1. St. Francis (5-0) – You can’t get any better than starting the season with five straight wins. What proved more impressive is the manner in which the Knights went about their 5-0 start. For the second time in three years, St. Francis wins the Arcadia Elks Tournament. In that span, the Knights have gone an incredible 14-1, the lone loss coming to Temple City last year to finish in third place. Nevertheless, St. Francis will either enjoy its rise to the top for the long term or fall if it’s exposed against Saugus in Wednesday’s doubleheader. We’ll know more then. But for now, you can’t overlook St. Francis’ prowess, led by Ethan Bramschreiber and AJ Burglund.
2. Alhambra (4-1) — The Moors are off to a solid start. Clearly, Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke thought the Moors should have and could have played better against St. Francis in the Elks finale, but the season’s early and Gewecke will use the exhibition series against Kalani to see who will play what and where when Almont League action opens Friday at Bell Gardens. Jonathan Beltran played just as we expected, as has Greg Saldate and Vailele Peko.
3. Monrovia (4-1) — The Wildcats finished third in the Elks Tournament. I know there’s some controversy surrounding that placement given the way things ended with Monrovia and Arcadia, but the Wildcats showed why they’re poised to win their fifth straight Rio Hondo League title. I think the only concern with Monrovia is the pitching depth. They have power from 1-7, but pitching is key when getting to the playoffs.
4. Arcadia (4-1) — The Apaches had a solid win over Pasadena Poly and takes on Northview this week before opening Pacific League action against Hoover next week. It would have been absolutely awesome to see Arcadia and Monrovia battle it out. How this game never came about is beyond me. I’m disappointed as I’m sure the fans from both fan bases are as well. By the way, Haram Park’s come out of nowhere, hasn’t he? He’s lighting it up so far for the Apaches, leading the team in batting average (.571), on base percentage (.700), slugging percentage (1,143), and home runs (2).
5. Maranatha (1-4) — When Maranatha had a stellar appearance in the Southern California Invitational last year, I bumped the Minutemen higher in the rankings. With Dylan Covey intact and seven of nine starters returning, it seemed like Maranatha would do as good, if not, better than last year’s performance in the SoCal Invite. The Minutemen finished 1-4, and the argument could be made that they played against top Division I teams, but simply playing in them sometimes isn’t enough, especially this year when expectations seem just as high, if not higher than last year. Having said that, Maranatha playing against the big boys will only prove helpful in the long run, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised again if I find myself covering Maranatha the last few weeks of the baseball season. It’s time for Maranatha to play in the Elks Tournament. It’s time for us to see how they measure against our top teams. It won’t be a downgrade going from the SoCal Invite to the Elks because the competition level in the Elks still is much higher than that of the Alpha League and Division V. If nothing else, Maranatha gets a chance to quiet its critics. Or not. Until then, it’s all debate.
6. Pasadena Poly (3-2) — The Panthers got off to a solid start, but we’ll get a great chance on Wednesday to see how they fare against higher quality teams. Pasadena Poly hosts La Canada on Wednesday.
7. Temple City (2-3) — The Rams gave up 23 runs against quality teams (Arcadia, Beverly Hills, La Salle). Seems like Temple City still is looking for its identity. They’ll get a confidence-boosting win against Blair when they open Rio Hondo League action on Friday. But then again, Blair is 2-0 in the season and seems to be confident heading into league play, so you never know.
8. Pasadena (4-1) — Mike Parisi is doing a fantastic job with the Bulldogs. Losing their best player (Nathan Bernstein) last year and Pasadena’s off to a hot start. Its lone loss comes to St. Francis, and that loss only came at 6-3. This time last year, Pasadena was 2-2-1 heading into Pacific League play.
9. La Salle (3-2) — How the Lancers lost to Western Christian 13-9 is still puzzling, but since that loss La Salle has rebounded nicely with wins over Duarte (I know) and Temple City.
10. South Pasadena (4-1) — Tony Veiller is batting .615 and has two home runs already. It’s easy to see how the Tigers can contend for a, dare I say, shot at the Rio Hondo League title. That may be putting it over the top, but it looks like the Tigers have playoff-bound written all over them. Veiller is 2-0 on the mound with a team-leading nine strikeouts.