Predicting the CIF baseball playoffs
Plenty of teams could use a Cory Hahn right now.
Two years ago, Hahn was a senior pitcher/outfielder at Mater Dei. It is rare that one player can dominate the team game of baseball, but that's what Hahn did in the 2010 CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
He pitched a complete game in the Monarchs' Division 1 first-round victory over Newbury Park, pitched six shutout innings and hit a three-run home run in a second-round victory over Camarillo, pitched five shutout innings and was 2 for 3 with a diving catch in center field in the semifinals against Royal of Simi Valley, and in the championship game pitched five perfect innings, hit a 430-foot homer and made a running, over-the-shoulder catch in the victory over Dana Hills.
Hahn continues to make remarkable progress from a spinal cord injury suffered last spring while playing for Arizona State. The spirit that is helping him carry on is the same spirit that drove to an unforgettable series of performances in those 2010 CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
Which player on an Orange County team this year is about to do something like what Hahn did two years ago? That's impossible to predict. It's almost as impossible to predict which teams will win championships. But that's what we do here, so away we go again with our 2012 baseball playoff predictions ...
2011 champion: JW North of Riverside.
Top four seeds: 1. Orange Lutheran; 2. Mater Dei; 3. JW North; 4. Long Beach Poly.
O.C. angle: The county is well-represented in this division, and not just because the top two seeded entrants are county teams. Formidable league champions El Toro, Esperanza and Los Alamitos are in this group. Every county team has at least one standout pitcher, and some like Lutheran and Mater Dei have enviable pitching depth beyond their star throwers like Art Vidrio at Lutheran and Ty Moore at Mater Dei. Here is a great first-round matchup, Friday: El Dorado at Tesoro, two teams that finished second in their leagues. And do you think an Orange Lutheran-Mater Dei final might draw a good-sized crowd to Dodger Stadium on June 1?
Final four: Orange Lutheran; Agoura; El Toro; Mater Dei.
Champion: Orange Lutheran.
2011 champion: Mission Viejo.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Harvard Westlake of North Hollywood; 2. Pacifica; 3. Alemany of Mission Hills; 4. Cypress.
O.C. angle: Pacifica has to feel pretty confident. The Mariners showed advanced emotional stability by twice overcoming seventh-inning deficits to beat Cypress. They have a terrific 1-2 pitching duo in Max Bethell and Kyle Davis. Mission Viejo is a hot team. The Diablos have won seven of their past eight. Looking for omens? Mission Viejo had 13 losses going into the 2011 playoffs, and won the Division 2 title. This year, the Diablos are 17-13 going into these playoffs.
Final four: Harvard Westlake; Cypress; South Hills of West Covina; Pacifica.
Champion: Harvard Westlake.
2011 champion: Beckman.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Bonita of La Verne; 2. Beckman; 3. Alhambra; 4. Elsinore.
O.C. angle: When James Kaprielian is on the hill, Beckman will not lose. Ocean View does not lose when Seahawks outfielder Timmy Robinson is having another of his multi-hit games. Rancho Alamitos has an ace pitcher in Jim Roll, as does Westminster in Tyler Mahle. How Rancho and Westminster budget Roll's and Mahle's innings will be crucial to their playoff chances (CIF pitchers are limited to 30 outs a week). University, winner of 11 of its last 13 games, is a team to consider.
Final four: Bonita; Westminster; Ocean View, Beckman.
2011 champion: Bishop Amat of La Puente.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Palm Desert; 2. La Salle of Pasadena; 3. Calvary Chapel; 4. Bishop Amat.
O.C. angle: Calvary Chapel is 23-2. But this fan of strength-of-schedule is a tad skeptical that Calvary's experience in the Orange Coast League and in its nonleague itinerary is near the level of play in this division's playoffs. Because this baseball division is similar to what Division 4AA was in boys basketball this past winter – much more challenging than a mid- to lower-division should be. Palm Desert and Bishop Amat would fit in just fine in Division 1. A good group of county teams are in this one, including Orange League co-champions Katella and Savanna, and Freeway League champ La Habra.
Final four: Palm Desert; Bishop Amat; Don Lugo of Chino; Katella.
Champion: Bishop Amat.
2011 champion: Oak Hills.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Paraclete of Lancaster; 2. Cathedral of Los Angeles; 3. Woodcrest Christian of Riverside; 4. Serra of Gardena.
O.C. angle: This division offers no way to elicit the "you must hate (fill in school name here)" by excluding that school's name, because there are no Orange County schools in this division's playoffs.
Final four: Paraclete; Serra; Valley Christian of Cerritos; Cathedral.
2011 champion: Pasadena Poly.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Desert Christian of Lancaster; 2. Capistrano Valley Christian; 3. Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara; 4. Pasadena Poly,
O.C. angle: The Academy League has two championship contenders here, with league-champion Oxford Academy and No. 2 St. Margaret's. Capistrano Valley Christian becomes more interesting the more one gets to know the program – Eagles coach Clemente Bonilla got a good baseball education as a player at El Toro, Southeast Missouri State and as a pro, and pitcher Sam Eichler is the type of dominating pitcher who can carry a team a long way in this division.
Final four: Desert Christian of Lancaster; Oxford Academy; St. Margaret's; Capistrano Valley Christian.
Champion: Desert Christian.
2011 champion: Animo Leadership of Inglewood.
Top-seeded teams: 1. Hillcrest Christian of Granada Hills; 2. New Roads of Santa Monica; 3. Riverside Christian; 4. Dunn of Los Olivos.
O.C. angle: Tarbut V'Torah is the best of the two county teams here (Eastside Christian is the other). TVT has enjoyed a fine season, but that Hillcrest Christian team is looking pretty good and TVT is in the Hillcrest part of the bracket.
Final four: Hillcrest Christian; Animo Leadership; Riverside Christian; New Roads.
Champion: Hillcrest Christian.