was on display in a 7-2, 10-inning victory in the other game with the Pioneers, who entered the matchup averaging 10.3 runs per game.
The Irish (13-2, 11-1) average 9.5 runs per game, giving them the power to make a dent in any pitching corp.
They also have 10 hits or more in their last five games. Ben Reilley is 9-for-15 with two doubles, one triple, and two homers over that stretch. He also threw a no-hitter against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on May 10.