The most important people at Monday's Sac-Joaquin Section baseball championships likely won't be wearing gloves or swinging bats.
It'll be those in charge of counting pitches.
The double-elimination phase toward the end of this year's tournaments brings on the possibility of a second, "if necessary" game on Monday.
However, a California Interscholastic Federation pitch-count rule says if a pitcher throws 31 or more pitches in Game 1, he can't enter Game 2. He can throw a maximum of 110 pitches in a day — either in Game 1 or Game 2 or a mixture of both — but if he's to pitch in both games, he can't exceed 31 pitches in the opener.
"For a school our size, pitching is at a premium," said coach John deVisser of Ripon Christian High. "We have to be judicious on how we manage our pitch counts."
Really, it's a game of chess.
Does the team without a loss in the tournament start its ace in Game 1, knowing it likely won't have him in a winner-take-all Game 2 if the "if necessary" game becomes necessary? Or, do you start your No. 2 pitcher, and save your top pitcher for the latter innings of the opener or save him for Game 2 if your team gets off to a rough start?
"We had this discussion today," said deVisser, whose team plays Bradshaw Christian in the Division VI championship at 10 a.m. at the University of the Pacific. "You can’t plan for the second game. You have to treat Game 1 like it's do-or-die."
In other games Monday — all with the possibility of a second game immediately after — Beyer meets Christian Brothers at 4 p.m. at UOP in Division III and in Division VII, Big Valley Christian takes on Alpha Charter at Lodi's Tony Zupo Field. First pitch is 10 a.m.
Here is a look at Monday's championships:
Beyer vs. Christian Brothers, Div. III, UOP, 4 p.m.: The Patriots (22-9) haven't lost since May 4, and have outscored their foes 40-15 in the playoffs. Coach Dominic Duran says he plans to start San Jose State-bound Ben Polack. The senior came off the bench on Tuesday to record the final out of Beyer's 10-8 victory over Sierra. Beyer needs just one victory over the 24-6 Falcons to win its first section baseball title. Duran said he boasts a deep pitching staff that also includes T.J. Wheeler. "It's all hands on deck," he said. Christian Brothers fell 9-8 to Sierra to slide into the loser's bracket. In the opener, CB is likely to counter with Jacob Tucker (8-0, 0.37 ERA, 77 strikeouts, nine walks, regular-season). In addition to stout pitching, the Patriots are hitting their stride at the plate. It began at the start of their five-game winning streak with a 20-6 victory over Modesto in the final regular-season game. "Our guys have done a good job getting the pitch count up for starters and then getting into the bullpen by the fourth inning." Beyer's last appearance in the championship was in 2000, when it lost the Division I series to Davis Sr. Christian Brothers is defending its Division III title. It beat Oakdale for the crown last year.
Ripon Christian vs. Bradshaw Christian, Div. VI, UOP, 10 a.m.: All Ripon Christian (18-6-1) needs for the title is a victory over a Bradshaw Christian (17-10) team it beat on Tuesday. The Knights have not lost since April 2, and their pitching has a lot to do with it. Willem Hoekstra is the ace with a 10-0 record and 1.18 ERA. Jadon Vander Molen is 7-2 with a 1.68 ERA. Who's starting on Monday? Coach John deVisser isn't saying. "Coming out of the winner's bracket affords us more rope," he said of his team's flexibility when it comes to pitching in the first — and possibly — the title-clinching contest. "I don't have to throw my chips on the table." RC beat Vacaville Christian 10-0 in the section opener and Rio Vista 10-5. In Tuesday's game against Bradshaw, the Knights rolled out to a 7-0 lead in the second inning and held on. He figures both teams will make some necessary adjustments and the early part of Monday will be a "feeling out process." The Knights' only section title game appearance was in 2016 when they lost to Mariposa.
Big Valley Christian vs. Alpha Charter, Div. VII, Lodi's Tony Zupo Field, 10 a.m.: Big Valley Christian (17-7-1) lost in its only Section title game two years ago and will have to win twice on Monday for the crown. It faces an Alpha Charter team (18-6) that has former Major League Baseball manager Jerry Manuel on its staff. Big Valley boasts arguably the two best players from the Central California Athletic Alliance in most valuable player Tyler Meyer and hitter of the year J.T. Thompson. They serve as a one-two punch from the mound and the plate. "Those are our two big studs," coach Rick Countryman said. "They have carried our team with their arms and bats." Both switch off hitting and playing shortstop. Meyer is hitting .435 with two homers and 31 RBIs, while Thompson is hitting .563 with three homers and 38 RBIs. On the mound, Meyer is 8-2 with a 1.01 ERA and Thompson is 7-2 with a 1.75 ERA. On May 19, however, Alpha Charter beat the Lions 5-1 to knock BV into the loser's bracket. Big Valley had to win twice last week to reach Mondays finale. The Angels are from the Sacramento County town of Elverta, just north of downtown Sacramento. Manuel, who had a record of 704-684 with the Chicago White Sox (1998-2003) and New York Mets (2008-2010), is the charter school's head of baseball operations. His 2000 White Sox team won 95 games, but lost in the American League Division Series to the Seattle Mariners 3-0.