The junior college state championship baseball tournament begins today for 32 teams, including Western State Conference representatives Pierce and Ventura.
Pierce (28-6-1), the WSC champion and the top-seeded team in the Southern California regional, will open its best-of-three first-round series at 2 p.m. against visiting San Bernardino Valley (21-16), seeded 16th.
Ventura (24-14) will visit second-seeded Cerritos (27-8-1). Right-hander Sam Arroyo (6-3) will start today for Ventura.
The Pirates are led by catcher Mitch King, who has signed with Texas Tech, and second baseman David Frazier, who is batting .403.
For Pierce, which has not played a game since the WSC regular-season finale April 25, all-conference freshman left-hander Mike Eby (8-1) will take the mound against San Bernardino Valley (19-10), the Foothill Conference runner-up.
Right-hander Eric Raba (10-0) will start for Pierce in Saturday's 11 a.m. game. Right-hander Chris Brown is scheduled to pitch Saturday's second game, if necessary.
Right fielder Joey Arnold, the WSC player of the year, and center fielder Erik Martinez, who is batting .416, lead Pierce. The Brahmas also boast the top three in the WSC in runs batted in: Robby Welles (25), Brian Smith (22) and Jason Cohen (21). A key player in the tournament could be second baseman Paul Geller (.373 average), who recorded a win and three saves during conference play as a closer.
Pierce was the surprise team of the region last year when it rebounded from a mediocre start to win a share of the WSC title and advanced to the regional final.
This season, the Brahmas never dropped out of first place in the WSC and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the state. Pierce is ranked fourth in the state; the top three teams are participating in the Northern California regional.
First-round winners advance to the regional final May 15-17.