Fasten your seat belts – the CIF-Southern Section’s winter playoffs are around the corner. The section office will release boys and girls basketball pairings Sunday, then follow with boys and girls soccer and girls water polo pairings on Monday.
But the general feeling I’m getting around the Valley is that everyone is waiting for the baseball season to begin March 5. And why not, because baseball is where our Valley shines.
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Using the past few years as an example, Northview (Division IV) and Bishop Amat (Division V) are returning after winning CIF titles, and South Hills (Division III) and Diamond Ranch (Division IV) return after advancing to championship games.
Charter Oak and Bishop Amat both won divisional titles in 2007, and this figures to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory because of divisional realignment.
Bishop Amat has been bumped to Division IV, where it will compete for its third consecutive championship, though it will likely have to go through defending champion Northview.
When Northview defeated Bishop Amat to claim last year’s Glendora Tournament title, there must have been more than 1,000 fans on a chilly Friday watching it unfold.
And they got their money’s worth, which included a heated confrontation between Northview coach Darren Murphy and Lancers coach Andy Nieto, who bumped chests and argued nose-to-nose, with Murphy eventually getting the boot.
Bishop Amat won’t be in the Glendora Tournament this season, so we’ll have to wait until the playoffs to find out if this mammoth rematch comes to fruition.
When I hinted on the blog that Northview will be our top-ranked team when the spring baseball polls are released early next month, like always, the blog conversation took off, as it has with anything baseball related.
“I for one agree with you in that Northview is most likely the better team out of the gate this year,” wrote regular blogger jcaz, a noted Lancers follower. “But remember, as always, you got to play out the schedule before you crown a champion, right?
“Remember one thing however, and that was that last year, few folks (outside of Northview) would have thought that Amat would lose the Northview game, and when they did, you yourself even said that if there were a series of games played between the two, that Amat would most likely win the majority.
“Was Amat really the better team last year?”
Not really, though I did say that Bishop Amat would probably win a seven-game series against Northview because of its pitching and depth. But guess what? They don’t play a series, they play one game, and Northview proved in the Glendora Tournament that in single elimination, it has that extra gear that makes the difference. The Division III playoffs will be just as interesting.
Finally, South Hills, which has the greatest baseball tradition of the tradition-rich Covina schools, will have some local challengers in trying to return to the championship game after losing a heartbreaking 4-2 decision to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame at Dodger Stadium.
The Miramonte League, which has one of its finest teams returning in Bonita, along with always dangerous Charter Oak, has moved from Division IV to Division III to challenge South Hills and other area teams from the Almont and Del Rio leagues.
“This is great for South Hills,” blogger Husky Believer noted. “Everyone’s been talking about Northview, Covina, Charter Oak and Bishop Amat, but everyone forgets that South Hills has been in the toughest division.
“Now, we’ll find out how good Charter Oak and Bonita really are, because we know South Hills can win this division, especially after getting robbed in the championship last year.”
This is great news, because the knock on South Hills in recent years is that the Huskies don’t compete in the area’s best tournaments, which happen to be the Glendora and Northview tournaments at the moment, thus avoiding running into other Covina teams such as Northview, Charter Oak and Covina, not to mention several other of the area’s best.
South Hills remained in the boring Don Lugo Tournament this season and will be in the Beach Pit Classic, but at least we might see the Huskies meet up with Charter Oak or Bonita in the playoffs.
We saw a glimpse of what it felt like last month when Northview scrimmaged South Hills during a fundraiser for the Ortega family, which lost nine family members in the Christmas Eve Massacre. The event raised $17,000, showing that not only do Valley fans have a big heart, they absolutely love their baseball.
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