Division V Baseball
(Tony Zupo Field, Lodi)
Ripon Chr. (16-10) at Central Catholic (23-4), 4 p.m.
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Escalon (20-6) vs. Bret Harte (19-6), 7 p.m.
Calaveras (16-8) at Gustine (15-8), 4 p.m.
Linden (13-9) vs. Hughson (18-8), 7 p.m.
If the teams were seeded: No. 1 Central Cath., No. 2 Hughson, No. 3 Bret Harte, No. 4 Escalon
In the next round: First round is single elimination, so losers go home and the winners go to the best-of-three semifinals before a winner-take-all final May 26. ... Look for Central and Bret Harte in one semi -- pitting the teams with the deepest pitching staffs -- and Hughson vs. Calaveras in the other.
What's the significance of single elimination vs. best-of-3?: A stud pitcher can single-handedly get a team to the semifinals, but it takes two quality starters to get out of the second round. ... The suicide round is ideal for Gustine and Calaveras, as both boast an elite hurler: Gustine's Ben Griset (3-0, no earned runs, 50 Ks in last three starts) and Calaveras' Steve Frater (7-3, 1.34 ERA, 58 Ks).
Central is favored because: The Raiders have won consecutive state titles, awarded by CalHiSports.com, and are again No. 1 in the state in their division. They are led by this division's top player -- freshman center fielder Billy Flamion bats .459 with five homers and 35 RBIs, and he has the power to hit one out of Zupo. Central (14-0 in last six weeks) has a team ERA of 1.77, giving up only 17 extra-base hits in 25 games.
If Central doesn't win, it's likely because: Escalon is playing its best ball and is made for a three-game set with Jimmy Zepeda (18 innings, four earned runs, 18 Ks in his last three starts), John Lopez (5-1, 1.33 ERA, 61 Ks in 51 innings) and Charlie McDonald (7-0, 1.99 ERA). The top bracket has three of the top four teams -- Central, Escalon and Bret Harte.
The dark horse: Bret Harte has a potent tandem in Trevor Miller (9-1, 0.97 ERA, 83 strikeouts) and Travis Goldberg (7-1, 1.75 ERA) -- that's crucial since the second round is best-of-three and CC is a likely foe.