The Stanislaus District is guaranteed at least one finalist in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III baseball tournament.
Sixth-seeded Beyer High will face No. 5 Sierra in a semifinal game on Tuesday evening at the University of the Pacific's Klein Family Field. First pitch is at 7 p.m.
The stakes are simple: The winner advances to Monday's final, while the loser must fight its way out of the loser's bracket semifinal on Thursday against the winner of No. 1 Christian Brothers and No. 7 Rio Americano.
While Beyer, the Modesto Metro Conference co-champion and Sierra, home to Jack Thomson, the district's all-time winningest baseball coach, are among the most decorated and respected programs in the southern half of the section, both are without a blue banner.
The Patriots are looking for their fourth section final appearance and first since 2000, when they were swept in the Division I championship series by Davis of Yolo, 7-4 and 8-2.
Beyer also made D-I finals in 1985 (lost to Del Campo) and 1996 (lost to Jesuit).
Sierra seeks its first section final appearance since 2000, when the Timberwolves were thumped in the Division II championship game by Oakmont, 10-4.
The Patriots and Timberwolves haven't played one another in the MaxPreps era (2004), but they've occupied some of the same spaces -- district leader boards and regional headlines.
Beyer is led by T.J. Wheeler, the MMC's Offensive Player of the Year, Ben Polack, a San Jose State-bound pitcher, and Brady Cardozo, who leads the team in extra-base hits with 18.
Wheeler has reached base safely in all 30 games, while Polack struck out five in two innings of relief in a 14-7 victory over Rio Americano in the quarterfinal round.
Cardozo helped provide the offensive firepower. The junior was 2 for 4 with a double and four RBI, matching the four driven in by Derek Gonzalez.
The Patriots have won four straight.
Sierra is just as hot.
The Timberwolves have won four in a row, including playoff wins over Placer, Los Banos and Christian Brothers.
J.T. Ortiz-Martinez, Chase Sperbeck and Jared Bagley drove in two runs apiece for Sierra, which held off a late charge from top-seeded Christian Brothers in the quarterfinal round.
The Timberwolves led 8-3 in the top of the fifth inning, but needed Bagley to lock down the one-run victory -- and the save -- in the bottom of the seventh.
Sperbeck and fellow senior Jacob Peterson give Sierra direction. Sperbeck and Peterson are hitting .349 and .341, respectively. Peterson leads the team in extra-base hits (12) and victories (six), while Sperbeck tops the club in runs (26) and hits (29).
Now, a look at Tuesday's other playoff baseball games involving Stanislaus District teams:
Division IV: No. 6 Escalon will try to stave off elimination in a loser's bracket quarterfinal against No. 5 Capital Christian. Both teams dropped out of the winner's bracket with losses on Saturday. The Cougars, the Trans-Valley League co-champions, lost to No. 2 Woodland, 6-2. The elimination game is at 4 p.m. at McAuliffe Park, near Sacramento State.
Division V: No. 4 Argonaut will play No. 3 Colfax for a berth in the section final at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi at 7 p.m., while No. 1 Linden looks to keep its season alive in an elimination game with No. 2 Bear River at 4. The winner of that game will face the loser of Argonaut-Colfax on Thursday.
Division VI: No. 4 Ripon Christian will take on another top seed in the section semifinal. The Knights face No. 2 Bradshaw Christian at 7 p.m. at McAuliffe Ballpark. In the loser's bracket, No. 6 Modesto Christian draws No. 1 Rio Vista in an elimination game at 4.
Division VII: The Stanislaus District has two in the hunt at D-VII. Top-seeded Turlock Christian looks to continue its historic season with a win over No. 2 Alpha Charter in a 7 o'clock semifinal at Stagg High in Stockton. The loser will play the winner of the No. 3 Big Valley Christian-No. 4 Valley Christian (Tuesday, 4) in a loser's bracket semifinal on Thursday.
Division III semifinal
WHO: No. 6 Beyer vs. No. 5 Sierra
WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Pacific's Klein Family Field
COST: Adults, $7. Seniors, $5. Students, K-12, $5. Children under the age of 5, free.
AT STATE: Both programs looking for their first section final appearance since 2000. ... Loser drops into the loser's bracket final, where they'll play the winner of No. 1 Christian Brothers-No. 7 Rio Americano in an elimination game Thursday.
HISTORY: Haven't met in the MaxPreps era (2004). ... Beyer is a three-time section finalist, and the reigning MMC co-champion. ... Both teams searching for first section banner.