Is there nothing better than going wire-to-wire? Or is there nothing worse than having to go wire-to-wire?
Chatsworth is about to find out.
The Chancellors were ordained as the City Section’s best Division I baseball team before the start of the 2017 season and they have done everything to emphasize that perception, going 26-5 overall and rolling undefeated through the West Valley League (10-0). None of their losses were to City teams, and their longest losing streak was two games.
It’s no surprise they are the division’s top seed as they open the playoffs on Tuesday, May 16, against the winner of the wild card game between Bell and Narbonne of Harbor City.
“They are very good. They’re very deserving of the seed,” Birmingham Coach Matt Mowry said of Chatsworth. “They have been one of the top teams all along.”
But, as Mowry would point out, in a one-loss elimination tournament like the City tournament the favored team is always one hot team, injury, unexpected error, bloop hit or subjective call away from falling short of what everyone considered was a sure thing.
“In the playoffs, it’s one game against one pitcher and anything is possible,” he said. “It depends on how teams show up that day, and how the breaks of the game go.”
No one knows that better than Chatsworth Coach Tom Meusborn, who’s taken the Chancellors to 16 City finals in 26 years, and is 8-8 in those games, including going 0-4 since the school won the last of its nine City championships in 2009. That would include 2016’s heartbreaking loss to El Camino Real, the reigning two-time defending champion.
So Meusborn will not heap anymore pressure on his talented team with boastful proclamations or meaningless predictions. You win the championship on the field and nowhere else.
But he certainly will take his chances with his 2017 squad.
“It’s an older group, an experienced team,” Meusborn said in a recent interview. They’ve been [together] on varsity a couple years. They had a chance to play at Dodger Stadium last year. They understand what it takes to compete and are willing to make this effort.
“There are days when we look good, and days when we look not so good. But they play hard every game and give themselves a chance. That is all you can ask.”
There are realistic contenders standing in Chatsworth’s way — and not just other Valley area teams like El Camino Real, San Fernando, Birmingham, Kennedy and Cleveland. Roosevelt of Los Angeles, seeded second, and Venice, seeded third, are both expected to at least reach the semifinal round as could San Pedro, seeded fourth.
By the way, San Pedro — in 1992 — was the last non-Valley team to win the Division I title.
There are some excellent first round games on May 16. Kennedy hosts Marshall of Los Angeles. San Fernando and Cleveland face off. So do ECR and Palisades.
But don’t ignore the four wild card games today, May 11, between Bell and Narbonne, Granada Hills and University of Los Angeles, Carson and Taft, and Banning of Wilmington and Verdugo Hills. The winners of these games will at least have played, while the other 12 seeds will have had a minimum of nine days off. Who knows (yet) what momentum can be derived by those teams winning their early games.
The supposed equalizer? Teams could potentially use their top pitcher in three of the four remaining games.
Divisions II and III will have their own stories to craft and tell.
Roybal Learning Center of Los Angeles is the top seed in Division II, followed by Locke of Los Angeles, South Gate and the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies as the second, third and fourth seeds respectively.
The highest seeded Valley team was Monroe, at No. 9. The Vikings visit Lincoln of Los Angeles, seeded eighth, on May 16. Also playing that day is Van Nuys, seeded 10th, against host Maywood, seeded seventh.
The lone wild card game today involving a Valley team is Arleta, which hosts Fairfax of Los Angeles.
In Division III, Rancho Dominguez of Long Beach was awarded the top seed, followed by Animo Venice, Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies. Other Valley teams among the first 12 seeds include No. 8 Vaughn, which hosts No. 9 Central City Value of Los Angeles; No. 5 Community Charter, which hosts No. 12 Hawkins of Los Angeles; and No. 10 Fulton, which visits No. 7 Jordan of Los Angeles.
All of these games are on May 16.
Today’s division wild card games involving Valley teams include Triumph Charter hosting Animo De La Hoya of Los Angeles; Northridge Academy visiting View Park of Los Angeles; Lakeview Charter visiting Port of Los Angeles, located in San Pedro; and Valor Academy, visiting Legacy of South Gate.
Quarterfinal games in all three divisions will be played on May 19. The Division III semifinal games will be played on May 22 at the home site of the higher seeded team. The Division II semifinal games will be played May 25 at the USC. The Division I semifinal games are on May 27, also at USC.
The Division III championship game will be played May 26 at USC. The Division II and I championship games will be played June 3 at Dodger Stadium.