Baseball playoffs start Friday for Bears, Tigers and Cougars
Update: Game time for Friday's Westwood at Dunsmuir game is 3 p.m.
Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir will host games Friday, May 11, while Weed is scheduled to travel for the first round of the Northern Section baseball playoffs.
Mount Shasta, the No. 2 seed in Division 3, will host No. 7 University Prep of Redding.
Dunsmuir, seeded No. 4 in Division 5, will host No. 5 Westwood.
Weed is No. 7 in Division 4 and scheduled to play at No. 2 Portola.
All games are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Admission will be charged: $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.
Second round semifinal games are scheduled to be played Tuesday, May 15, at the home of the higher seed. Championship games are scheduled for Saturday, May 19.
The Bears finished third in the Shasta Cascade League with a 6-4 record and were 13-10 overall before Wednesday’s game at Yreka.
Mount Shasta beat U-Prep (10-14) twice on April 18 at the start of a nine-game winning streak that ended with a pair of losses to SCL champion Etna on May 4. Junior Dylan Padula pitched a five-inning perfect game against U-Prep in the first of those two wins.
With a victory Friday, the Bears would advance to host a semifinal game May 15, against either No. 3 Willows (12-11) or No. 6 Colusa (12-15-1).
Durham (16-1) is the No. 1 seed in Division 3.
Willows defeated Colusa twice this season, including a 6-4 win on April 24, three days after the Bears beat Colusa, 6-3, at Raley Field in Sacramento.
Mount Shasta head coach Jon Cox sees Willows as the stronger of the two teams.
U-Prep had an 8-7 record before playing in Mount Shasta in early May, but has won just 2 of 9 since, including a 16-4 loss to Weed May 7.
“We battled adversity while playing our first 16 games on the road,” Cox said of the Bears. “But we’ve proven we can win playing small ball... we are much better now compared to the start of the season.”
Dunsmuir’s season was punctuated by postponements and cancellations and four forfeit wins, including April 28 when Happy Camp’s bus made a u-turn on its way to Dunsmuir, reportedly because of an altercation.
The Tigers (9-3 in league, 10-3 overall) finished third in the Evergreen League, while Westwood was fourth. The top two EL teams, Princeton (10-0, 12-4) and American Christian Academy (11-3, 16-7), are both in Division 6.
Dunsmuir’s offense is led by brothers Jake and Mason Mekeel who have the top batting averages in the Northern Section.
Jake goes into the playoffs hitting at a .792 clip in 9 games. He had 7 hits in 9 at-bats in the Tigers’ final regular season doubleheader sweep of Loyalton Tuesday. (See story).
Mason has a .542 average.
The Cougars evened their record at 11-11 with a 16-4 win at University Prep in Redding Monday and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Weed's up and down season included a tournament victory at the Liberty Invitational in mid-March, then six SCL losses in row to Mount Shasta, Fall River, and Modoc.
A young team that features four sophomores and a freshman, head coach Josh Oates says the Cougars “have all these different personalities that inherently contribute to the team... they’re competitive and don’t like losing. They always want to get better and learn. Sometimes, because they’re so young, they make mistakes, but they keep showing up and working hard. They’re confident and won’t be intimidated by anyone we play.”
In the first league game of the season April 6 in Weed, the Cougars led Etna 6-3 after 5 innings and took a 6-5 lead into the top of the 7th. Then Etna scored 11 runs to win it 16-6. Etna went on to win the nightcap 16-3, win the SCL with a 9-1 record and earn the No. 1 seed in Division 4 with a 20-4-1 mark.
The Cougars top three hitters this season are three of a kind.
Freshman James Brunello has a .373 batting average, senior Bryndan Gaither .365 and sophomore Carlos Sanchez .362.
Gaither has 23 hits, Brunello 22, Sanchez 21. Brunello has 5 doubles and a triple;
Gaither and Sanchez each have 4 doubles and a triple.
Gaither and Sanchez have scored 19 runs each and driven in 17. Brunello has scored 17 and driven in 15.
Gaither and Brunello have stolen 13 bases each, second on the team to sophomore Spencer Hall’s 15.
Hall’s .255 batting average belies his contribution to the offense. He leads the regulars with a .493 on base percentage, has drawn a team-high 21 walks, and leads the team with 26 runs scored.
Twelve Cougars have had a turn on the mound this season, but sophomores Aidan Hagarty (52.1 innings) and Jerren Walter (32.1) have carried the bulk of the pitching duties.
Hagarty has a 6-6 record with a 2.68 earned run average, 58 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Walter is 2-3 in 8 appearances with a 4.33 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Oates described this season as his most successful in five years and most difficult, and sees both of those aspects being “equally valuable.”
He says he is especially pleased to see seniors Gaither, Salvador Avila and Noel Gonzalez get their first chance at the playoffs.
For the younger guys, “They’ll get a taste of it and want to go back,” Oates said.
If the Cougars upset Mid-Valley - South League champion Portola (19-4) on Friday, they’ll advance to play next Tuesday at either No. 3 Hamilton (16-7) or No. 6 Quincy (7-12).