A year ago, future first-round draft pick Tyler Matzek of Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley pitched and hit his team to the Southern Section Division 1 baseball championship. With the playoffs beginning Tuesday, the question is, "Who will be this year's Tyler Matzek?"
Orange Lutheran (21-5) was awarded the No. 1 seeding in the pairings released Monday. Simi Valley Royal (22-6) is No. 2, Lakewood (26-5) is No.3 and Huntington Beach Edison (18-8) is No. 4. All have stumbled at times, but Orange Lutheran's success in winning the tough Trinity League propelled the Lancers into the top seeding.
"We have a lot of confidence in our pitching staff, but there are a lot of great teams out there," Coach Eric Borba said. "When you're playing a single elimination, you can't take a day off. Coming through the Trinity League, every game is a playoff atmosphere. It's just a grind and sets you up for the playoffs."
Orange Lutheran's strength is that it doesn't have to rely on only one top pitcher. It has two in USC-bound left-hander Bobby Wheatley and UC Irvine-bound right-hander Andrew Thurman.
Wild-card games begin Tuesday, with the first round Thursday for Divisions 1, 3, 5 and 7. The best wild-card matchup has Hueneme and Arizona-bound Jesus Valdez scheduled to play host to Dana Point Dana Hills and Peter Tago, who has committed to Cal State Fullerton. The winner will play Edison.
The championship games for Divisions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are June 5 at the Lake Elsinore Diamond. Divisions 5, 6 and 7 will play June 4 at the Riverside sports complex.
In softball, Valencia (26-3-1) received the No. 1 seeding in Division 1, which starts play Thursday. The Vikings are led by Tennessee-bound shortstop Madison Shipman.
One of the intriguing story lines revolves around No. 2-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei (23-2), which has dedicated its season to Bri Matthews, the Monarchs' standout sophomore pitcher who committed suicide in February only days before the season began.
Junior Miranda Tamayo, who has committed to Indiana, is 14-1 as the ace of the Monarchs.
The championship games for softball are set for June 4-5 at Barber Park in Irvine.