When the restructured San Diego Section baseball playoff brackets were released last weekend, and subsequent feedback was taken into account, section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp admitted some tweaking may be needed to the current format, particularly in reference to the new eight-team Open Division.
Otherwise, few coaches seem to be complaining. The new divisional format based on competition tiers instead of student enrollment appears to have provided just what it was designed to do: create a level playing field.
In Tuesday’s play-in round, eight lower-seeded teams emerged victorious; in Wednesday’s opening round of double-elimination play, 10 lower-seeded teams won.
Those are significant numbers.
Few teams seemed immune to the spate of upsets, even teams near the top of their respective division brackets.
The Castle Park Trojans, top-seeded in Division IV, can attest to that after dropping Wednesday’s opening round contest, 3-0, to eighth-seeded Mt. Miguel on a no-hitter by Matador pitcher Daniel Ronk.
“I think the No. 1 seed is a reflection of the regular season,” said CPHS coach Francisco Moya, whose team dropped to 18-11-1. “Once the first game of the playoffs starts, it doesn’t matter any more.”
The Trojans, who finished in a tie for third place in the South Bay League standings behind Montgomery and Chula Vista, now find themselves one loss away from playoff elimination in the challenger bracket.
Castle Park will host second-seeded Imperial (15-10) in an elimination contest on Friday. Start time is 3:30 p.m.
“We’ve just got to focus on Friday’s game and on nothing else but Friday’s game,” Moya said bluntly .
Mt. Miguel, meanwhile, will play at fifth-seeded Mt. Carmel (10-21) on Friday, with the winner advancing to next Tuesday’s division semifinals.
The Matadors, who tied for second place in the Grossmont Valley League standings, opened the season with a 12-game losing streak but have since gone on a hot streak by winning 12 of their last 18 games.
The Spring Valley team has played like champions in their first two games out of the chute in post-season play.
The Matadors, who finished 11-17 in the regular season, shut out ninth-seeded Escondido Charter, 2-0, behind Brad Moreno’s two-hit, 10-strikeout performance in Tuesday’s play-in contest.
Ronk’s no-hit gem upped Mt. Miguel’s profile on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to just keep on what we’ve been doing,” Ronk said.
The no-hitter was the first for Ronk, either in high school or youth baseball. He said he started thinking about the possibility of throwing a no-hitter in the fifth inning.
“I just knew I had to keep throwing strikes and let my defense do the work,” he said.
Castle Park’s Eric King reached second base on an error in the bottom of the seventh inning with two down. But Ronk induced the next batter to ground out to third baseman Dominick Sawyer, thus ending the game and sealing Ronk’s name into prep baseball immortality.
Ronk struck out four Trojans. He also walked one and hit two batters, though managed to get out of each jam. He threw 88 pitches in the game.
Javier Vega started for Castle Park and yielded nine hits. Sawyer, Moreno and Cesar Preciado each scored single runs for the victorious Matadors.
Moreno and Sean Marx led the winners with three hits.
Around the horn
Of the 11 South County teams that qualified for this year’s playoff field, four remain undefeated through Wednesday and seven remain alive. Of the five Metro teams in action in Wednesday’s opening round of double-elimination play, three advanced to Friday’s second round without a loss.
South Bay League champion Montgomery, seeded fourth in Division I, edged fifth-seeded Cathedral Catholic, 5-4, in eight innings on Wednesday. Herman Alvarado was named the Aztecs’ Player of the Game after picking up the win in relief and producing in the game-winning run after being hit by a pitch.
Jose Antonio Gudino drove in two more runs for the Otay Mesa squad. He was one of three Aztecs to smack doubles in the game, joining Jesus Cerda and Mario Perez.
The Dons (20-11) left 10 men on base.
Montgomery advances to Friday's second round encounter against top-seeded Carlsbad (26-4).
In other games, Olympian (12-19) upset No. 2 seed Orange Glen, 6-0, to remain unbeaten in Division IV while San Ysidro (15-15) continued its winning ways with a 4-1 upset win over second-seeded Serra (22-4) in Division III.
Olympian (seeded seventh) and San Ysidro (seeded 11th) were the only two Metro teams to win play-in games on Tuesday.
