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September 22, 2021

Baseball | Local teams begin play-in games

SALINAS VALLEY — The road to the Central Coast Section baseball playoffs began this week, with Gonzales and Greenfield high schools competing in play-in games, King City waiting to see which team they will play and Soledad continuing the regular season with three games left after earning an automatic spot in the playoffs.

Gonzales Spartans traveled to Castroville on Tuesday for a play-in game with the North Monterey County Condors, with the winner (Condors) advancing to the Central Coast Section playoffs and the loser (Spartans) traveling to King City on Thursday to play the Mustangs.

“When we were ready to begin our season we had planned to have a tournament at the conclusion of play amongst the two divisions,” said King City Head Coach Lorenzo Espino. “As things improved regarding Covid, the section decided we would have CCS playoffs after all. Although teams from our original PCAL (Pacific Coast Athletic League) played each other and played in the respective divisions, we have been seeded to play each other again, with the winners going to the CCS playoffs. To me, it doesn’t matter who we play from one game to another, as we just want to play baseball for as long as we can.”

Last week King City completed the regular season with losses to Greenfield and North Monterey County to finish in a tie in the division with Robert Louis Stevenson. The Mustangs were beaten 2-1 at Greenfield on May 26 and then lost 5-1 to the Condors.

“We did hit the ball all over the place, but right at them (Bruins),” Espino said. “John Michael Soto had three hits and pitched the first three innings before Eli Clavijo came in and finished the final three innings. Even with the past week, we ended as co-champs with RLS in our league in this crazy year.”

Jonathan Lopez had an RBI and scored a run for Greenfield and Manuel Gutierrez went the distance on the mound allowing on five hits while striking out two batters and walking three to earn the pitching victory.

The Mustangs had a tough time getting the bats going in the setback and final game of the regular season for King City.

“We played good ball, but couldn’t get going offensively,” Espino said. “We faced a good pitcher that had total control the entire game.”

Greenfield Bruins traveled to Santa Clara County to play the Gilroy Mustangs on Tuesday, hoping to earn a playoff berth themselves.

Greenfield had a rough go of it in their final two games, as they were shutout 9-0 by the RLS Pirates last Thursday afternoon. The Pirates led 1-0 after one inning of play then added a five-run third inning, and a three-run sixth inning to blank the Bruins. Daniel Pantoja and Jonathan Lopez had the only hits for Greenfield, and Alejandro Gutierrez took the loss.

Last Friday, Monterey Toreadores pitcher Sterling Cara threw a no-hitter in a 14-2 win over Greenfield. The game was tied at 2-2 after the first inning, but Monterey scored one run to lead by a 2-1 score, and then took charge with an 11-run third inning.

Gonzales Spartans were 2-0 last week with a 7-3 win over RLS and a narrow 12-11 win against the NMC Condors.

In the RLS game, Nate Dixon went the distance for the pitching win and Adrian Zavala (two doubles, a triple and two RBIs), Jayson Flores (three hits) and Sebastian Sanchez (two hits) led the offense.

In the thrilling win over the Condors, Zavala had four hits with two RBIs and got the save on the pitching mound. Gabe Mendez added three hits and three RBIs, Champ and Jayson Flores combined for four hits and two RBIs and Diego Valdez hit a homerun.

Soledad Aztecs still have three games to play in their division that includes Palma, San Benito, Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove. Soledad is assured a spot in the CCS playoffs based on strength of schedule.

The Aztecs will conclude divisional play this week with games scheduled for Wednesday at Monterey High, Thursday at Pacific Grove and next Tuesday in Pebble Beach against Robert Louis Stevenson.

“We are an automatic qualifier, with no play-in game to CCS,” said Soledad Head Coach Damian Ryan. “On June 9, we will know who we will play in the first round.”

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