In his six years as the varsity head coach of the Shadow Hills High School baseball team since its inception, coach Teg Diffey said he’s never been blessed with a more athletic squad.
But none of that will matter if the Knights can’t string together at least two victories in this spring’s CIF Southern Section Division 5 baseball playoff bracket, which was released Monday along with the rest of the divisions.
The Knights succeeded in what they couldn’t do last year – running through their De Anza League slate undefeated to help secure a certain first-round home game and avoid Wednesday’s wild card round. Friday, Shadow Hills will host the winner of Vista del Lago and Bassett.
In an ideal world, Diffey said the Knights would get a home game and have four days to prepare for their first-round opponent, but after sharing a league title with Big Bear a year ago and getting relegated to the wild card round, he can’t complain too much.
“It’s nice to be able to prepare for a certain type of pitcher, so not knowing until Wednesday is some sort of disadvantage, but you’re also, in theory, playing a wild card team, and that should be an advantage itself,” he said. “It’s playoff baseball, so of course they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game. It’s win or go home.”
Elsewhere in the playoff baseball brackets, Palm Desert received the No. 2 seed in Division 3 that the Aztecs were expecting, even after a narrow 1-0 extra-innings loss to unranked rival La Quinta last Tuesday on the road. They’ll play host to the winner of the wild card game between Paso Robles and Cathedral on Friday, with their eyes set on a potential rematch in the championship game to avenge last year’s playoff loss to this spring’s top-seeded Redondo Union.
The other baseball teams awarded a home first-round game include co-DVL champs La Quinta, who will host Covina on Friday, as well as Desert Christian Academy and Palm Valley in Division 6, who will take on Temecula Prep and La Sierra Academy, respectively, at home on Thursday.
The valley also scored three teams in Wednesday’s wild card round, including two that will have a chance to host a game, making seven local playoff baseball games this week. In Division 3, Xavier Prep will host Elsinore, while Palm Springs will hit the road to take on Lancaster. In Division 5, Rancho Mirage will host Mountain View, also on Wednesday.
For Diffey and the Knights, it’ll be their last postseason in Division 5 before an uptick in competition with the rest of their new league-mates in the DVL next spring, and though he didn’t hold anything against the rest of the De Anza League, he said there’s a worry about a lack of competition coming into playoff time.
To make up for it, Diffey has had his team face off in inter-squad games each of the last three weeks to face the team’s top pitching in Sean Roby, Alex Lopez and Fernando Rojas to keep them fresh for a potential matchup with top-seeded Woodcrest Christian in the quarterfinals, including pitcher Gabriel Ramos, who has a 0.98 ERA over nearly 60 innings this season.
“That has been an Achilles heel for us in the past,” Diffey said about a weak end of the season schedule. “I told our guys that some of the best pitching we’re going to see is from our own team.”
CIF playoff pairings
Local CIF Southern Section baseball and softball postseason schedule
Jurupa Valley at La Quinta
Indio at Rialto
Palm Desert at Aquinas
Elsinore at Xavier Prep (at 6:30 p.m.)
Palm Springs at Lancaster (at Antelope Valley College)
Mountain View at Rancho Mirage
Temecula Prep at Desert Christian Academy
La Sierra Academy at Palm Valley
Bishop Conaty-Loretto at Desert Christian Academy
Paloma Valley/San Gorgonio at Palm Springs
Rancho Mirage at Webb
Shadow Hills at Savanna
Paso Robles/Cathedral at Palm Desert
Covina at La Quinta
Vista del Lago/Bassett at Shadow Hills