When you ask any Sunset League baseball coach just how daunting the league is, you'll get a similar response from each of the six. The word, "tough," seems to best sum up its competitiveness.
The chase for the 2013 Sunset title begins Friday. The opening day schedule has Huntington Beach hosting Fountain Valley, Edison home to Newport Harbor, and Marina traveling to face Los Alamitos. First pitch for each game is 3:15 p.m.
It's difficult to select a favorite for the title. Edison, Huntington Beach and Marina each has played well during nonleague tournament action, as has Fountain Valley which has made a name for itself in the first few weeks of the season.
The Barons are 6-0 overall and one day after opening league play at Huntington, they will contend for the title of the Loara Tournament at Glover Stadium in Anaheim. They'll face Canyon of Anaheim, ranked fourth in CIF Southern Section Division 1, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Fountain Valley owns wins against Sonora (11-10, 4-3), Aliso Niguel (6-4), El Modena (5-0), El Toro (5-0) and Cypress (5-4). The win against Cypress, which was the first setback in six games for the Centurions who are ranked No. 2 in Division 2, came in the semifinals of the tournament.
Unranked to begin the season, the Barons have shot up to No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, behind Harvard-Westlake.
"Our kids have shown a lot of heart and determination," first-year head coach Deric Yanagisawa said. "These players deserve the credit for the great start but we haven't accomplished anything yet. The Sunset League has represented well, thus far, and it will be a dog fight each game. I think our players are up to the challenge."
That challenge begins with a tough road test at Huntington.
"The Sunset League will be a battle each and every game," Yanagisawa said. "Every game will be competitive and will come down to the team that makes the least mistakes. Games will be exciting and fun to be a part of .
"Huntington is young but extremely talented. They will swing the bats and will have just enough pitching to keep them in every game. They are very athletic and they will force teams to play catch."
The Oilers closed out the Newport Elks Tournament with a 4-1 victory over Gahr. Pitchers Robert Baker, Andrew Arledge (2-0) and Jake Brodt (save), limited a potent Gladiators offense to just two hits. Tyler Murray led the Oilers offense with a three for four game, Logan Pouelson drove in two runs and Clint Jack scored twice.
Huntington is 5-2 overall.
"I like our start and like the fact that we learned some valuable lessons about beating our self," Huntington Coach Benji Medure said. "We lost to two very good teams in Orange Lutheran and Capo Valley, and in both games, we beat ourselves. You can't do that against good teams. Hopefully, we put that behind us."
Medure is aware of a talented Fountain Valley team that will come calling Friday.
"The league is going to probably be the best it has been in a long while," he said. "Every team is solid. Fountain Valley was good last year, and they had bad luck. They will be much better this year with another year of experience. We have to be ready because they are physical and good."
Both Edison and Marina opened their respective at the Loara Tournament, and met in the consolation championship game. The Chargers (4-1) took that meeting, 6-1, on Saturday. Senior Don Pierce went two for three, scored twice and threw a complete-game victory to improve to 2-0. Junior Brian Schales went two for four with two RBIs.
Jake Bauers went doubled twice and drove in a run for Marina which is 3-2 heading into the league season.
"Our start has been one of two worlds," Marina Coach Bob Marshall said. "We have gotten outstanding starting pitching in every game, except the game against Edison."
Senior Austin Olivas is 1-0 with an earned run average of 0.58 in 12 innings pitched. Senior Jackson Westermeyer also is 1-0 and hasn't allowed an earned run, and senior Max Gibbs has come into the game in relief and has a 1.24 ERA and five strikeouts in six innings of relief work.
"Our offense has not shown up as of yet," Marshall said. "We are not disciplined as hitters. We have too many strikeouts in our games and we don't stay on pitches. We get ourselves out and we don't put the ball hard in play. In order for us to be successful, we must be able to have productive at bats. The one young man who is hitting for us is Jake Bauers."
Bauers, a senior who is signed with the University of Hawaii, comes into league play with a .467 average with three doubles and a home run.
Marshall said that Olivas will get the start Friday at Los Alamitos.
"The Sunset League is always tough," Marshall added. "Any team can beat any team. Lots of exciting baseball will be played. We travel to Los Alamitos for the league opener and Los Alamitos is a very talented team. They will always compete from the first pitch to the last pitch and they will elevate your game."
While the Sunset League gets into full swing on Friday, so, too, does the Golden West League season begin to unfold. Ocean View will take its first step in league action when it goes to Santa Ana for a 3:15 p.m. start.
The Seahawks, 1-5 overall, competed last week at the Foothill Tournament. They currently are 1-3 in the tournament which was postponed by rain and will resume April 7. In their first four tournament games, senior Jared Goodman went seven for 10 with four doubles and a home run, and is 1-0 on the mound. Senior Luke Fell went seven for 12 with a double, home run and six RBIs.
"We are struggling to find the right combination of guys out there who will get it done for us," Ocean View Coach Shane Borowski said. "Our play has been inconsistent and suspect, and we need to find a few guys in the bottom-half of our batting order who will make things happen for this team.
"The beauty of it all is that now we are 0-0 again. League starts Friday and we need all hands on deck to buy into the fact that we have the entire season in front of us still. They control their own destiny, and it starts this week.
"The league is much better this year, all around. Teams in our league have posted some significant preseason wins over some good teams. We need to get after it if we want to make the playoffs this year. I am hoping the tougher preseason schedule we played will have only prepared us and not hurt us."
CIF weekly baseball polls (week of March 11)
Division 1: Fountain Valley, No. 2.
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