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San Diego Section Baseball 2-A Championship Preview : San Marcos and Mission Bay Meet Again

The last time Ron Layton participated in a San Diego Section baseball championship game, he was only 17 years old.

That was 19 years ago, and Layton remembers it well. He was playing second base for Crawford High School, which won the section championship with a 4-3 victory over Point Loma in eight innings.

He was part of a star-studded team that day, one that included California Angel catcher Bob Boone, former major-league infielder Jim Nettles and former big-league catcher Ed Herrmann.

Today, he will participate in his second section championship game. This time, he will be in the dugout as the coach of the San Marcos Knights, who meet No. 1-seeded Mission Bay at 11 a.m. at the University of San Diego.

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This time, Layton will be without Boone, Nettles and Herrmann. Instead, he has a team of few stars. It’s team that most--including Layton--did not figure would make it this far.

San Marcos struggled early in the season, losing three of its first four games in the Hilltop-Moose tournament. Mission Bay inflicted one of the losses, rolling to a 10-3 victory.

“We may not have any future major leaguers on this team, but these kids have worked as hard as anyone,” Layton said.

Layton’s team began its turnaround in the Lions tournament, played over spring break in early April. San Marcos came from behind to beat Torrey Pines and then avenged its earlier loss to Mission Bay with a 3-2 victory. The Knights trailed, 2-0, going into the bottom of the sixth inning before rallying.

Said Layton: “We knew that Mission Bay was one of the top teams in the county, and we figured if we could beat them, we could play with some people.”

San Marcos was one of the favorites in the Avocado League this season, but that wasn’t really saying much. Most figured that every team would have a chance in what was supposed to be a wide-open race. But Layton’s team took command of the race from the start and clinched the championship with two games remaining in the regular season.

The Knights beat Castle Park, 8-2, in the first round of the playoffs and eliminated University, 2-1, in eight innings to reach today’s final.

“We’ve been surprising to some people, but we’ve believed in ourselves all season long,” Layton said. “We’ve been talking CIF championship since Day 1.”

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Still, there is one more game to win. Most believe it will be another surprise if San Marcos beats Mission Bay. The Buccaneers (21-6) have been the highest-ranked 2-A team in the county all season.

Led by pitchers Rusty Filter and Scott Vonderlieth, Mission Bay rolled to the City Western League championship and then beat Hoover, 6-1, and Escondido, 6-3, in the playoffs. Filter pitched a two-hitter in the win over Hoover.

In last year’s playoffs, San Marcos beat Mission Bay, 6-1, in the first round. The Knights reached the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Hilltop. Two years ago, Mission Bay had the upper hand. In a 2-A semifinal, the Buccaneers routed the Knights, 18-1.


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