Parity seemed to rule in this year’s CIF baseball playoffs

Photo by Phillip Brents Granite Hills High School junior Camden Sos earned honors as the Most Valuable Player at this year’s San Diego Padres High School All-Star Game

Parity? No top-seeded team won a division championship in this year’s San Diego Section baseball championships. In fact, just one top-seeded team even advanced to the divisional championship game.

Grossmont Hills League champion Granite Hills received the No. 1 seed in the Open Division and won its opening three playoff games before being smacked by No. 2 La Costa Canyon, 10-3, in eight innings in the division final.

St. Augustine (17-11-2) received top seed among Division I teams but went out in two games following back-to-back losses to No. 8 Cathedral Catholic (10-7) and No. 5 Grossmont (7-6).

Francis Parker (26-7) received the No. 1 seed in Division II. The Lancers lost, 3-0, to eighth-seeded Christian in their first game, came back to win their next two games in double-elimination play, including eliminating Christian, 7-3, in the fourth round, before finally biting the dust in an 11-7 setback to fourth-seeded Canyon Crest Academy (24-8) in fifth-round action.

Rancho Buena Vista (20-13) continued the trend in the Division III playoffs by dropping its first game to an eighth-seeded team, this time Metro-South Bay League champion Mar Vista. The teams rematched in the fifth round with the Mariners prevailing by a score of 5-2 after the Longhorns forced the “if necessary” game with clutch 6-1 victory.

Top-seeded Oceanside (23-9) lasted four games in the Division IV bracket, winning its opening two games before being eliminated with two losses to fifth-seeded Fallbrook (20-15). Pacific Ridge, top-seeded in Division V, lost, 6-1, to ninth-seeded Army-Navy Academy in its playoff opener. The Firebirds (15-9) bounced back with elimination wins over Ocean View Christian Academy (9-3) and Army-Navy Academy (12-2) but ended the season with a 5-3 loss to fourthseeded Lincoln (16-14) in the fifth round.

Granite Hills head coach James Davis said he was not surprised by the outcome of the section playoffs, with top seeds having difficulty navigating their way to championship games.

“It’s always going to be competitive,” Davis said. “San Diego is one of the best spots for baseball. There’s a lot of talent. There’s a lot of good baseball players.”

“Everyone gave everything,” Eagles shortstop Camden Sos said in retrospect. “There was no pressure on us being the No. 1 seed. We had the mentality to go out and win every game.”

Five second-seeded teams did advance to the championship round. Besides LCC, Eastlake (Division I), Montgomery (Division II), Olympian (Division III) and Mission Bay (Division IV) all managed to successfully navigate their double-elimination brackets to reach the championship game.

Three — LCC, Eastlake and Mission Bay — won division titles. Mission Bay (22-11) was the only team to advance to the championship round with three consecutive victories. All the other teams had to play an extra game to avoid premature elimination. La Costa Canyon (24-11) lost its opening game, 11-9, to seventh-seeded Madison but bounced back with four consecutive wins,
including two straight over third-seeded Torrey Pines (23-12), to finally earn the right to meet top-seeded Granite Hills in the Open Division final.

The Mavs made it five consecutive wins to claim the division title with a 10-3 defeat of the Eagles (24-7) in eight innings. Eastlake (22-11) appeared to be humming along in the Division I bracket before suffering an 11- 7 loss to seventh-seeded Carlsbad in fourth round play on May 24. The Titans rebounded with a walk-off 3-2 win over the Lancers the next day to meet Grossmont for the division title, winning 7-6 in an 11-inning marathon to cap a series of three games in three days.

Metro-Mesa League champion Montgomery (22-8) won its opening two games against North County opposition, defeating seventh-seeded Mission Hills, 3-2, in nine innings before edging third-seeded Del Norte, 2-1, in second round play on May 20. Del Norte (24-9) countered with a 2-0 win in fourth round play, forcing the Aztecs into a double-elimination game with both teams sporting one loss. Montgomery won, 2-0, to advance to the championship game against Canyon Crest Academy.

