County teams brace for tough postseason
A division-by-division look at the county teams in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, for which brackets were released Monday:
Division 1 — Defending champion: J.W. North of Riverside
Top seeds: 1. Orange Lutheran (21-4 record, Trinity League); 2. Mater Dei (21-5, Trinity); 3. JW North (24-5, Big VIII); 4. L.B. Poly (24-6, Moore)
Outlook: The top-seeded Lancers seem to have the pitching, hitting and team speed required to win the championship of this challenging division. On the opposite half of the bracket is Trinity League rival Mater Dei, which is led by 2011 county player of the year Ty Moore. An excellent first-round matchup: El Dorado at Tesoro, Friday.
Division 2 — Defending champion: Mission Viejo
Top seeds: 1. Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood (23-4-1, Mission); 2. Pacifica (23-5, Empire); 3. Alemany of Mission Hills (21-6-1, Mission); 4. Cypress (24-6, Empire)
Outlook: Pitching-rich Harvard Westlake looks like the team to beat, but those top two Empire League teams, Pacifica and Cypress, have plenty of pitching and offense to go deep into this division. Sea View champion Mission Viejo won six of its final seven nonleague games.
Division 3 — Defending champion: Beckman
Top seeds: 1. Bonita of La Verne (26-2, Hacienda); 2. Beckman (19-7, Pacific Coast); 3. Alhambra (19-3, Almont); 4. Elsinore (20-5, Sunbelt)
Outlook: Beckman is 5-4 over its past nine games, which is not a lot of playoff-bound momentum but the Patriots perhaps have found a reliable No. 2 starter, Garret Brown, to go with outstanding ace James Kaprielian. University was an excellent second-half team, and Westminster, Ocean View and Rancho Alamitos all could be factors. La Quinta forfeited several victories, it was discovered during the weekend, thus pushing the Aztecs out of the playoffs.
Division 4 — Defending champion: Bishop Amat of La Puente.
Top seeds: 1. Palm Desert (21-8, Desert Valley); 2. La Salle of Pasadena (18-7-1, Del Rey); 3. Calvary Chapel (23-2, Orange Coast); 4. Bishop Amat (18-9, Del Rey)
Outlook: This is a good division, with a few teams that would compete well in Division1. Calvary Chapel has the best record of the Orange County teams here. But there are several other good county teams in this grouping, including Orange League co-champions Katella and Savanna, and Freeway League teams La Habra and Sonora.
Defending champion: Oak Hills.
Top seeds: 1. Paraclete of Lancaster (22-2, Alpha); 2. Cathedral of Los Angeles (21-5, Camino Real); 3. Woodcrest Christian of Riverside (20-3, Ambassador); 4. Serra of Gardena (19-4, Camino Real).
Outlook: No county teams are in this division's playoffs. Paraclete went 9-0 in the Alpha League and takes a 17-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Division 6 — Defending champion: Pasadena Poly
Top seeds: 1. Desert Christian of Lancaster (21-3, Desert Mountain); 2. Capistrano Valley Christian (20-6, San Joaquin); 3. Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara (18-3, Frontier); 4. Pasadena Poly (16-5, Prep)
Outlook: In lower divisions, quite an impact can be made by one excellent player and Capistrano Valley Christian has that kind of player — pitcher Sam Eichler, who is 8-2 with a 0.67 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 621/3 innings.
Academy League sent two very good teams, Oxford Academy and St. Margaret's, to this division's playoffs.
Division 7— Defending champion: Animo Leadership of Inglewood
Top seeds: 1. Hillcrest Chr. of Granada Hills (15-3, Heritage); 2. New Roads of Santa Monica (14-5, Coastal); 3. Riverside Chr. (Warrior, 15-5); 4. Dunn of Los Olivos (12-4, Condor)
Outlook: Tarbut V'Torah, champion of the Express League, could be a factor but the Lions would have to forfeit if they reach the championship game, as the juniors on this junior-heavy team would be in Israel that day, June 2.
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