Stillwater vs.

Cretin-Derham Hall

4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 22

Cretin-Derham Hall has won nine of its last 10 games and looks to continue its winning ways in three critical games this week, including one on Tuesday. That's when the Raiders travel to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to close out their regular season against defending Suburban East Conference champion Stillwater in a clash between the league's top teams that is also our Top Game of the Week. The Ponies own a half-game lead on the Raiders atop the standings entering the week.

Cretin-Derham Hall (13-2, 11-2) was swords ablaze and riding a nine-game winning streak last week before stumbling in a 4-2 defeat to Mounds View on May 19.

Despite the blemish, the Raiders have the firepower to stable a surging Ponies team thanks to five players in their everyday lineup hitting over .400. Junior third baseman Brian Williams leads the squad with a .553 batting average and 1.442 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Earlier this year, Stillwater seemed headed for a disappointing year. The Ponies suffered consecutive league losses — 1-0 to Woodbury on April 25 and 6-2 to White Bear Lake on April 27 —  to start the season, making their Suburban East title defense an uphill battle.

Two days after recording the back-to-back defeats, the Ponies held off 2017 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state semifinalist Eau Claire North in a 7-6 victory, inciting an impressive streak that’s culminated in Stillwater winning 15 of its past 16 games. Last week, the Ponies (15-3, 12-2) were threatened but escaped the jaws of defeat with three straight one-run victories, include a 4-3 revenge win against White Bear Lake on Friday.

That impressive run has helped make Stillwater's early season struggles difficult to fathom, yet the Ponies still have work to do.

They visit Park of Cottage Grove on Monday before hosting Cretin-Derham Hall, and junior left-hander Drew Gilbert may get the call to take the mound for the game with the Raiders. The Oregon State commit struck out 14 and walked one while giving up three hits in Stillwater's loss to Woodbury in the season opener.

The Raiders are within striking distance in the league title race and have a chance to snap the Ponies’ run of success, rip away the conference crown and claim the top seed in the Class 4A, Section 4 playoffs with one fell swoop. But only if Cretin-Derham Hall doesn't trip in a home game against Roseville (May 21) before the showdown with Stillwater.