Last week, we looked at No. 2 Shawnee (Okla.) High’s quest for 50 straight wins as well as its third straight Oklahoma 5A State Championship. Shawnee made it happen.
This week, our No. 1 team will start the playoffs along with the entire state of California. While Huntington Beach (Calif.) High won the de-facto state tournament—the Boras Classic—a few weeks ago, the CIF Southern Section’s Division I field has a number of high-profile teams, including a handful of teams that are ranked in our most recent High School Top 25.
We’ll focus on that bracket specifically, here, while touching on a few other California teams to pay attention to. Let’s get right into it:
No. 1 Huntington Beach: The Oilers take on the Redondo Beach in the first round of the tournament Thursday at 6:15 p.m. ET. While Huntington Beach easily has the most talented 1-2 combo in the country in Hagen Danner and Nick Pratto, Redondo Beach has an interesting prospect in senior 1B/OF/RHP Danny Zimmerman, a Michigan commit. Zimmerman isn’t anywhere near the profile of Danner/Pratto, but he leads Redondo Beach in OPS (1.604), home runs (10), stolen bases (eight), innings pitched (52.2) and strikeouts (54) to be a formidable two-way threat in his own right.
No. 22 Notre Dame High (Sherman Oaks, Calif.): Hunter Greene‘s team finally made it into the Top 25 this week, and will have a first-round game against San Clemente (Calif.) High on the opposite side of the bracket from Huntington Beach. While a Greene vs. Pratto/Danner matchup in the championship game would be fun, it won’t happen with Greene shutting it down on the mound this season. And the incredibly strong field of surrounding teams will make even the team matchup unlikely. In addition to Greene, senior first baseman Josh Perlmutter is a player to watch. He’s hitting .377 and is second on the team in OPS (1.093), with 17 walks to just nine strikeouts.
No. 23 Harvard-Westlake High (Los Angeles): Harvard-Westlake finished second in California’s Mission League, behind Notre Dame, and is rewarded with a difficult matchup with Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.) in the first round Thursday at 6:15 p.m. ET. The Mission League is generally regarded as one of California’s most difficult leagues (along with the Trinity League), and Harvard-Westlake got through it while allowing the fewest runs (38). It’ll try and continue that sort of run prevention against Hans Crouse and a Dana Hills team that finished second at the National High School Invitational.
Other matchups to watch:
• Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High has a chance to turn around a season that has had its ups and downs after winning the NHSI, with a first-round matchup against Corona (Calif.) High.
• South Hills High (West Covina, Calif.) also stumbled a bit down the stretch this season after an impressive NHSI that included taking down then-No. 1 Archbishop McCarthy. South Hills is placed in the same quadrant as Orange Lutheran, with a first-round game against Damien High (La Verne, Calif.).
• No. 5 draft prospect Royce Lewis and JSerra Catholic High (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) finished just behind No. 14 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) in the Trinity League this season, with a 9-6 record in the league, but could wind up facing Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) in the quarterfinals if both teams advance two rounds. Mater Dei also finished 9-6 in the Trinity League and has a first-round game against Millikan High (Long Beach, Calif.).
• No. 15 La Cueva High (Albuquerque) won the New Mexico 6A State Championship on Saturday, beating Cleveland High (Rio Ranch, N.M.) 10-4 to cap a remarkable season. The Bears lost their first game of the year, 5-3, to Valley (Albuquerque) and proceeded to string together 28 victories to take the title. La Cueva almost matched up with Valley once again in the semifinals, but the matchup was avoided after Carlsbad (N.M.) High beat Valley 9-0. In the title game, senior outfielder Isaac Standridge led La Cueva by going 4-for-4, including a triple and two RBIs. Junior infielder Austin Schlagel, hitting ninth, was 3-for-4 against Cleveland. On the season, La Cueva outscored opponents 294-42, managed back-to-back shutouts to start the state tournament and went on to outscore its tournament opponents 18-7.
• No. 25 Jefferson City (Mo.) High is the only team in the Midwest region currently ranked, thanks to a 25-2 record and a deep pitching staff that has combined to post a 2.08 ERA. Jeff City is led by senior Jacob Weirich, a lefthanded Southern Mississippi commit, who has struck out 81 batters and walked just 16 in 44.2 innings with a 0.63 ERA. Senior shortstop Grant Wood has been the team’s top hitter, with a .500/.584/.809 slash and a team-leading three home runs. Wood is a Murray State commit and also has a 1.89 ERA in 33.1 innings on the mound. Jeff City is currently making in the middle of its Class 5A district playoffs.
• Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) vs. Pinnacle High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) for the Arizona 6A State Championship Tuesday night. Most years, this matchup would be fairly unexpected as Hamilton is a perennial Arizona power and Pinnacle is highly respected as well—ranking as high as No. 6 on our Top 25 this year. Neither team is currently ranked in the Baseball America Top 25, but the two teams will be playing for Arizona’s state championship nonetheless, as the No. 8 seed (Pinnacle) and the No. 10 seed (Hamilton). Pinnacle beat top-seeded Basha High (Chandler, Ariz.) in the first round, but was then dropped into the loser’s bracket after losing 10-2 to Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) in the second round and was later forced to beat Corona del Sol in two additional games to make it to the championship. Hamilton took down No. 2 Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in the first round, 4-3, and later eliminated Horizon, 5-3, in the semifinals to make it to the championship game in an uncharacteristic 10-loss season.