Wow! Was that an exciting first half of the Major League Baseball season or what?

Home runs flying out of parks at a record pace, pitchers across both leagues with inflated earned run averages and perhaps most appealing is that the pennant races are shaping up to be very interesting.

Especially for the 153 contestants in the 31st Annual Pennant Picks Contest. The list that follows shows where each contestant "stands" at the All-Star break, but by no means does it guarantee the halfway leaders will still be there by the end of the regular season.

Sure, the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers seem like the safest bets to run away in their divisions, but there's still alot of jockeying for positions left.

Look at the National Central where just 4 1/2 games separates the first-place Cubs from the last-place Reds. And there's bound to be more teams moving up or down in the second half, which could make for some wildly entertaining deals at the upcoming trade deadline.

But, let's give credit where credit is due and salute those contestants who made it to the Midsummer Classic with some pretty impressive prognosticating.

In the men's division, Stephen Reinsel and longtime Pennant Picks entrant Dave LaKari share the top spot at 105 points each. But, there's a bunch of others nipping at their heels. Lurking just five points back are Joey O'Toole, Bill Alwine and our very own sports reporter Ryan Kunselman (albeit a die-hard Cubs' fan). And sitting just 10 points behind the two leaders with 95 points are Paul Flickner, Tom Best, Steve Fleckenstein, Matt Wyatt, Moe Wile, Joe Morelli and Joe Sager.

The women's division has another longtime entrant Vickie Kassick holding down the top spot with 95 points while three others - Jennifer Rogers, Tabitha Switzer and last year's winner Cindy Switzer - each have 90 points.

The youth division could also be a real dogfight, although Hannah Eismont has the lead with 105 points with Brandon Tarr just five points back.

But, for the rest of us, don't throw those lottery tickets away just yet. With just a few teams switching places by the end of the season, the contest could have a very different look come October.

It should be fun, so let's sit back and watch how it all plays out. Such is the beauty of baseball!

MEN (102)

105 points (2) - Stephen Reinsel, Dave LaKari.

100 (3) - Joey O'Toole, Ryan Kunselman, Bill Alwine.

95 (7) - Paul Flickner, Tom Best, Steve Fleckenstein, Matt Wyatt, Moe Wile, Joe Morelli, Joe Sager.

90 (4) - Emmett Switzer, Gary Wolbert, Scott Kassick, Bill Heffern.

85 (9) - Dr. James Ruby, Bo O'Toole, Donnie Karg, Todd Stewart, Jeff Eismont, Michael Fleckenstein, Dennis Moyer, Todd Wetjen, Doug Rogers.

80 (12) - Matt Gilara, Matt O'Toole, Ian Best, Rev. Austin, Jim Caffrey, Matt Buchanan, Brian Reed II, Darrell Jolley, Jonathan Rogers, Jeffrey C. Gracy Sr., Jeremy Amendola, Buck Bell.

75 (5) - Mark Thomas, Evan Staup, Ed Shiner, JJ Eismont, Darrell Karns.

70 (8) - Jimmy Dutko, Wade Switzer, Zack Borland, Sam Owoc, Joe Henderson, Mark Oliver, Dr. Tommy Findlan, Harvey Hochstetler.

65 (16) - Jeff Lantelme, Matt Stevens, Tim LaVan, Mike LaVan, James Ellison, Dave Gaj, Will Hoffman, Ed Brannon, John Dasher, Greg Kassick, Lester Jackson, Joe Cangemi, Patrick Owoc, Mike Wise, Herb Bigley, Derek Findlan.

60 (15) - Tom McGuire, Ben Barrett, Mark Whitaker, James O'Toole, Jake Deemer, Steve Smail, Jeff Loeffert, Erik Dehner, Rod Sweetapple, Andrew Schwab, Quail Klingensmith, David Hurst, Ken Brannon, Dr. Tom Findlan, Michael Wise.

55 (10) - Tim Gilara, Sam Weaver, Tom Stewart, Steve Cutchall, Lynn L. Littlefield, Fred Bigley, Dan Long, Sam Amendola, Matt Amendola, Bradley Rodgers.

50 (5) - Jim Dutko, Scott Roberts, Todd McBeth, Matt Jackson, Chris Way.

45 (1) - Don Rodgers.

40 (4) - Barry F. Sullivan, Mike McCann, Steve Burkhardt, Marvin H. Hochstetler.

20 (1) - Tim Lyons.

WOMEN (33)

95 (1) - Vickie Kassick.

90 (3) - Jennifer Rogers, Tabitha Switzer, Cindy Switzer.

85 (2) - Cheodi L. Mong, Trisha Eismont.

75 (5) - Janean Rogers, Donna Rogers, Cindy Long, Connie Wile, Rachel Smith.

70 (6) - Romaine Gracy, Rachel Schwab, Jessica Owoc, Ann Heffern, Stacie Staup, Lisa LaVan.

60 (3) - Mallory Brannon, Michele Owoc, Denise Greathouse.

55 (4) - Karen Amendola, Bon Richmond, Catherine Loeffert, Nancy Ruby.

50 (4) - Tracy Rodgers, Carol Smail, Cathy Hustedde, Andi Barrett.

45 (1) - Erin Brannon.

30 (3) - Toni Hannon, Teresa Oddo-Roberts, Sarah Titley.

20 (1) - Albina Mulholland.

YOUTH (18)

105 points (1) - Hannah Eismont.

100 (1) - Brandon Tarr.

90 (1) - Aaron Wetjen.

85 (1) - Bryce Byers.

80 (3) - Jimmy May, Bailey Stevens, Carter Barrett.

75 (2) - Alex Best, Blake Stevens.

70 (3) - Jordan Rogers, Blake Sager, Chase Barrett.

60 (4) - Bowen Schwab, Baylee Cutchall, Staatz Dasher, Carter Loeffert.

55 (2) - Brandon Loeffert, Brooks LaVan.

(Ed Brannon is sports editor of The Derrick and The News-Herald. He can be reached at sports.thederrick@gmail.com.)

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