Both Mar Vista (23-12) and Olympian (16-17-1) had to play into the fifth round to meet each other in an all-Metro Conference championship game on May 26 — a replay of the 2014 Division IV final. Mar Vista proved to be the Division III bracket buster with two wins over top-seeded Rancho Buena Vista while second-seeded Olympian needed a pair of wins over 10th-seeded Maranatha Christian (19-14) to advance to the final.

Mission Bay defeated seventh-seeded Calexico (23-8) in its first game, 7-4, before topping third-seeded San Ysidro (21-11) by a score of 4-1 in the second round. San Ysidro eliminated Calexico, 8-7, in a third-round game to rematch with the Bucs in a fourth-round contest that went to Mission Bay by an 11-1 score.

The Bucs edged fifth-seeded Fallbrook, 5-4, to win the Division IV championship. Palo Verde Valley, the 10th seed in Division V, proved to be the ultimate bracket buster in this year’s tournament by defeating No. 7 seed St. Joseph Academy (12-7) in the single-elimination round, second-seeded Coastal Academy (14-9) in the
opening round of double-elimination play, third-seeded Liberty Charter (15-8), sixth-seeded Calipatria (14-10) and Lincoln in the final round.

The Yellow Jackets, who suffered through a six-game losing streak in midseason, eventually concluded their season with a final 11-22 record and an appearance in the Southern California regional playoffs.

Next level

A total of 10 San Diego Section baseball teams were invited to this year’s Southern California regional playoffs, including Open Division champion La Costa Canyon, Open Division runner-up Granite Hills, Open Division semifinalists Torrey Pines and Rancho Bernardo, Division I champion Eastlake, Division I runner-up Grossmont, Division II semifinalist Francis Parker, Division III champion Mar Vista, Division IV champion Mission Bay and Division V champion Palo Verde Valley.

Torrey Pines, seeded second, defeated top-seeded Etiwanda, 19-8, to win the Division II regional championship.

Both San Diego Section Open Division finalists La Costa Canyon and Granite Hills advanced to the Division I regional, but both teams dropped their opening game. LCC received the No. 3 seed but fell, 5-1, to sixth-seeded Huntington Beach while Granite Hills, which drew the No. 8 seed, ended its season with a 5-2 loss at top-seeded JSerra Catholic.

Top-seeded Eastlake was joined by two other section teams in the Division III field: sixth-seeded Grossmont and seventh-seeded Francis Parker. Eastlake bounced eighth-seeded La Sierra, 9-1, in the opening quarterfinals before ending its season with an 8-2 loss to fifth-seeded Newport Harbor, the eventual division champion.

Grossmont upset third-seeded La Quinta, 5-3, in the quarterfinals before ending its season with a 6-2 loss at second-seeded Oaks Christian, which had eliminated Francis Parker by a score of 6-5 in the previous round. Senior Barron Zamora drove in three runs in Grossmont’s win over La Quinta. He finished the season with a 0.352 hitting average in 36 games with 28 runs scored, 27 RBI, 11 doubles and seven home runs. Senior Grant MacArthur led Granite Hills with a 0.440 hitting average and nine home runs while tying classmate Hunter Beamon (0.380) for the team lead with 24 RBI.

“We lost five starters, but we have some good guys coming back,” Davis assessed. “We have a lot of depth in our program. But it’s going to be a challenge to win 24 games again and play at such a high level. But I think we can.”

Grossmont finished its season 16-19-1 with a number of close calls, including the loss in the CIF championship game.

“We battled a tough 11 innings, everyone played their hearts out,” said junior Justin Tucker, who doubled twice and drove in three runs. “Obviously, we were trying to score to win it. Both pitchers were tough in the extra innings. Give credit to Eastlake. It was a great game.”

And, overall, a noteworthy season.