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Mustang hardballers are off to promising 10-2 start, seek CIF title Phillip Brents | Fri, Apr 04 2014 02:41 PM

With a 10-2 overall record following Wednesday’s 2-1 victory against visiting Castle Park in the John Baumgarten/Metro Conference tournament, the Otay Ranch Mustangs appear to have staked a claim as one of the top teams this season in the conference, if not the entire San Diego Section.

“We want to win CIF this year,” Mustang coach Bob McCurdy said matter-of-factly. “We have a really good shot at it.”

Entering the week, Otay Ranch had the third-best winning percentage in the 16-team Division I standings after St. Augustine (8-1) and Patrick Henry (9-2). Other teams off to good starts to the 2104 high school baseball season include Poway (7-2), Ramona (6-2) and Madison (6-3). Torrey Pines, Helix, Valhalla and Steele Canyon all follow with 5-3 records.

Last Saturday’s 4-0 win at Sweetwater upped the Mustangs’ tournament record to 4-0 following previous wins against Mar Vista (9-7 on March 25) and Montgomery (11-10 on March 27).

Teams will play a total of five tournament games in advance of this Saturday’s championship finals at Eastlake High.

“It’s a run-differential tiebreaker in case we have the same record with another team in our bracket,” McCurdy said. “The game against Montgomery hurt us a little. We had them 10-4 and we let them get back in it.”

Otay Ranch appeared in firm control of Saturday’s game, leading 2-0 heading into the seventh inning behind the solid pitching effort of senior Eddie Alvarez, the 2013 Mesa League Player of the Year. The Mustangs tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh on one hit and one Sweetwater error.

Alvarez allowed two hits and struck out nine Devils to earn the win on the hill.

“Our kids are playing well,” McCurdy explained. “Senior leadership is the biggest thing along with good pitching and good offense.”

The Mustang skipper said his team will get its biggest test of the young season when it competes in the Classic Division in the upcoming Lions tournament. Placed in Otay Ranch’s bracket is North Clovis, ranked third in the nation.

“That will be a huge test for us,” McCurdy noted.

Top pitchers include Alvarez, senior Markus Melin, junior Alex Tovalin and senior Adrian Tovalin.

Adrian Tovalin joined Alvarez as a member of the 2013 All-Mesa League first team.

Melin was a member of the history-making Park View Little League 2009 Blue Bombers Little League World Series champions.

Alvarez has also helped himself at the plate. He led the Mustangs with a prodigious .524 hitting average last season, followed by Adrian Tovalin at .512 and Darryk Williams at .420.

Other players being counted on to deliver timely hits include catcher Eddie Melendrez and Alec Godoy.

Godoy, Williams and Melendrez were all second team all-league picks last spring.

“We have been scoring a lot of runs,” McCurdy noted.

Conference realignment has placed the Mustangs in the Metro-Mesa League against east side rivals Bonita Vista, Olympian, Eastlake and Mater Dei Catholic.

Otay Ranch shared last year’s Mesa League title with Hilltop, now in the newly created Metro-Pacific League alongside Sweetwater, Castle Park and Chula Vista.

All five teams in the reshaped Metro-Mesa League are off to good starts in 2014. Bonita Vista is off to a 7-4 start while Eastlake is 6-3, Mater Dei Catholic is 5-5 while Olympian is 5-6.

Bonita Vista has also started the Baumgarten/Metro tournament 4-0 with wins against Montgomery (3-1 on March 25), Sweetwater (9-1 on March 27), Castle Park (2-1 last Saturday) and Hilltop (3-2 on Tuesday).

Brandon Torio earned honors as the Barons’ player of the game in the win over Castle Park after recording three hits against the Trojans, including one to drive in Esteban Velasco for the game-winning run in the sixth inning. Torio also scored one run in the game; Eduardo Perez received credit for the other RBI in the contest.

Perez, Danny Siwek and Ricky Reynoso combined on a two-hitter while striking out six and walking none.

Velasco, who has committed to play collegiate baseball at Bethel University, leads the Barons with a .414 hitting average in 40 plate appearances, followed by Torio at .364, Reynoso at .333, Perez at .312 and Siwek at .276.

Torio is 3-1 on the mound with a 0.48 earned-run average while Siwek is 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA. Bonita Vista has a stingy 1.54 team ERA with 75 strikeouts in 77 innings.

The Barons join Eastlake in the hunt for a berth in this year’s Division II playoffs.

For all the teams concerned, winning a league title actually might be more difficult than winning a CIF title.

“You never know about league — anything can happen,” McCurdy said in a cautionary tone. “Bonita Vista and Eastlake both have played very well to start the season, and even Mater Dei Catholic has played very well. It will come down to which teams get the timely hitting and strong pitching. I think we have a good chance, but it’s baseball. I really think it’s a toss-up.”

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