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Burroughs High at home, Providence on the road for baseball playoff openers

BURBANK — This year's Providence High baseball team accomplished something no other Pioneers squad has been able to do in more than a decade.

For the first time in 13 years, Providence earned a spot in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. However, getting to the postseason was a trek. The Pioneers had to rely on a coin flip to make it to the Division VI playoffs.

The reward for placing third in the Liberty League is that the Pioneers will travel to Hesperia Christian for a first-round game at 3:15 p.m. Thursday.

The only other local team to qualify for the playoffs was Burroughs, which received good news that it will be home against Tustin in a Division II wild-card game at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Providence (8-11), which is making its first appearance in the playoffs since 2001, has enjoyed an upswing in its program the last few years under Coach Steven Knez. Hesperia Christian (12-2) went 12-0 to win the Agape League championship.

In the race for the final playoff spot from the Liberty League, Pacifica Christian had to sweep Yeshiva in two games during the final week of the season to tie for third with the Pioneers. The Seawolves did just that, prompting a coin flip for the third spot. Luckily for Providence, it won the flip.

"We had just one goal this season, and that was to make the playoffs," said Knez, who's lineup includes just one senior, seven sophomores and one freshman. "We didn't try to win a league championship or anything like that, we just wanted to make it into the playoffs.

"Our guys are so young, I think they really don't understand the significance of making the playoffs after the school has missed going for so long. But it's not lost on us coaches, and we realize what an accomplishment it is."

If the Pioneers are successful in their opener, they would go up against likely Pasadena Poly (16-5), the No. 2 seed and Prep League champion, on May 27.

"[Hesperia Christian] went undefeated in league, but they really didn't play a lot of other games," Knez said. "They look like they are a young team like we are.

"Since the winner will probably take on Pasadena Poly in the next round, we hoping that they might look past us and maybe not throw their best pitcher, to keep him for Pasadena Poly."

Burroughs (14-13) also had to fight to get into the postseason. The Indians beat rival Burbank on Thursday to finish fourth in the Pacific League and earn the final automatic bid from the league.

In its wild-card game, the Indians thought they were going to square off against a host Righetti, which was their opponent when the parings were first released Monday morning. But the Division II bracket was amended, changing Burroughs' opponent to Tustin (15-15), the No. 4 team from the Empire League.

"That is a really nice change for us," Burroughs first-year Coach Craig Sherwood said. "Any time you can have a home game for the playoffs it's a good thing."

"All I do know that when you get to this level you're good and you deserve to be here. You have to play who you play, and there's nothing you can do about it but play."

A win would put the Indians into a first-round game Thursday against No. 1-seeded Great Oak (20-5), which won the Southwestern League championship.

"I see we have a No. 1 seed if we win," Sherwood said. "Great, bring it on. You have to play everybody if you're eventually going to win it anyway." 


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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