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Big League Home for the Championships


High school baseball teams lucky enough to survive the next two weeks of playoffs will be rewarded by playing at the area's top venues.

The City Section's two divisional championship games will be held at Dodger Stadium on May 28, and Anaheim Stadium is the site of the Southern Section's top four divisional finals June 7.

The playoffs began this week. What to expect:

City Section Division 4-A

The first round of the playoffs were held Tuesday and already top-seeded Carson was eliminated after losing to North Hills Monroe, 11-2. That opened the door for two-time defending champion Granada Hills Kennedy, which is coming off a 10-1 victory over San Pedro. The fourth-seeded Golden Cougars are led by senior pitcher Jon Garland, one of the area's top prospects. Garland is 8-3 with a 1.22 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. Second-seeded Chatsworth has plenty of hitting. David Sark has 35 RBIs and Greg Wold has 34. Only one team outside the San Fernando Valley, San Pedro in 1992, has won the title since 1973.

Division 3-A

Two-time defending champion South Gate finished second in the Southeastern Conference to Huntington Park, which was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season. Huntington Park, seeded No. 1, opened the playoffs with a 4-1 victory over Eagle Rock, and third-seeded South Gate defeated Harbor City Narbonne, 5-3. Second-seeded Washington and fourth-seeded Franklin also won playoff openers. Garfield and Roosevelt are other Southeastern Conference teams that advanced to today's quarterfinals.

Southern Section Division I

This is always one of the toughest divisions in any sport because of the quality of teams in Southern California, and this season is no exception. Of the 44 qualifying teams, 15 are league champions, including defending champion La Puente Bishop Amat. The second-seeded Lancers, who have lost four games by a total of eight runs, aren't the favorites, however. That role is reserved for Santa Ana Mater Dei, which is 22-3 and has won its last 13 games. The Monarchs feature a solid pitching staff led by senior left-hander Mike Kolbach, who is 8-2 with a 1.68 ERA. One of Mater Dei's losses was to third-seeded Anaheim Esperanza in a tournament game in March. The Aztecs' ace is senior pitcher Nathan Choate, who at 10-0 has the second-best record in Orange County. Fourth-seeded Anaheim Servite has an ace of its own in sophomore Brian Wolfe, who is 8-0 with an 0.27 ERA. Ayala, Long Beach Wilson and Camarillo are a few of the other contenders.

Division II

Another loaded division with any number of teams capable of reaching the final. Top-seeded Placentia El Dorado, one of the area's most consistent programs for the last decade, is looking for its first title since 1989. Second-seeded West Torrance may be the division's most powerful offensive team, with catcher Tony Cosentino leading the way. Cosentino, who recently broke the state record for hits with 182, is batting .470 with 44 RBIs and nine home runs. La Puente Nogales, Glendora, Whittier La Serna and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa also can't be counted out. La Mirada, which won the Division III title last year, finished second in its league and could face El Dorado in the second round.

Division III

Fourth-seeded Anaheim Canyon started the season as the area's top-rated team and was even rated No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. But the Comanches finished the regular-season 20-6 and were second in the Century League behind third-seeded Santa Ana Foothill. The surprising favorite is West Hills Chaminade, which was eliminated in the first round of the Division I playoffs last season. Ryan Hammill is batting .478 with 51 RBIs and Chris Gray is 9-1 with a 1.22 ERA for the Eagles. Second-seeded La Habra Sonora is on a 12-game winning streak.

Division IV

El Segundo's move down from Division II gives veteran Coach John Stevenson his best opportunity to win a title in eight years. The Eagles are strong from top to bottom. Junior Eric Berkes is batting .415 with 36 RBIs and seven doubles, and he's also 6-1 on the mound. Casey Clark has 31 RBIs and Bill Traber is 9-0 with 91 strikeouts. Another probable finalist is second-seeded Westminster La Quinta, which won titles in 1994 and '95. Junior catcher Gerald Laird is batting .500 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs for the Aztecs, who have scored 10 or more runs in six of its last nine games.

Division V

Top-seeded Santa Maria St. Joseph (24-0) is the only undefeated team in the playoffs. The Lions, who have scored 12 or more runs in 12 games, have 14 players batting over .300. Senior Chris Hageman is batting .459 with 25 RBIs and 12 doubles. Two of the team's pitchers, Doug Bernier and Jason Kelly, each have 7-0 records. Defending champion Pasadena La Salle moved up a division.

Division VI

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