East Union beat Oakdale in a coin flip Thursday to get the No. 1 seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
Perhaps the Valley Oak League co-champions, who split their thrilling regular-season contests, will get another chance to settle things on the field down the road. A third showdown between the two would have to take place in the semifinals, but they’ll have to beat some quality opponents to make that happen. Defending champ East Union (21-1) starts with No. 16 Sacramento (8-5) next Tuesday at the Sacramento Softball Complex.
Among the notables are 2015 Division II champion and No. 5 seeded Benicia (18-4) along with No. 6 Pioneer (19-3-1), which lost to the Lancers in the title round last year. Ceres (18-4) is seeded third.
“Looking at the competition — wow,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “It’s going to be similar to last year. There are some great teams out there, so we have to come out and play our best or else we’ll be disappointed.”
Trans-Valley League champion Ripon (18-3) was awarded the top seed in Division V. Sierra (13-4) will get to defend its Division IV championship as the No. 4 seed and is joined by intra-city foe Manteca (14-9), which is seeded 10th.
Ripon is looking make a return appearance in the final round. The Indians did so for the first time last season but lost to Hughson, which garnered a fifth straight section banner.
Hughson (11-9) and powerhouse Bear River (25-2) have moved up to Division IV for the postseason, leaving second-seeded Marysville (18-5), No. 3 Escalon (20-6) and No. 4 Linden (20-5) as Ripon’s biggest threats. Up first is No. 8 Orestimba (10-12) next Wednesday at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.
“You never want to look at something and say you have an easy path, because like I always say, a boot, a bunt and a base hit can lose a game,” Ripon coach Robert Vernon said. “If we can take care of business, play clean defense, get some good pitching and continue to hit the ball the way we’ve been hitting it then good things will happen.”
Manteca heads to No. 7 Union Mine (17-5) of El Dorado for one of three Division IV out-bracket games on Monday. Then on Thursday at Arnaiz Softball Complex, Sierra takes on No. 5 Lindhurst (20-7) in a rematch of last year’s final-round contest. The winner likely gets No. 1 Bear River.
“I thought we could have been at least a No. 2 or 3, but I’m happy with where we’re at,” Sierra coach Vic DeAnda said.
Some upsets would need to happen for a potential Sierra-Manteca matchup in the winners-bracket or consolation semifinals. Besides Union Mine, higher-seeded Casa Roble (18-7) and Los Banos (21-3) — Nos. 2 and 3, respectively — loom as opponents for the Buffaloes.
“I can see both of us doing very well,” DeAnda said. “Playing in the VOL, we’ve seen a lot of tough pitching and that should help us out.”