SAN DIEGO — Montgomery baseball Coach Manuel Hermosilio said he still wakes up in the middle of night sometimes thinking about what would have happened had his team won its last Metro-Mesa League game a year ago.
The Aztecs, in first or second place throughout the season, lost to Bonita Vista, 5-3, to fall into third place and out of the playoffs. Had Montgomery won that last game, it would have finished in a three-way tie with Bonita Vista and Mar Vista for first place.
"It was a hard loss to swallow," Hermosilio said. "We have a fine year and we came so close to getting into the playoffs."
Mar Vista has been moved to the Metro-South Bay League this season, but the Mesa League will probably be even stronger. Chula Vista, the South Bay League champions last year, and Hilltop, the San Diego Section 2-A champions a year ago, have been moved into the Mesa League this year. "We have a lot of kids back from last year who are hungry to get into the playoffs this time," Hermosilio said. "But, it's going to be a lot tougher. We have a chance to be there at the end but there's no way to be sure."
Most coaches in the league favor Bonita Vista, the defending league champion. But other teams should contend.
"I guess this is what we get for winning the 2-A last year," said Hilltop Coach John Baumgarten. "A lot of people think we'll be there at the end, but I'm not so sure. This is as good a league as we've been a part of in quite some time."
Here's a closer look at the teams:
Last season's record: 10-3, 16-10
Coach: John Gibbs
Top returners: David Woodhouse (senior, pitcher/shortstop); Randy Abshier (sophomore, pitcher); Billy Miller (senior, center fielder)
Top newcomers: Kip Korzep (senior, first baseman); Teddy Ehrhardt (sophomore, right fielder).
Outlook: After winning the league title last season, Bonita then surprised Santana in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Patrick Henry. Most favor the Barons to win the league again. Abshier was 8-0 in the regular season last year and Woodhouse is one of the finest players in the South Bay. Through 12 games this season, he is hitting .379 with 13 RBIs. Miller had a section-high eight saves a year ago. Ehrhardt has been a pleasant surprise so far, batting .400 and stealing 12 bases. "We're supposed to be good, but sometimes we don't play good," Gibbs said. "I'm hoping we just haven't gotten our real game faces on yet." Bonita Vista starts league play with an 8-4 record.
Last season's record: 9-3-1, 13-12-1
Finish: First in the Metro-South Bay League
Coach: Richard Barcus
Top returners: Victor Ocegueda (senior, pitcher); Gilbert Canizales (senior, second baseman); Phil Schmidt (senior, pitcher), Jose Sosa (senior, shortstop).
Top newcomer: Jay Mercado (senior, third baseman)
Outlook: The Spartans, who captured their second straight Metro-South Bay League title last season, will be strong again thanks to their strong point, pitching. Ocegueda, Schmidt and Brian Murphy all return. Schmidt appeared in 21 games last season and will be the key again. Canizales was an all-league choice at second base and Mercado is hitting .385 through the first 10 games. "I have a very strong defensive team," said Barcus, whose team has committed only nine errors this season. "If we can just get a little more hitting, we'll be right there." Chula Vista is 4-6 entering league play.
Last season's record: 9-4, 20-7
Finish: Second in the Metro-South Bay League. Won 2-A championship.
Coach: John Baumgarten
Top returners: David Mossman (senior, shortstop); Willie Gayton (senior, second basemen), Henry Negrete (junior, third baseman).
Top newcomers: Eric Russell (junior, pitcher); Robert DePerro (sophomore, pitcher).
Outlook: The Lancers have a history of finding a way to get into the playoffs. Last year, the team came alive just in time to get the South Bay's second playoff spot. Baumgarten's team then played its finest baseball of the season, beating Christian, San Marcos and San Pasqual to win the 2-A title. A repeat this year may be difficult, however. Mossman and Gayton are the only returning starters. Neither Russell nor DePerro has varsity pitching experience, but Baumgarten is counting on them. Hilltop begins league play with a 3-5 record.
Last season's record: 7-4-2, 14-7-2
Coach: Manuel Hermosilio
Top returners: Lee Langevin (senior, pitcher); Paris Jones (senior, right fielder).
Top newcomers: Rudy Rodgriguez (senior, shortstop); Darryl Crawford (senior, first basemen); Clement Alsip (senior, center fielder), Jacobo Saaib (junior, left fielder). Israel Velasquez (freshman, pitcher).