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BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
JSerra's Micah Pries, right, and teammates might have a reason to celebrate when the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs are done. That, or Steve Fryer's prediction will be wrong for the third consecutive year.

Fryer: O.C. baseball teams hope to avoid prediction curse

STAFF COLUMNIST

In 2014, the prediction here was that JSerra would win the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 baseball championship.

JSerra lost in the semifinals.

In 2015, the prediction here was that JSerra would win the Division 1 championship.

JSerra lost in the quarterfinals.

It’s that time of year for CIF-SS baseball playoffs predictions. It’s also time for JSerra to say, “Hey, Fryer, pick somebody else this year.”

On to the predictions …

DIVISION 1

2015 champion: Huntington Beach

Top four seeds: 1. JSerra; 2. El Toro; 3. Orange Lutheran; 4. Cypress

O.C. angle: If you’re looking at the top four seeds and thinking about an all-Orange County semifinals doubleheader at Blair Field, think again. Only one of the top-four seeded teams in Division 1 advanced to the semis in each of the past three years. All four have the pitching depth to go far though. Sunset League champion Marina might be the biggest surprise of the season. Esperanza has its best team in years. The Division 1 baseball championship is the most difficult championship to win in CIF-SS team sports. County baseball has excellent representatives that can win it again this year. Sorry, JSerra. Because of your pitching depth and outstanding position players, again you are the logical favorite.

Final four: JSerra; Aliso Niguel; Orange Lutheran; El Toro

Champion: JSerra

DIVISION 2

2015 champion: Mission Viejo

Top four seeds: 1. South Hills of West Covina; 2. Gahr of Cerritos; 3. Bonita of La Verne; 4. Mission Viejo

O.C. angle: This division has the best O.C. vs. O.C. first-round game, San Juan Hills at Foothill. San Juan Hills finished third in the Sea View League, which might be the top league in Division 2. Sea View No. 2 Trabuco Hills might get on a nice run. Mission Viejo, led by the standout pitching of Tanner Bibee and Jake Spillane, won nine straight league games to take the Sea View title. Villa Park, capable of pulling off one of the first-round upsets that are sure to occur, plays at Bonita on Thursday. Foothill is not that far from being undefeated – five of the Knights’ seven losses were by one run.

Final four: Foothill; Mission Viejo; Simi Valley; Trabuco Hills

Champion: Foothill

DIVISION 3

2015 champion: Redondo Union of Redondo Beach

Top four seeds: 1. Redondo Union; 2. Palm Desert; 3. Woodbridge; 4. Quartz Hill

O.C. angle: The Pacific Coast League was a top-heavy league, i.e. the top three teams, Beckman, Corona del Mar and Woodbridge, were much better than the league’s bottom three. All three have terrific pitchers – Evan Larsen at Corona del Mar, Jake Larson and Zak Baayoun at Woodbridge, Will Cohen and Jack Wiese at Beckman. Redondo Union is in the right place, with its 24-2 record. But the PCL teams look good.

Final four: Redondo Union; Beckman; Woodbridge; Corona del Mar

Champion: Woodbridge

DIVISION 4

2015 champion: Serrano of Phelan

Top four seeds: 1. Don Lugo of Chino; 2. Kaiser of Fontana; 3. West Torrance; 4. St. Bonaventure of Ventura

O.C. angle: Troy has been one of the more interesting stories in county baseball. The Warriors won the Freeway League championship that almost annually is the property of Sonora. Laguna Beach won the Orange Coast League title again. Katella finished strong, winning 10 of its past 11 games, to take the Orange League championship. Calvary Chapel lost two close games to Laguna Beach last week. If there is a team can take advantage of the fresh start the playoffs provide, maybe it’s Calvary Chapel.

Final four: Don Lugo; St. Bonaventure; Calvary Chapel; Grace Brethren of Simi Valley

Champion: St. Bonaventure

DIVISION 5

2015 champion: Hemet

Top four seeds: 1. Woodcrest Christian of Riverside; 2. Paraclete of Lancaster; 3. Village Christian of Sun Valley; 4. Monrovia

O.C. angle: Not many county teams are in leagues that belong to this division. The best of those county teams is Capistrano Valley Christian, which won the Division 6 championship in 2014 and had another fine regular season. CVC again played a challenging schedule, with games against Santa Margarita, Edison and Mission Viejo. That kind of schedule is designed to get a team ready for the playoffs. The Eagles’ team batting average is .351. If their pitching comes through, they can go far.

Final four: Woodcrest Christian; Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park; Capistrano Valley Christian; Cantwell Sacred Heart of Montebello

Champion: Woodcrest Christian

DIVISION 6

2015 champion: Flintridge Prep of La Canada

Top four seeds: 1. Sage Hill; 2. Crean Lutheran; 3. Calvary Murrieta; 4. Flintridge Prep

O.C. angle: Sage Hill is 23-1 and takes a 22-game winning streak into the playoffs. Two of those wins were in Academy League games against Crean Lutheran, and they were good games – 2-0 and 5-4. Those two seem destined to meet again. By being in opposite sides of the bracket, that can only occur in the championship game June 4 at UC Riverside.

Final four: Sage Hill; Salesian of Los Angeles; Calvary Murrieta; Crean Lutheran

Champion: Sage Hill

DIVISION 7

2015 champion: Excelsior Charter of Victorville

Top four seeds: 1. Excelsior Charter; 2. Santa Clarita Christian; 3. Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro; 4. Faith Baptist of Canoga Park

O.C. angle: St. Michael’s Prep is the only county school in this division. The Archangels, the Express League champions, scored in double figures in eight of their 11 wins. Their opponents scored in double figures in two of the Archangels’ four losses. That sort of scoring will happen in this division. In last year’s 16 first-round games in Division 7, the average margin of victory was 11 runs.

Final four: Excelsior Charter; Riverside Prep; Rolling Hills Prep; Santa Clarita Christian

Champion: Excelsior Charter

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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