Olympian’s Tre Brown, Victor Ramirez and Gavin Kumar each drove in one run in support of Bradley Roberto’s three-hit complete game effort in a 4-1 victory against 10th-seeded High Tech San Diego on Tuesday.
Abraham Villafana tossed a four-hit shutout on Wednesday for the Eagles, who also received two RBI from Alfredo Alvarez and two runs scored by Daniel Gutierrez.
San Ysidro’s Jose Magallon threw a complete game effort in subduing sixth-seeded Francis Parker on Tuesday; Octavio Arroyo spun a four-hitter on Wednesday with offensive support from Gilbert Suarez (two RBI) and Jose Garcia (two runs scored).
Olympian continues its championship quest Friday at sixth-seeded Southwest (15-10) while San Ysidro will play at 10th-seeded Canyon Crest Academy (13-18).
Both games are set for 3:30 p.m. starts.
Meanwhile, Mesa League co-champion Hilltop (21-11) joined Castle Park with a loss in Wednesday’s opening round after falling, 4-1, to fifth-seeded El Camino (16-14) in a Division II encounter.
The Lancers face top-seeded La Jolla Country Day (23-6) in an elimination game on Friday.
The eight-team Division V bracket opened play on Tuesday (12 teams qualified in each of the Division I-IV brackets). The shocker of the day was eighth-seeded Chula Vista High Tech’s 5-3 win over top-seeded Foothills Christian.
The Bruins (10-15) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Calvin Christian (14-9), but suffered a 7-5 setback for their first loss in the tournament.
Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Lutheran dropped a 6-1 decision at third-seeded Julian (16-4). The Knights (11-11) remained alive by defeating second-seeded Borrego Springs (18-6) by a score of 9-7 on Thursday.
Three teams earned byes to Wednesday’s opening round of play in the double-elimination bracket: Castle Park (No. 1 in Division IV), South Bay League champion Montgomery (No. 4 in Division I) and Mesa League co-champion Hilltop (No. 4 in Division II).
Six Metro teams competed in Tuesday’s play-in round: only two survived to play on Wednesday.
Chula Vista, this year’s South Bay League runner-up, received the No. 8 seed in the Division III bracket. Spartan coach Jim Westlund admitted his team might not have made the playoffs under the old format.
Chula Vista (16-14) dropped a 7-1 decision to the ninth-seeded Christian Patriots (20-10). “They got us today,” Westlund said. “It was nice to have a home playoff game. The kids played hard. They deserved to get the home playoff game.”
The Patriots, who finished third in the City Central League standings, feature four South County players on their roster: Bryce Jurries, Mitchell Griffin, Christian Meza and Will Hail.
Jurries and Griffin both played youth baseball at Sweetwater Valley Little League while Meza and Hail are Eastlake Little League alums.
Jurries, a sophomore, hurled a complete game three-hitter to pick up the win and propel Christian into Wednesday’s double-elimination opener against top-seeded San Dieguito Academy (24-6).
Jurries won three District 42 championships while at SVLL.
John Terrazas started for Chula Vista and was relieved by Nigel Tavares in the fourth inning. Artie Galceran drove in the Spartans’ lone run on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In other games on Tuesday, seventh-seeded Otay Ranch (7-5 loss to visiting Patrick Henry) and 11th-seeded Bonita Vista (11-3 loss to host Valhalla) both bowed out of the Division I playoffs while eighth-seeded Eastlake dropped a nine-inning 5-3 decision to ninth-seeded Mission Hills in the Division II bracket.
San Ysidro, seeded 11th in Division III, scored a 4-0 shutout win at sixth-seeded Francis Parker behind a complete game effort by Jose Magallon.
Also scoring an upset victory in Tuesday’s play-in round was seventh-seeded Olympian, which hung a 4-1 loss on 10th-seeded High Tech San Diego in Division IV. Tre Brown, Victor Ramirez and Gavin Kumar each drove in one run in support of Bradley Roberto’s three-hit complete game effort.
Championship games are May 30 at Cal State San Marcos (Division V); May 31 at the University of San Diego (Division I and Division III) and Cal State San Marcos (Division IV) and June 1 at USD (Open Division and Division II).