Coach John Emme said his Corona del Mar High baseball team could make a run at a CIF Southern Section Division 3 title.
The Sea Kings will have to start early.
Their road in the playoffs begins in the wild-card round, surprising Emme on Monday, when he learned of the section playoff pairings.
"There is one third-place team that isn't playing a wild-card game," said Emme, referring to Paramount of the San Gabriel Valley League. "Since we were ranked 10th in the [final] division poll and have played in the division's toughest league, the Pacific Coast League, I thought we'd get to open in the first round.
"But we're ready. We're healthy. We like where we stand."
The Sea Kings are glad to be back in the postseason after missing it last season for only the second time in 15 seasons under Emme.
Estancia and Sage Hill are two other local programs in the playoffs. Of those two, only the Eagles begin in the first round on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
Like CdM, Sage Hill is in wild-card action on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.
The Sea Kings (15-11) are at home against Beverly Hills (14-10), an at-large entry out of the Ocean League.
Sage Hill, the fourth-place team from the Academy League, earned an at-large entry into the Division 6 playoffs. The Lightning (11-11-1) travel to Anza to face Hamilton (15-6), the third-pace team from the Arrowhead League.
Estancia (17-8) hits the road to meet Savanna (19-8) in a Division 4 first-round game. The matchup features two second-place teams, the Eagles from the Orange Coast League and Savanna from the Orange League.
Nate Goellrich, in his first season as Estancia's coach, doesn't feel slighted that Savanna gets to play at home. The Eagles are in a better position than they were last season, when they began the playoffs in the wild-card round.
In that round is where the Eagles ended a long playoff winless drought. They beat host Anaheim, 5-3, and collected the program's first postseason victory in 19 years. The playoffs ended for Estancia in the first round when it lost at Palm Desert, which returned to the section finale, only to fail to defend its title.
Goellrich believes Estancia can get past the first round this time.
"We played a pretty tough schedule," said Goellrich, naming Orange Coast League opponents like Calvary Chapel (23-2), the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and league champ, which suffered only two losses, one to Estancia, and Laguna Beach (17-8), against which the Eagles won two of three.
"We also had a pretty easy week last week. We got some rest and we're pretty healthy."
Estancia pummeled Costa Mesa twice last week, outscoring its rival, 36-2, to sweep the Battle for the Bell series.
Goellrich cannot expect that kind of run production against Savanna. He said he's counting on Savanna to throw a standout in Ryan Hartman (9-2 record, 1.11 earned-run average), who is bound for Cal State Fullerton. His battery mate, AJ Kennedy, is another future Cal State Fullerton player.
The Eagles play small ball because they have three aces in Andres Hernandez, Steven Macias and Brody Henscheid that can shut down opponents.
Goellrich said either Hernandez (5-2, 1.50 ERA) or Macias (8-2, 1.54 ERA) will get the start against Savanna.
Emme said he's going with his No. 2 starter, Billy Macdonald (3-6, 3.57 ERA), against Beverly Hills.
The move to save his No. 1, Andrew McCormack (8-2, 1.68 ERA), who is bound for Stanford, is part of CdM's postseason plan.
"If you want to make a run, you have to have your ace going up against the other team's ace in the next round," said Emme, whose team, if it gets past Beverly Hills, advances to Friday's first-round game at Lancaster (15-10), the Golden League champion. "We don't want to go to a first-place team's field on Friday and have to face [its] No. 1 without our No. 1."
The Sea Kings faced University's ace in the regular-season finale without McCormack on the mound and it cost them the league's second playoff berth.
They lost at University, 4-1, and that's why the Sea Kings aren't at home in the first round. University finished second in league and CdM third.
"Last year, there were two teams from the Pacific Coast League in the championship," said Emme, referring to Beckman taking the Division 3 title against Woodbridge. "I think we can make a run here."