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Nearing the end of the Home Talent League regular season, the Eastern Section is once again arguably the most competitive of the four leagues.

Aside from section leaders Sun Prairie, there’s a logjam of teams battling for the final three postseason spots, with just 3½ games separating second place from eighth. All four area teams are in the mix and with at least seven games remaining left per team, there is plenty left to be decided.

Among the area teams, Poynette currently sits in the best position to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. The Indians are currently 6-4 and sit just a half-game back of second-place Monona.

Poynette has cooled off from its hot 5-1 start, however, dropping three of its last four games, including a pair to Monona that could prove crucial if tiebreakers come into effect. Poynette’s final stretch isn’t favorable either, with four road games against playoff contenders, beginning with a trip to the first-place Red Birds on Saturday.

Even with the daunting schedule, Poynette does have some positives. The Indians can create some space between themselves and fourth-place DeForest (5-4) as the pair has to play each other twice, including in the regular-season finale on Aug. 4, and Poynette swept the regular-season meetings against Montello.

Speaking of the Granite Jaxx, manager Mark Hanson’s bunch is starting to find its groove having won each of their last three games. Montello, which sits at 5-4 and in fifth place behind DeForest, knocked off the Deacons, 8-4, in their first meeting on June 16 before notching a doubleheader sweep over Portage this past weekend.

The pair of wins over the Skeeters are a big confidence boost for the Granite Jaxx, who have yet to have their complete roster this season, according to Hanson. Montello, which won the last two regular-season titles, has a big chance to build off of the Skeeters’ sweep when it travels to league leaders Sun Prairie on Friday before hosting Monona on Sunday.

Wins over the Red Birds and Braves would shake up the standings and could easily vault Montello into playoff position.

Also on the outside looking in right now is Rio, which has already matched its win total from last season. The Railmen (4-5) had snapped a four-game skid behind back-to-back wins over Columbus and Monona, but suffered a setback with a 7-4 loss to Sun Prairie last Sunday.

Like Poynette, Rio has a difficult home stretch with four road games; however, the Railmen do get the benefit of playing against playoff contenders in each of their final seven games, beginning with a home matchup against the Indians on Sunday.

Rounding out the area teams is Portage, as it currently sits four games below .500 at 3-7. The Skeeters are mired in a terrible slump, having lost six of their last seven, including their last four games. Portage was swept in a doubleheader by Montello on Sunday.

Despite sitting on the outside looking in, Portage has plenty of room to move up the leaderboard, beginning with road games at DeForest and Columbus this weekend. If the Skeeters, who have made the last four postseasons, are able to knock off the Deacons and Crawdads, they’ll be in good position to make a final push with a pair of their games at home, and a doubleheader against the Railmen to close out the regular season.

Even though we’re past the midway point, things are just getting started.

Regional Sports Reporter

Regional Sports Reporter

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