The Bonita Vista Barons and Chula Vista Spartans have made their statement in this year’s Metro Conference tournament by meeting in Saturday’s championship game at Castle Park High School.
The teams, former longtime rivals in the Mesa League, will face each other in the varsity final scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.
The junior varsity title game is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. between Chula Vista and either Eastlake or Otay Ranch (to be determined by the winner of Wednesday’s make-up game).
The winner receives the coveted Baum Dog trophy in honor of legendary Hilltop coach John Baumgarten.
Both the Barons and Spartans were longtime members of the Mesa League before the Spartans moved over to compete in the South Bay League this season.
Both teams are contenders in their respective league title races this spring, so this weekend’s tourney final pairing is not a surprise.
Both teams carry identical 4-1 tournament records into Saturday’s varsity finale.
Interestingly, Saturday’s tournament final is a rematch of last Saturday’s final cross-bracket game won 4-1 by host Chula Vista.
The Barons are 2-1 in league play, 12-7 overall, while the Spartans are 4-3 in league play, 13-9 overall.
The tournament is designed to pair teams from the opposing leagues in pool play. Since there is one more South Bay League team than Mesa League team, a guest team is invited to participate each season. This year, Chula Vista High Tech filled the extra spot in the Mesa League side.
Teams played five games against teams from the opposing bracket, starting back in March.
Bonita Vista opened tourney play with consecutive wins over Montgomery (2-1 on March 22), San Ysidro (4-3 on March 24), Southwest (8-1 on March 28) and Castle Park (5-2 on April 14).
Chula Vista also recorded tourney victories against CV High Tech (4-1 on March 21), Olympian (6-3 on March 23) and Mater Dei Catholic (5-3 on March 24). The Spartans’ lone tourney loss was to Hilltop (8-3 on April 14).
Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch actually tied with 4-1 cross-bracket records but the Barons captured the tie-breaker to advance.
"For the Metro tournament, I believe the addition of Chula Vista on the South Bay side has evened out the competition a little," Baron coach Vincent Gervais said. "It is also clear that both Southwest and Castle Park are moving in the right direction to make the South Bay League a little deeper than in years past."
CVHS coach Jim Westlund said his team is “very proud” to have reached this year’s tournament final.
“Anytime you reach a final of a tournament there is enormous satisfaction and a strong sense of pride, especially since this is a South Bay community tournament,” he said.
Bonita Vista update
Bonita Vista opened Mesa League play with a two-game split against Otay Ranch, winning its league opener, 6-0, on April 17 before falling out of an early first-place tie with last year’s league co-champion, Eastlake, following a 5-4 loss at Otay Ranch last Thursday (April 19).
Trailing 4-2 in the top of the sixth inning, the Barons rolled across two runs to tie the game but the host Mustangs rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning with a run to claim the win.
Eduardo Perez tripled in two runs while Alex Haas and Troy Cruz each stroked doubles for Bonita Vista. Alex Quiros and Miguel Solano-Espinosa also each drove in one run.
Adrian Tovalin, after being knocked from the mound by the Barons, made amends by driving in the game-winning run for Otay Ranch.
The Barons returned to the win column by defeating visiting Mater Dei Catholic, 4-1, on Tuesday. Cruz pitched a complete game three-hitter with 14 strikeouts. Haas scored once and drove in two runs while Solano-Espinosa and Carlos Herrera also picked up one RBI each. Solano-Espinosa, Cruz and Pat Valdez also scored runs.
Eastlake (13-6-2 overall) remains in first place in the league standings at 3-0 following a season opening sweep of Hilltop (4-3 and 18-5) and Tuesday’s 4-1 win over visiting Otay Ranch. In the 18-5 win over the Lancers, Devin Kopas went 3-for-5 and drove in seven runs while Andrew Calica went 2-for-3 with three RBI.
The Mustangs entered Thursday’s rematch against the Titans 1-2 in league play, 13-8 overall.
Bonita Vista hitting leaders include Solano-Espinosa (.462), Ryan Miguel (.412), Cruz (.377), Haas (.351) and Herrera (.346). Haas leads the Barons with 10 RBI, followed by Solano-Espinosa and Enrique Ocampo with nine each.
Cruz (5-1) leads the BV pitching staff with an immaculate 0.44 ERA and .162 opponents hitting average. He has 67 strikeouts in 47.1 innings pitched.
Gervais said his team's clear leaders in the dugout are senior captains Cruz, Solano-Espinoza and Alex Quiros.
"Alex Quiros has done a masterful job as our catcher," the BVHS coach said. "Outside of Cruz, our pitching staff is young and Alex has been a fantastic receiver for the staff. Miguel Solano-Espinoza has been our best consistent hitter all season and he is a solid infielder helping to shore up the middle, especially when Cruz pitches. But Troy Cruz has been our hands down top contributor this season with his leadership, his offense, his defense at shortstop and especially on the mound. He is near the top of the lists in the county for strikeouts and for earned-run average. The game he lost was lost on defense.
"We have four underclassman pitchers who have made major contributions this year: juniors Matt Ball — he’ll pitch Saturday against CVH — Jesus Perez, and Ivan Burow and sophomore Danny Siwek. Matt Ball and Siwek have seen significant innings against tough opponents already this year, while Perez and Burow have pitched tough innings in relief. Our starting pitching overall has done a fantastic job which has kept the relief pitchers from seeing a lot of innings, which has been a blessing and a curse.
"Offensively, Solano-Espinoza, Cruz, seniors Alex Haas and Ryan Miguel have done most of the hard work. But sophomore Eduardo Perez is the one we are most excited about because he does not have bad at-bats. All of his at-bats have been quality at-bats and he is getting better with every opportunity. At 6-4, his upside is huge."
Despite last Thursday's setback to Otay Ranch, Gervais feels his team remains squarely in the Mesa League championship race.
"Clearly Eastlake is the team to beat, with their two horses on the mound they are going to be tough all through league," he said. "The Mesa League will come down to which team can score. Otay Ranch, Eastlake and BVH have solid pitching that’ll keep us all competitive. Obviously, the team that scores the most runs will win the game and concurrently the league. Hilltop is likely out of the championship race with three losses in league but I contend they will be a force to overcome late in the year like they always are. We play them the final week."
Chula Vista update
The Spartans are 3-1 in their last fur games, with a pair of South Bay League victories against Castle Park (9-4 on April 17 and 3-0 on April 19) to go with the tourney win over Bonita Vista.
Montgomery edged Chula Vista, 2-0, in league play on Tuesday.
Mario Perez's sacrifice fly scored the first Aztec run and that was all that Joel Castro needed in hurling a complete game two hit shutout.
Montgomery remained on top of the league standings at 7-0 (14-6-1 overall). The race for second place appears up for grabs between three teams: Mar Vista (3-1 in league), Castle Park (3-2 in league) and Chula Vista (4-3 in league).
The Spartans have the better overall record between those three squads and could yet challenge for the league lead.
Westlund said top contributors for his squad this season have been pitchers Anthony York and Marcos Machado
York boasts a.427 hitting average and is 5-2 as a pitcher. Machado is 3-3.
The CVHS coach said catcher Rey Yoquigua also has been “a pleasant surprise.”
“He has really been a leader on defense,” Westlund said of Yoquigua.
Eastlake's Calica (UC Santa Barbara) and Dylan McDonald (San Diego State) both have made 2012 commitments.
Calica, an outfielder-catcher, hit .468 with 25 RBI and 24 stolen bases in 2011 while McDonald, a pitcher-outfielder, compiled a 9-5 record with a 3.22 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 71.2 inning pitched as a junior.