Second place a mixed bag for locals

GLENDALE — When the CIF Southern Section Division II baseball playoff pairings were released, neither Hoover High Coach Joe Cotti or St. Francis' Brian Esquival was surprised to find that their teams would be headed for the road for today's wild-card round.

Crescenta Valley's Phil Torres and Flintridge Prep's Buzz Cook, however, shared completely contrasting views when they found out the first-round fortunes of their second-place squads.

"We're really fortunate that we're not in the wild-card mix and we're fortunate that we're at home," said Torres, whose Falcons await a wild-card winner and will host a first-round Division II game on Thursday. "There's a lot of second-place teams that just lost that wrong game."

Flintridge Prep will take to the road, however, as the Prep League second-place finisher will travel to face Vasquez, which took second in the Desert Mountain League and is the fifth-ranked team in the final Division VI poll.

"Can't say I'm happy about it," Cook said of the pairing.

Cotti and Esquival, on the other hand, are simply rolling with the punches after their teams clinched fourth-place playoff berths in their final games of the season to get into the Division II playoffs.

"We expected to be on the road," Cotti said. "We're excited. We'll just go out and play our game and see what happens."

Hoover (9-16), which took fourth in the Pacific League, is headed to play Bellflower (16-8) today at 3:15 p.m. Bellflower finished third in the Suburban League, just a game out of a first-place tie.

"We have confidence," said Cotti, whose team is led by Anthony Cuccinelo and Cameron Doran. "We're gelling as a team. We'll go out and play our game and give 'em what we've got and leave it all on the field."

Should Hoover make it out of Bellflower with a win, it will advance to Thursday's first round to take on Citrus Belt League champion Redlands, the No. 3 seed.

While the Tornadoes return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, St. Francis is back in the mix after a one-year hiatus.

The Golden Knights (14-13), after taking fourth in the Mission League, will face off with host Peninsula (19-8-1), which took second in the Bay League.

"[That's a] pretty good ballclub there," Esquival said. "They come from a pretty good league."

Peninsula has two good arms in Dillon Rozas (1.78 earned-run average) and Christian Torres (2.22 ERA), while Esquival will give the start to Joey Malham, who's been his ace all season.

"I think we're playing pretty well right now," said Esquival, whose team has won three straight. "The kids are confident. We're happy to be here and we're gonna go out and play some ball."

A St. Francis victory would put it up against Sierra League champion Chino Hills on Thursday.

Elsewhere in the Division II wild-card round, Mayfair (15-7), the co-league champion in the Suburban League, will host Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (16-11), a Mission League at-large entrant, today. Crescenta Valley (23-4) will welcome the winner.

"Notre Dame, if they win, they're from the best league around, and Mayfield played us last year and we beat them by one run," Torres said. "Whoever wins will be a tough game."

Torres said he will attempt to push the 3:15 p.m. start back, but it depends on the opposition agreeing. As for his starter, he said he's still deciding, likely between Elliott Surrey, Troy Mulcahey and Kyle Murray. Crescenta Valley, which would play either Glendora or a wild-card winner in the second round, was one of just four Division II second-place teams to get a first-round game and all are hosting wild-cards, as eight second-place teams drew wild-card pairings.

Prep's Cook has tabbed Royce Park to take the mound and lead the Rebels (14-9), second-place Prep League finishers, against Vasquez (17-3).

"Whenever Royce pitches, I feel we could probably beat anybody provided we play defense behind him," Cook said. "If we don't play defense, it's not gonna matter who's pitching. I think that's the key for us."

If Prep is to pull of the upset it would face either Hamilton or Southlands Christian in Tuesday's second round.

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