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Birmingham starts out as No. 1 baseball team in City Section

Birmingham starts out as No. 1 baseball team in City Section
Catcher Johnny Tincher, left, and pitcher Albert Garcia return for two-time defending City Section champion Birmingham. (Eric Sondheimer)

City Section baseball has been pretty consistent the last two seasons. Birmingham has won the Open Division championship, with West Valley League rivals El Camino Real, Cleveland and Chatsworth joining the Patriots in the semifinals.

All four should be back in contention again this season, though the Patriots start out as No. 1 in the City Section thanks to return of All-City catcher Johnny Tincher and All-City pitcher Albert Garcia. Add to that, Birmingham returns its starting shortstop, Alex Ballesteros, its starting third baseman, Kevin Olmos,and its starting first baseman, Erik Rivas. There’s also a talented freshman in outfielder Domenik Cervantes.

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El Camino Real looks best positioned to challenge the Patriots because of their outstanding pitcher duo of Adam Christopher and Cole Kitchen. The addition of Chatsworth transfer Andy Ambriz, a talented sophomore third baseman, adds to a strong hitting attack that also features first baseman Joey Klein and catcher Parker Tuszynski.

Teams better beat Cleveland this season, because the Cavaliers’ team is made up almost entirely of juniors, many of whom proved their ability as sophomores. Seven starters are back, including pitcher Chris Lozano, infielder Alec Garcia and outfielder Adrian Gonzalez. Pitcher Devon Marton will be a solid No. 2 starter.

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Sidearmer Gabe Achucarro is back for his senior year at Chatsworth, something hitters won’t be happy about.

San Fernando and improved Sylmar team should fight out in the Valley Mission League. Palisades has the quality pitching to win the Western League. Banning returns left-handed ace Anthony Joya, who had a 1.56 ERA as a freshman.

The season begins on Saturday with tournament games. The Open Division and Division I finals will be held May 25 at Dodger Stadium. The Division II and III finals will be June 1 at a site to be announced.

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