It’s go time on diamonds near and far as the stretch drive of the spring high school sports seasons zeroes in on the finish line looming later this month.
The Sac-Joaquin Section on Friday afternoon released its baseball and softball playoff brackets, featuring stacked divisions with storied programs and those eager to break through as first-time champions. There are seven divisions for baseball and seven for softball, ranging from large schools down to small-enrollment programs. Softball home openers are Monday and baseball openers on Tuesday at home sites.
Sierra Foothill League champion Whitney has been top-ranked by The Bee in softball the last part of the regular season and bounds into the Division I scramble as the top seed opposite of Delta League winner Elk Grove, seeded second.
Whitney is in the midst of its finest season. The Wildcats of Placer County are battle tested from the rigors of the SFL, the top league in the section, and and are poised to make their first run to a section final since opening in 2003.
Whitney (21-5) and coach Mike Mello have been paced by Mazie Macfarlane (.486 average, 34 hits, 18 RBI), sister Makenzie (.437, 25 RBI), slugger Montanah Hermosillo and ace Nia Trinidad (12-2, 2.19 ERA, 45 strikeouts).
Elk Grove (18-8) held off rival and eight-time section champion Sheldon to take the Delta. The Thundering Herd last won a section in 2010. They are led by Ariyana Miranda (.538), Angelica Cano (.462, 18 RBI), Brooklyn Pettis (30 RBI) and ace Ava Hand (14-2, 169 strikeouts).
Seeded third, Sheldon started the season top-ranked by The Bee on the strength of winning seven D-I titles since 2007 in nine championship-game appearances and has shown glimpses of championship promise under longtime coach Mary Jo Truesdale, winner of eight section titles.
Kiannah Pierce led the Delta with 49 hits to go with a stout .576 average. Vianna Brarron leads the team with 29 RBI, and pitchers Grace Owen (6-3, 1.88 ERA) and Kenedi Brown (11-3, 0.99 ERA, 130 strikeouts) have faced top-notch competition all season.
Seeded fifth, Cosumnes Oaks is led by Kennedy Echols (.506 on-base percentage), Kennedy Thomas (.566 OBP 21 RBI) and ace Kali Zoller (9-3).
Seeded sixth, Folsom is having its best Division I season in school history, with its 15-6 record the best for the program since winning 18 games in 2007. The Bulldogs were even ranked No. 1 by The Bee earlier this season for the first time in school history for that sport. Folsom is led by D’Auna Johnson (15 RBI), Shelby Pfeiler (17 RBI) and ace Emma Falen (1.65 ERA).
The D-II softball bracket features top-seeded Rocklin and SFL rival Del Oro, seeded second. The field also includes tradition-rich programs in No. 3 Yuba City, No. 4 Roseville, No. 5 Vista del Lago and No. 6 St. Francis.
Rocklin is paced by Jordan Tressler, Jayla Castro and Taylor Fitzgerald. Del Oro is led by Maddie Moore (18 RBI), Michalah Robison (.478 OBP, 16 RBI) and aces Amanda DuPriest (4-1, 0.70 ERA, 94 strikeouts) and Katelyn Oldwin (100 strikeouts).
Vista del Lago is led by slugger Mia Perez, who has eight home runs, a .547 average and 38 RBI. Capital Athletic League MVP Tayler Biehl, just a freshman, is batting .608 with 26 RBI and “a great glove” in the middle infield, according to coach Robert Reed.
In D-III, Oakdale is the top seed at a section-best 23-0-1, opposite of No. 2 Del Campo, led by Sammie Luckie (.514 OBP, 28 RBI), Maddie Braz (.575 OBP, 22 RBI) and Skylar Mitchell (.574 OBP, 12-3 record, 121 strikeouts).
No. 5 Christian Brothers aims to send retiring coach Chad Clay out a winner. The Falcons are paced by Giana Hays (25 RBI), Jessica Hennelly (30 RBI) and ace Ceclia Sidley (11-3).
Defending D-I champion Vacaville has set myriad records under spirited coach Stu Clary this season, including a 26-2 record that features wins over defending D-II champion Del Campo (3-1) and area powers Yuba City (8-1), Benicia (8-2), Woodceek (10-3), Elk Grove (4-1) and Davis (15-8).
