Trying to predict the eventual champion in the Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs is like hoping to win the lottery. Luck is definitely involved. There are favorites, but in a single-elimination tournament loaded with top pitchers, nothing is guaranteed.
Orange Lutheran was awarded the No. 1 seed on Monday when the 32-team bracket was announced. Cypress is No. 2, La Mirada No. 3 and Huntington Beach No. 4. But there are plenty of obstacles ahead and plenty of top first-round matchups for Thursday.
How about JSerra, the runner-up in the Trinity League, traveling to face Bay League champion Mira Costa and ace Kyle Karros. How about a surging Vista Murrieta, the Southwestern League champion, taking on Ayala and ace Joe Naranjo. How about Corona, the Big VIII League champion, facing defending Division 2 champion Etiwanda. How about Harvard-Westlake, the No. 1 seed last season, facing the team that stunned the Wolverines, Valencia, at Valencia.
How about Cypress having to face Anaheim Servite, the Trinity League No. 4 team that owns two wins over La Mirada.
“You’ve got to be ready to play any type of game in any type of environment against any type of opponent,” JSerra coach Brett Kay said. “It’s really about playing well at the right time, who gets the bounces, who gets the calls.”
Orange Lutheran will face San Clemente in its opener on Thursday at Hart Park. Coach Eric Borba has the choice of two top pitchers -- Max Rajcic or Christian Rodriguez.
As good as some of the first-round matchups are, the second round could be even better. And because Division 1 is starting on a Thursday this season, coaches could come back with their No. 1 pitchers on four days’ rest the following Tuesday.
In softball Norco is the No. 1 seed and drew a first-round bye in Division 1. The Cougars will play the winner of Vista Murrieta-Riverside Poly.
Norco is 27-1. Junior pitcher Sarah Willis has been dominant all season with an 18-1 record and 1.03 ERA. Temecula Great Oak is seeded No. 2. Corona Santiago, the only team to defeat Norco, is No. 3 and Grand Terrance is No. 4.