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Baseball: Breaking down the Diamond Classic contenders

By Phil Anastasia

Saturday is the cutoff for the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic baseball tournament and only two things are clear:

One, Haddonfield will be Colonial Liberty representative.

Two, Gloucester Catholic won't be getting an automatic bid.

The eighth-ranked Bulldogs have a 4-1 division record. Sterling (3-3) and Collingswood (3-3) can't catch up this week.

The third-ranked Rams, who were moved from the Tri-County's Diamond Division to the Royal for the purposes of the Diamond Classic's automatic-bid arrangement, won't play the minimum of 6 "division" games before the cutoff.

So the Rams, who are 4-0 in "division" games with only Highland on the schedule this week, will get an at-large bid.

The Diamond Classic is a 16-team tournament that is scheduled to start with eight games at four sites on May 11 and culminate with the title game May 19 at Eastern.

Under the tournament's format, 10 teams will receive automatic bids as division leaders and six teams will received at-large bids.

The at-large bids will be based on the recommendations of a committee of sports writers who cover South Jersey baseball.

This week will be crucial for teams jockeying for berths, although the weather could have a big impact. Games might get played today before heavy rain arrives that is likely to wash out Wednesday's action and put Thursday's games in jeopardy, too.

Here's a look at where the races for the 10 division automatic bids:

Burlington Liberty: NBC (5-1) and Rancocas Valley (4-1) are scheduled to play a big game today at the Red Devils' complex in Eastampton. Moorestown (5-2), Cinnaminson (5-3) and Holy Cross (3-2) remain in the mix. Fifth-ranked NBC almost certainly will receive an at-large bid if the Greyhounds don't get the automatic.

Burlington Freedom: Maple Shade (6-1), New Eygpt (5-1) and Riverside (4-1) will settle things this week. New Egypt is scheduled to play at Maple Shade Friday.

Olympic American: Washington Township (6-1) and Cherokee (6-1) are battling for this berth. WT is supposed to play Eastern on Wednesday while Cherokee is supposed to play Lenape. Both could be made up by Saturday. Sixth-ranked WT is a likely lock for an at-large bid if Cherokee takes the automatic.

Olympic National: Paul VI is 5-0 and Bishop Eustace is 4-1. They were supposed to play Wednesday but the game already has been postponed to Saturday at 2 p.m. at BE. The top-ranked Crusaders will receive an at-large bid if they don't get the automatic.

Colonial Liberty: Haddonfield (4-1) is scheduled to play at Sterling (3-3) today. But the Bulldogs have clinched the automatic bid.

Colonial Patriot: Woodbury (4-1) and Audubon (5-1) will settle this race this week. Audubon is supposed to play at Haddon Twp. on Wednesday but that likely will be postponed. Woodbury is home vs. Lindenwold on Thursday.

Tri-Co Classic: Pennsville (5-0) can wrap this up with a win over Wildwood today and also has Gloucester scheduled this week.

Tri-Co Royal: Clearview (5-2) has Williamstown (3-2) scheduled for Wednesday and Kingsway (3-2) scheduled for Friday. GCIT (3-2) is scheduled to play Delsea Wednesday. This race could go to the wire.

Cape-American: St. Augustine (5-0) can clinch with a win over Hammonton today or EHT in a game scheduled for Wednesday.

Cape-National: Buena (7-1), Cedar Creek (7-1) and Ocean City (6-1) are hot and heavy in this too-close-to-call race. Ocean City plays at Cedar Creek on Thursday.

Here's the Diamond schedule:

Saturday May 11

at Maple Shade

Cape-American vs. Tri-Royal, 1030

At Large 1 vs. Colonial Patriot, 1

at Deptford

At Large 3 vs. Olympic American, 1030

At Large 5 vs. Cape National, 1

at Overbrook

Burlco Lib vs. Haddonfield, 1030

At Large 6 vs. Tri-Classic, 1

at Washington Twp.

At Large 4 vs. Olympic National, 1030

At Large 2 vs. Burlco Freedom, 1

Saturday May 18

at Deptford

Times TBD

Winners of Maple Shade games

Winners of Deptford games

at Washington Twp.

Times TBD

Winners of Overbrook games

Winners of Washington Twp. games

Sunday May 19

Semifinals at Deptford and Washington Twp., 1

Final at Eastern, 5

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