The end is in clear view, the season in effect chugging around third base with everyone waving all hands home.
For the eight local teams left in the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball tournaments, spanning seven divisions, there are two trains of thought heading into Monday’s championship bouts.
Those standing unbeaten in the winners’ bracket circle want to make quick work of their opponent with a one-game victory and dog-pile celebration. Those battling through the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination events expect to make Monday a doubleheader long day, needing to win twice to take titles. It’s happened before, many times across the divisions, and this is baseball played by teenagers, so anything can happen.
In Division I at Sacramento City College, top-seeded Vacaville (30-2) is a victory away from repeating, facing a familiar foe in second-seeded Jesuit (23-10). The Bulldogs eliminated Jesuit a year ago and beat the Marauders 4-3 on Wednesday.
At American River College in D-II, top-seeded Oakmont (29-3) would have to lose twice to defending champion Del Campo (21-11-1) to lose the crown. Oakmont seeks its first title since 2000 and Del Campo its fifth since 1985 and third since 2013.
At Pacific in Stockton in D-III, No. 10 seed Ponderosa (17-15) has stunned the field, beating No. 7 Christian Brothers, No. 2 Sierra of Manteca, No. 3 Atwater and top-seeded Buhach Colony of Atwater 7-4 to advance to a section final for the first time since winning the D-II title in 2008.
Buhach Colony (25-6) would need to win twice to take the title.
In D-V in a 10 a.m. game at ARC, defending champion Colfax (25-6) takes its 20-game winning streak against Pioneer Valley League rival Bear River, needing to lose twice to lose the banner.
And in D-VII in a 10 a.m. game at Sac City, top-seeded and defending champion Alpha Charter (19-3) has to beat eight-time section champion Valley Christian Academy of Roseville twice to win it all.
VCA (16-8-1) beat Alpha Charter 7-3 to jump into the final, which has become old hat for longtime coach Brad Gunter Jr.
In D-I, Jesuit has the pitching to win twice against Vacaville, which also has the pitching to prevent that from happening. Brandon Chalk is 9-0 for Vacaville, and Carson Hawkins and David Rodriguez are a combined 11-2 while Devereaux Harrison is 6-0 for coach Stu Clary, an alum of the school.
Jesuit has pitchers Carter Benbrook, Cade Cunningham, Andy Owen, Cade Pilchard and Andrew Susac, among many, to use.
In D-II, brothers Greg and TJ Nichols of Oakmont are a combined 16-2 and Kai Peterson is 9-1 for coach Paul Martinez, who aims to become the first coach in section baseball history to win championships at three schools.
Del Campo is led by Braden Proud (7-1), Hudson Kaylor (4-5) and Julian Wagner (5-2). Coach Kevin Dawidczik was The Bee’s Coach of the Year in 2018. The current team is led by a Bee Player of the Year candidate in center fielder Mason Poisson, batting .490 with 39 RBIs.
Ponderosa has surged in the playoffs under coach Ben Petersen, whose team competed in the same Foothill Valley League as Oakmont.
“What Ponderosa has done is amazing, and that’s a good team that’s gotten hot,” Oakmont’s Martinez said.
A year after winning its first section title, Colfax is paced by co-aces Jason Holm (9-0) and Alex Weir (8-0), who also has driven in 36 runs. Weir quarterbacked Colfax past Bear River for the D-V section championship in football.
Bear River can ensure a winning season with a sweep of Colfax. The Bruins are 15-16 but have gone 3-1 in the playoffs, including eliminating top-seeded Argonaut 5-3 to reach this stage. Bear River seeks its first championship.
SAC-JOAQUIN SECTION BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Division I: Vacaville vs. Jesuit, 4 p.m. at Sacramento City College
Division II: Oakmont vs. Del Campo, 4 p.m. at American River College
Division III: Ponderosa vs. Buhach Colony, 4 p.m. at University of the Pacific
Division IV: Los Banos vs. Central Catholic, 1 p.m. at Zupo Field
Division V: Colfax vs. Bear River, 10 a.m. at American River College
Division VI: Mariposa vs. Waterford, 10 a.m. at University of the Pacific
Division VII: Valley Christian Academy vs. Alpha Charter, 10 a.m. at Sacramento City College