1. OCTOBER BASEBALL
It’s annual tradition in St. Louis. The Cardinals have qualified for the Major League Baseball post-season five seasons straight and 12 times in the last 15 years. What could make this year special would be a divisional series against their hated rivals, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs haven’t been to the postseason since 2008 and have won just one playoff series since 1908. With an organizational rebuild under club president Theo Epstein, the North Siders emerged with the fourth-best record in all of baseball. They’ll face the Pirates on Tuesday in a one-game wild card play-in. The winner faces the Cardinals in the best-of-five NLDS beginning Friday in St. Louis.
2. BACK ON ICE
The National Hockey League is back in action starting with a four-game slate on Wednesday that includes the New York Rangers at the home of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The St. Louis Blues begin their trek Thursday at home against the Edmonton Oilers. The Blues finished last season with the second most wins in hockey and tied for the most points in the Western Division. But another incredible regular season turned into more playoff disappointment with a six-game elimination at the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Ken Hitchcock returns for his fourth full season to lead a team that is largely unchanged from last year.
3. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY SHOWDOWN
Highland defeated Civic Memorial, 35-27, and Triad knocked off Mascoutah, 49-7. Their wins set up a showdown of the Mississippi Valley Conference’s two remaining undefeated teams in Troy at 7 p.m. Friday. The showdown between the Bulldogs and Knights would have included the added allure of watching two of the area’s top running backs — Highland’s Andrew Winning and Triad’s Adam Nelson — go head to head. Winning has been knocked out for the season with a torn ACL, however, and Highland likely will also be without quarterback Garrett Marti who was knocked out of the game against CM with head and neck injuries.
4. CITY SERIES SOCCER
Althoff will play Belleville East at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The game will be played at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, the baseball home of the Frontier League’s Gateway Grizzlies. It is part of the Belleville city series, but Belleville West already has won the city championship on the strength of its victories over Althoff (3-1 on Sept. 15) and East (2-0 on Sept. 19).
5. GREAT LAKES GRUDGE MATCH
The McKendree Bearcats are off to their best start in years following a 38-13 win over Southwest Baptist and remain the only undefeated team left in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Coming to Lebanon at 1 p.m. Saturday will be Indianapolis, which has just one loss but has yet to play on the road. At 39 points and 500.8 yards per game, the Bearcats lead the Great Lakes Valley in both scoring and total offense. Indianapolis has the league’s stingiest defense, however, allowing an average of just 17.8 points per game.