Pitching has been paramount for the top-seeded Bulldogs. Brandon Chalk is 8-0 with a 1.43 ERA to lead a staff that has a 1.84 team ERA.
Franklin was The Bee’s top-ranked team all season, though Jesuit emerged as the Delta League champions, despite losing two of three late-season contests to Franklin. The No. 6-seeded Wildcats are led by by Case Davis (21 RBI) and Carson Stevens (24 RBI) and pitchers Zach Meddings (8-1) and Grant Stevens (5-2).
Jesuit, seeded second, seeks its sixth section D-I title under Joe Potulny, and he has the pitching and battle-tested team to make a run. Daniel Susac has 16 RBI, and pitchers Anthony Susac and Carter Benbrook have had great moments this season.
No. 3 Folsom is having its best D-I season, thanks in part to CJ Hutton (29 hits), Carson Gross (17 RBI), Ryan Stafford (13 RBI) and Jacob Lynch (5-0 1.94 ERA).
No. 5 Davis lost three tight games to Jesuit and beat Franklin two of three times. Veteran coach Dan Ariola, possibly in his final season at his alma mater, has won three section titles and lost to Vacaville in the finals last season. The Blue Devils are led by Nick Vogt (30 hits, 3 RBI), Jonah Hendrickson (24 hits, 29 RBI) and pitchers Luke Carrell (5-1) and Zach Carrell (leads team in strikeouts).
No. 8 Oak Ridge looms as a dark horse and potential second-round matchup with Vacaville. Oak Ridge is led by Brayden Tester (22 hits) and ace Nathan Hansen (1.27 ERA, 68 strikeouts).
Oakmont is the top seed in D-II, enjoying its best season since winning the section in 2000. The Vikings are led by Carson Blatnick (27 hits, 25 RBI), Greg Nichols (23 hits, 20 RBI), Andrew Paolini (39 hits, 24 RBI), Luke Davies (38 hits) and pitchers TJ Nichols (7-1, 0.31 ERA) and Kai Peterson (7-1. 0.30).
A looming second-round game for Oakmont could be No. 8-seeded Elk Grove, an eight time D-I section champion since 2003. Elk Grove, feeling extra optimistic after beating Franklin two of three to end the regular season, is paced by Kenny Williams (29 RBI) and Jack Colville (32 hits, 14 RBI).
Woodcreek is seeded second and is paced by Ryan Harvey (21 RBI, five home runs) and a staff ERA of 1.60. Del Camp, seeded sixth, led by Mason Poisson (.463, 38 hits, 32 RBI, four homers), Joey Adge (27 RBI, five homer) and Sam Hayden (26 RBI, three homers).
Capital Christian has won six successive section titles, five in D-V and last season in D-IV, all under coach Nelson Randolph. Now in D-III, the Cougars open against Cordova, where Guy Anderson won a state-leading 927 games through 2015.
Anderson is now an assistant at Capital. Colfax is seeded second in D-V. The defending champions have won 17 consecutive games and are led by John Louis Pantlick (.404, 46 RBI) and 7-0 pitchers Jason Holm and Alex Weir.
Freelance writer Cameron Salerno contributed to this report.
