This is the game Barbara Cassel has been silently dreading.
The mother of Kennedy High pitcher Jack Cassel and Chatsworth infielder Matt Cassel knew family harmony was in jeopardy when she saw the pairings for the City Section 4-A Division baseball playoffs.
Top-seeded Chatsworth and fourth-seeded Kennedy were in the same bracket, meaning at least one son wouldn't make it to the championship June 11 at Dodger Stadium.
Now family loyalty will be tested. Jack, a senior, will pitch against his sophomore brother today in a 3 p.m. semifinal at Pierce College.
Second-seeded Sylmar plays sixth-seeded El Camino Real at Birmingham High in the other semifinal, also at 3.
A volatile atmosphere was simmering in the Cassel household even as the family prepared for the quarterfinals Tuesday.
"It's been getting tense, I could feel it," Barbara Cassel said. "I was really worried about the [semifinal], but now I think I'm going to be OK with it."
Jack helped alleviate the pressure by spending Wednesday night at Vikki Garland's home. Garland is the mother of former Kennedy pitcher Jon Garland, one of Jack's best friends.
"I was thinking about suggesting something but Jack came up with it," Barbara said. "It's fine with me."
Matt was sensitive to the tension as well. He skipped a family celebration dinner Tuesday night.
"I'm just planning to stay out of [Jack's] way," Matt said. "We're probably not going to talk much until after the game."
The Cassels have been through this before. Chatsworth (28-3) split two Northwest Valley Conference games with Kennedy (24-8) in April.
Jack pitched the first game and hit a grand slam in a 11-8 Golden Cougar victory, handing Chatsworth its first loss of the season. Matt gained a measure of revenge the next day by hitting two singles and scoring three runs in Chatsworth's 14-4 victory.
Both players have had big seasons. Matt is batting .430 with seven home runs and 42 runs batted in. Jack is hitting .455 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs.
After a midseason pitching slump in which his earned-run average swelled by three runs, Jack has settled down, allowing only 11 hits and four runs in his last 21 innings.
Big brother will pitch Matt just like in their first meeting, when he held him hitless.
"I'll bust him inside," Jack said. "That's my weakness and I know it's his too."
El Camino Real (17-9) vs. Sylmar (22-6) at Birmingham High--Two of the top City Section teams in the region have not met since the 1991 quarterfinals, when Sylmar scored eight runs in the fourth inning en route to an 8-2 victory.
But that was before El Camino Real won three of the last five 4-A titles, and it was the last time Sylmar reached the semifinals.
Sylmar is trying to return to the championship for the first time since 1973. The Spartans will probably use both of their starting pitchers--Mario Pacheco and Ivan Hernandez.
In a 4-3 victory over Banning on Tuesday, Pacheco (7-3, 3.96 earned-run average) threw the first 3 1/3 innings before getting into trouble and being relieved by Hernandez (11-2, 1.52).
The Spartans need solid performances by both pitchers to slow down El Camino Real, which has scored 21 runs in 12 playoff innings.
The Conquistadores will likely also pitch by committee. Junior left-hander Ryan Gunches was the most effective in a 9-8 victory over Carson on Tuesday, not allowing a run in 2 2/3 innings.
For the 26th time in 27 years, the 4-A champion will come from the San Fernando Valley. San Pedro defeated Poly in the 1992 title game.
This is the fourth time in six years that all four semifinalists are from the Valley.
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Home runs: 7
Home runs: 8