Sac-Joaquin Section Baseball, Division I South
First round/today at Klein Family Field in Stockton
West-Tracy (18-9) vs. Beyer (20-7), 4 p.m.
Golden Valley (17-9) vs. Tracy (21-5), 7 p.m.
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Lodi (17-9) vs. Buhach Colony (23-4), 4 p.m.
Davis (19-8) vs. St. Mary's-Stockton (17-10), 7 p.m.
If the teams were seeded ... No. 1 Buhach Colony, No. 2 St. Mary's, No. 3 Beyer, No. 4 Tracy
In the second round ... Look for Buhach Colony and St. Mary's in the opening round of double-elimination Monday, with Beyer playing Tracy in the other. The losers come right back Tuesday, while the winners get a day's rest before playing Wednesday.
If Buhach Colony doesn't win, it's because ... The Thunder was knocked out in the first round and unable to exploit its deep pitching staff -- the best in the southern half of the section. They have too much pitching not to win the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
St. Mary's is a threat because ... Of Michael Rivera's bat (five HRs, 35 RBIs) and the fact the Rams played the toughest schedule of any team -- in any division -- in the section. The Rams fell to Elk Grove in last year's section final, so they have plenty of experience.
What is the significance of the "suicide" first round? ... Everyone's vulnerable in the opening games, with the format benefiting teams with a stud ace over those with two or more strong starters. None could benefit more than Golden Valley, which has Duke-bound ace Trevor Cesar (7-1, 0.77 ERA) but is questionable beyond that.
The dark horse ... Beyer has strong starters (Kyle Barrett 9-1, 1.38 ERA; and Dom Rossi 8-0, 2.54 ERA), a closer (Vince Roberts) and dominated Davis last week, so it's on a roll. What makes the Patriots a threat, however, is the ability to score in bunches or manufacture runs one at a time. The top four in the lineup, particularly leadoff man Joey Roy, will be key to Beyer's bid for a title.
What team relies most on one player? ... Golden Valley will go as far as Trevor Cesar carries it with his arm, glove and bat (.387, 5 HRs, 29 RBIs). He led the Cougars to the southern final a year ago.
Who benefits from the new schedule? ... The playoffs used to open Saturday, with the winners using No. 2 pitchers in Monday's second round. Today's winners could bring an ace back Monday on four days rest, a huge edge. No team would benefit more than Beyer, which could pitch four-year ace Kyle Barrett twice to earn its way into the winners' bracket final next Wednesday.
Who benefits from the 10-inning rule? ... Pitchers are limited to 10 innings in a Monday-through-Sunday week, so depth is always an issue. The eventual champion will play at least 21 innings next week, and one could play 35. Buhach Colony's staff of junior Dylan Floro (8-1, 0.69 ERA, 105 Ks in 61 innings), Brett Mooneyham (Stanford signee; 8-1, 0.64) and Justin Koehler (Cal State Fullerton; 2-2, 0.98) was built for next week.
Sac-Joaquin Section Baseball, Division IV
First round/today at McAuliffe Field in Sacramento
Rio Linda (14-13) vs. Oakdale (21-3), 4 p.m.
River City (14-12) vs. Placer (15-7), 4 p.m.
East Union (12-10) vs. Center (17-10), 7 p.m.
Manteca (15-11) vs. Bear River (16-8), 7 p.m.
If the teams were seeded ... No. 1 Oakdale, No. 2 Bear River, No. 3 Placer, No. 4 Manteca
In the next round ... Defending section champ Oakdale can expect Placer in a best-of-three set, which starts Saturday, while surprising East Union should meet Bear River. The final is a winner-take-all affair on Memorial Day. The drawn-out schedule allows an ace to throw three of his team's four games, even with the section's 10-inning rule for pitchers.
If Oakdale doesn't win, it's because ... The Mustangs' foe in the section final got a near-perfect outing from its pitcher. Oakdale is made for these best-of-three formats, with a deep, quality pitching staff and a lineup that is strong from top to bottom. In baseball, any team can beat another with a hot pitcher in a one-game final.
Bear River isn't as good as last year because ... While Vince Viola (9-1, 0.88 ERA, four shutouts) has won six in a row and has the ability to beat anyone, the Bruins are lacking a quality No. 2 starter and have an erratic offense. After last year's appearance in the final, Bear River should have upgraded its schedule in anticipation of another playoff run -- but the Bruins didn't make such a move.
The top pitching staff is ... Led by Oakdale's Justin Jones (9-0, 0.55 ERA, 91 Ks in 51 innings), a junior lefty who has been nearly flawless. He's backed by sophomore Nick VanderTuig (4-1, 1.17 ERA) and Justin Boyd (6-1, 2.52 ERA), who are good enough to be aces on a number of teams and give the Mustangs three starters for a three-game series.
Can the a VOL team spring an upset? ... East Union has the best opportunity, because it boasts the powerful duo of Wade Morten (.493, eight homers, 31 RBIs) and Teddy Anderson (six homers, 26 RBIs). EU got a nice draw in Center, the weakest of the three champs, and the Lancers have been able to pound average pitchers.
Sac-Joaquin Section Softball, Division IV
First round/today at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton
Foothill (14-13) vs. East Union (23-4), 5 p.m.
Dixon (14-10) vs. Whitney (17-11), 5 p.m.
Ceres (18-9) vs. Rio Linda (26-1), 5 p.m.
Sierra (17-9) vs. Bear River (25-2), 5 p.m.
First-round winners, 7 p.m.
If the teams were seeded ... No. 1 East Union, No. 2 Bear River,
No. 3 Rio Linda, No. 4 Ceres
In the second round ... EU, last year's section runner-up, will run into Whitney in the first phase of the double-elimination portion of the tournament, while defending champ Bear River can expect to see Ceres.
If East Union doesn't win ... It's because the bats went cold -- again. The nature of the game is the winner gets one or two runs, while the loser goes quietly. That's how Bear River emerged from the losers' bracket to beat EU twice in the final round a year ago. The Bruins, with the better offense, could do it again.
Bear River could repeat because ... Kelley Shepard (22-2, 0.64 ERA, nine shutouts) is the best pitcher not named Erin Arevalo and the Bruins average seven runs per game. Six players bat over .350, including Jenna Werms (.400, 32 RBIs).
The dark horse is ... Ceres, but it will take a career week from pitcher Vaneza Hoover. She can beat anyone, having no-hit East Union in April -- but she can be erratic as well. The Bulldogs have the most interesting opener, since no one knows what to make of Rio Linda.
What's wrong with 27-1 Rio Linda? ... The team emerged from a mediocre league with a great record. EU and Bear River are proven commodities, but people will have to see it to believe when it comes to Rio Linda. The Knights' success will ride on Alex Knight (26-1, 0.25 ERA; 247 Ks in 171 innings).
If you see one game ... Make sure it has EU's Erin Arevalo (23-4, 0.15 ERA, 428 Ks in 193 innings) in it. The Georgia-bound star is leading the state in strikeouts for the second year in a row and is in the best shape of her life. She's taken the challenge of becoming a D-I college pitcher to heart, and expect nothing less this week as she tries to finish her stay at EU with a title.
-- RICHARD T. ESTRADA