Sac-Joaquin Section playoff schedules
All openers Monday at 4 p.m., unless noted
No. 16 Chavez at No. 1 Whitney
No. 9 Turlock at No. 8 Bear Creek
No. 12 Lincoln-Stockton at No. 5 Cosumnes Oaks
No. 13 Davis at No. 4 Tracy
No. 14 Gregori at No. 3 Sheldon
No. 11 McClatchy at No. 6 Folsom
No. 10 Lodi at No. 7 Enochs
No. 15 River City at No. 2 Elk Grove
No. 16 Rio Americano at No. 1 Rocklin
No. 9 Vacaville at No. 8 Oakmont
No. 12 Lincoln at No. 5 Vista Del Lago
No. 13 Ponderosa at No. 4 Roseville
No. 14 Stagg at No. 3 Yuba City
No. 11 Woodcreek at No. 6 St.Francis
No. 10 West at No. 7 Atwater
No. 15 Laguna Creek at No. 2 Del Oro
No. 16 Mira Loma at No. 1 Oakdale
No. 9 Wood at No. 8 Ceres
No. 12 Rosemont at No. 5 Christian Brothers
No. 13 Pioneer at No. 4 Vanden
No. 14 Sierra at No. 3 Golden Valley
No. 11 Beyer at No. 6 East Union
No. 10 Kimball at No. 7 Patterson
No. 15 Cordova at No. 2 Del Campo
No. 9 Sonora at No. 8 Los Banos
No. 11 Natomas at No. 6 Center
No. 10 Galt at No. 7 West Campus
No. 5 Liberty Ranch at No. 4 Marysville (4 p.m. Wednesday)
Byes: No. 1 Ripon, No. 2 Calaveras, No. 3 Casa Roble
No. 8 Amador at No. 1 Escalon
No. 5 Colfax at No. 4 Waterford
No. 6 Mariposa at No. 3 Hilmar
No. 7 Hughson at No. 5 Linden
No. 8 Buckingham at No. 1 Woodland Christian
No. 5 Argonaut at No. 4 Holt Academy
No. 6 Le Grand at No. 3 Millennium
No. 7 Rio Vista at No. 2 Ripon Christian
No. 8 Hughes at No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian
No. 5 Big Valley Christian at No. 4 Vacaville Christian
No. 6 Forest Lake Christian at No. 3 Alpha Charter
No. 7 Leroy Greene at No. 2 Foresthill
All openers Tuesday at 4 p.m.
No. 16 Kennedy at No. 1 Vacaville
No. 9 Pleasant Grove at No. 8 Oak Ridge
No. 12 McClatchy at No. 5 Davis
No. 13 Gregori at No. 4 Lodi
No. 14 Armijo at No. 3 Folsom
No. 11 Pitman at No. 6 Franklin-Elk Grove
No. 10 Lincoln-S at No. 7 Turlock
No. 15 Chavez at No. 2 Jesuit
No. 16 Stagg at No. 1 Oakmont
No. 9 Yuba City and No. 8 Elk Grove
No. 12 Laguna Creek at No. 5 Bella Vista
No. 13 Tracy at No. 4 Bear Creek
No. 14. Whitney at No. 3 Rodriguez
No. 11 Granite Bay at No. 6 Del Campo
No. 10 Rocklin at No. 7 St. Mary’s
No. 15 Lincoln at No. 2 Woodcreek
No. 16 Johnson at No. 1 Buhach Colony
No. 9 Rio Americano at No. 8 Nevada Union
No. 12 El Capitan at No. 5 Oakdale
No. 13 Cordova at No. 4 Capital Christian
No. 14 Ceres at No. 3 Atwater
No. 11 Beyer at No. 6 Manteca
No. 10 Ponderosa at No. 7 Christian Brothers
No. 15 Golden Valley at No. 2 Sierra
No. 9 Union Mine at No. 8 Pioneer
No. 12 El Dorado at No. 5 Sonora
No. 13 Ripon at No. 4 Central Catholic
No. 14 Marysville at No. 3 Woodland
No. 11 Venture Academy at No. 6 Livingston
No. 10 West Campus at No. 7 Liberty Ranch
Byes: No. 1 Los Banos, No. 2 Casa Roble
No. 8 Orestimba at No. 1 Argonaut
No. 5 Bear River at No. 4 Linden
No. 6 Amador at No. 3 Hughson
No. 7 Western Sierra at No. 2 Colfax
No. 8 Millennium at No. 1 Ripon Christian
No. 5 Waterford at No. 4 San Juan
No. 6 Hughes Academy at No. 3 Golden Sierra
No. 7 Holt Academy at No. 2 Mariposa
No. 8 Sacramento Waldorf at No. 1 Alpha Charter
No. 5 Foresthill at No. 4 Turlock Christian
No. 6 Big Valley Christian at No. 3 Valley Christian
No. 7 Leroy Greene at No. 2 Woodland Christian