Hopkins vs. Edina

6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 16

Two weeks remain in the regular season, which means teams are scrambling to reach peak performance, win conference titles and clinch premium section seeding before heading into the postseason.

In the Lake Conference, where just five teams reside, fierce competition early has led to a heated race, with four of the five — Edina, Hopkins, Wayzata and Eden Prairie — still the mix to win the league crown. The outlier, Minnetonka, was last year’s Class 4A runner-up.

Edina, which won the Lake in 2018, has no margin for error after being swept by league frontrunner Wayzata, No. 9 in the Class 4A Star Tribune metro rankings from May 6, this season. The Hornets’ 3-1 loss to the Trojans on May 10 means they need some outside help to claim back-to-back titles, but first: the Hornets need a win against Hopkins to stay in the hunt, which sets the stage for this heavyweight league bout being our Top Game of the Week.

Edina (9-5, 2-3) started the season 2-4 but found its groove, winning seven straight before Wayzata delivered its blow on Friday. In a 6-4 win over Minnetonka on May 3, the Hornets got six innings from junior pitcher Noah Meffert, who struck out nine but walked six, before Lucas Flemming, who’s also a junior, came in and shut down the Skippers with a pair of strikeouts to finish the game.

On April 19, the Hornets were defeated by Hopkins 4-1, with Meffert and Flemming on the mound. Meffert surrendered just two walks but allowed three hits and three earned runs in four innings of work in that contest.

Quality pitching from Meffert and Flemming will be key if the Hornets are to even the season series against Hopkins and have a shot at repeating as conference champions.

Hopkins, which went 3-5 in league games a year ago, has typically resided in the bottom half of the conference standings in recent years. This season, however, the Royals (9-4, 2-0) have held strong against Lake opponents.

In addition to its win over Edina, Hopkins beat Eden Prairie 11-1 on April 26. Wyatt Nelson has been a big part of the Royals’ success so far. The senior, a North Dakota State commit, has stolen 11 bases, racked up nine RBI and has a .422 batting average. Nelson has also had success from the mound, tallying 36 strikeouts and a 3.18 ERA in 22 innings pitched.

How Nelson goes down the stretch will be a key indicator of how the Royals finish their 2019 campaign for a league banner. They’re scheduled to play conference contests in six of their final seven regular-season games.