SOLEDAD — Central Coast Section selection committee gave the Soledad Aztecs the last seed in the baseball playoffs’ Division IV bracket, but what was eye-opening were some of the teams that were seeded ahead of them.
The Aztecs will have an uphill battle when the CCS playoffs start on Saturday. They will have to face the top seed, Santa Teresa Saints from San Jose, because they are the eighth and last seed in Division IV. Soledad will have to travel for all their games, as well.
Santa Teresa finished with a 20-7 record and was in fourth place in the Mount Hamilton league.
When the bracket was revealed, Soledad was placed with St. Francis, which won the Mission Division, Salinas High and Carmel High. The shocking thing was the seeding of the teams.
St. Francis (20-6) is the fourth seed, Carmel (17-10) is third and Soledad (20-7) got eighth, while Salinas (12-14) — which needed to win a play-in game to make the playoffs — got the second seed.
If St. Francis was seeded before Soledad, you can’t justify it because they are champions, but that wasn’t the case. Both Mission Division top seeds finished behind two lower seeds in the Gabilan Division teams.
This year Soledad was 2-0 against Gabilan Division teams and 5-3 against teams currently in the CCS playoffs. Carmel is 10-10 and Salinas is 6-13, when facing teams that made the playoffs this year.
If Soledad is going to make the committee look foolish, they will have to start with top seed Santa Teresa this Saturday, May 21, at 11 a.m. in San Jose.
What We Know: The Saints are an older team that can swing the bat. They have 10 players batting over 260, while as a team they are batting 304. When it comes to pitching, their team ERA is 2.68. Santa Teresa also finished fourth in their league.
Players to Watch: Pitcher Brandon Ashley is 5-1 this year with a 2.12 ERA. Shortstop Rick Vidal is batting 421 and leads the team in hits with 32.
What We Know: After their 11-game winning streak was snapped, Soledad went 1-3 in their next four games. But since then, the Aztecs have won their last three games. With a team ERA of 1.83, Soledad has five pitchers who have pitched in multiple games this year.
Players to Watch: Arguably the best pitcher not only in the Pacific Coast Athletic League, but also the entire Central Coast Section, Soledad’s Eric Segura has been dominant on the mound, posting a 0.67 ERA with 111 strikeouts. He also leads the team in hits (38) and batting average (469) and is second in RBIs (26). If Soledad has any shot at winning the CCS title, they are going to need their RBI leader (33) Jeremy Banuelos to get on a hot streak. Banuelos, in the last seven games, has only two RBIs.
Final Thoughts and Prediction: The situation in Soledad isn’t ideal. Plus, to add more salt to an open wound, they have an 11 a.m. game start on Saturday. If you watched the Aztecs team this year, you know they could match talent with anyone in that bracket. Soledad will have the best player entering the game and especially on the mound. The biggest problem for them is their defense commits many errors. As a Soledad alumnus, this pick might be more heart than logic, but I always pick great pitching over great hitting. Segura pitches a shutout for a Soledad 3-0 win.