The championship game of the 39th Dick Windemuth Tournament isn't until Thursday, but today's opener between Davis and Sierra could play a large role in deciding who plays for the title.
Davis (9-1) is The Bee's No. 3 large school team and is unbeaten in the Modesto Metro Conference, and No. 5 Sierra (8-2) is perfect in the Valley Oak League.
Each of the 12 teams will play three games over the next three days, then everyone plays Thursday to decide the final placings.
Davis and Sierra are co-favorites in one bracket, and No. 4 Pitman (9-3) likely is to battle VOL contender Sonora (7-4) and No. 2 small school Hughson (7-3) in the opposite six-team bracket.
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The key games in the latter bracket are today (Pitman vs. Sonora at 9:30 a.m. at Downey) and Tuesday (Hughson vs. Pitman at 12:15 p.m. at Downey). Sierra plays at Davis at 9:30 a.m.
The tournament features some of the Stanislaus District's leading players, including the top hitter (Davis' Jimmy Myers, .545), top run producer (Pitman's Ian Fregoso, 17) and the winningest pitchers (Davis' duo of Tim McCoy and Jake Cisco, four apiece).
CENTRAL IS FAVORED, at Atwater -- Central Catholic (8-1), The Bee's No. 1 small school, is the favorite in the 49th Atwater-Winton Lions Easter Tournament. Central averages nine runs per game and has won eight in a row since losing to Davis 6-4 in its opener.
With a deep staff and freshman Billy Flamion in center field -- he saved a win last week with an acrobatic catch and hit a grand slam in a second win -- Central is one of those rare small-school teams capable of competing with large schools in a four-day event.
Action starts at 10:30 a.m. today at Fireman's Park in downtown Atwater and goes through Thursday with four games each day.
ESCALON A TARGET, at Newman -- Lacking pitching depth, Escalon is counting on offense to carry it through the Orestimba Tournament. Six teams open two days of pool play today with the final games Wednesday.
Escalon has ace Jimmy Zepeda (3-0, 0.78 ERA) but lacks a reliable No. 2 starter, so it's crucial for Leighton Pangilinan (.310, 12 RBIs, two homers) and his teammates to put runs on the board.
TC'S DAVIS ON DECK, at Denair -- All-District performer Eli Davis makes Turlock Christian a contender as the Denair Easter Tournament continues. Davis is hitting .480 with three homers and is 2-1 with a 1.25 ERA.
ON THE ROAD, at Stockton -- Johansen, Oakdale, Turlock and East Union head north today for the Tokay Easter Tournament at Stockton Ballpark, home of the Class-A Stockton Ports. One of the top games has Oakdale, The Bee's No. 2 large school, facing Johansen Wednesday at 1 p.m.