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November 27, 2022

Three local teams qualify for CCS playoffs | High school baseball

Aptos, MVC, St. Francis all set for Saturday’s quarterfinals

A trio of local schools qualified for the upcoming Central Coast Section baseball playoffs, giving them one more chance to extend their seasons.

Aptos, Monte Vista Christian and St. Francis high schools are all postseason bound after Wednesday’s seeding meeting revealed the teams’ quarterfinals matchups.

The Mustangs earned the top seed in the Division VI bracket and they will host No. 8 Summit Shasta (17-2) on Saturday at noon. 

The Sharks earned the No. 4 seed in the D-IV bracket and they will host No. 5 Sequoia (9-17-1) on Saturday at 1pm.

The Mariners earned the No. 7 seed in the elite Division I bracket and they will play at No. 2 Valley Christian on the same day and time.

Aptos coach Jason Biancardi said he acknowledges that it was a tough draw to get, but at this point in the season every team is a top competitor. 

“We won league and we were hoping for a home game, so we’re bummed about that,” he said. “But the kids are definitely up to the challenge. They love playing the better teams.”

Aptos (23-6) won the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League regular season and tournament championships. They captured the regular season league title with a 14-1 league record.

The Mariners’ success this season was led by a strong pitching staff that boasts the third best ERA in CCS, as well as the most strikeouts in this season. 

Aptos has two NCAA Division I commits in senior Reed Moring and Junior Gabe Gaeckle. Both pitchers have led the team both on the mound and in the batter’s box.

Potential starter Moring, who is committed to play next year at UC Santa Barbara, leads the SCCAL with a 0.93 ERA. He also ranks fourth in CCS for strikeouts with 101 this season. 

Gaeckle, who is committed to play at UCLA, has a 1.03 ERA, a .373 batting average and leads the team in home runs with five this season.

Biancardi expects the game will be decided by slim margins, making each baserunner and scoring opportunity extremely valuable to the outcome of the game.

Aptos will hope senior slugger Jack Spinelli can have an impact in what could be a close game with Valley Christian. 

Spinelli has been one of the Mariners’ main offensive threats, leading the team with a .385 batting average, 29 RBI’s and 35 hits. 

Biancardi said they were placed in the top division for good reason, and now have their opportunity to play one of California’s top teams.

“We’re not gonna try to look past the first game,” Biancardi said. “We’re gonna just try and go one inning at a time, throw our top guys, and see if we can pull off an upset.”

The Mustangs (18-8-1) qualified for the CCS playoffs after a fourth place finish in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Mission division with an 11-5 record in league play.

MVC coach Johnny Ramirez said he told the group to go into Saturday’s quarterfinals with the mindset of an underdog rather than being too confident as the No. 1 seed. 

“Just cause that eight is next to their name doesn’t mean they’re going to play like it,” Ramirez said about playing Summit Shasta. “We’re gonna play it like they’re the No. 1 and we’re the [No.] 8 seed.”

The Mustangs plan to start junior right-hander Jojo Keldsen Jr., who has been their first choice in big games this season. 

Heading into the postseason, Keldsen Jr. has a 1.30 ERA and he ranks eighth in the CCS for strikeouts with 91 this season.

Dylan Hawkins, a junior right-hander, and senior righty Jacob Woods will be prepared to take the mound should Keldsen Jr have an off-night.

“Pitching wise, I think we’ll match up well with anybody,” Ramirez said. “Offensively we just need to get our sticks going.”

Senior outfielder Mark Spohn has played an important role in MVC’s offensive production this season. He led the team with a .418 batting average, 21 stolen bases, 33 hits and 26 runs scored.

Spohn and his teammates will be aggressive on the basepaths as they have been all season. 

The Mustangs lead the Mission division with 117 stolen bases, and will look to use their speed to put pressure on Summit Shasta.

Ramirez said he doesn’t want to make any big changes at this point in the season. They’ll just focus on what has gotten MVC to this point. 

“Lets just go hit the ball, play defense, steal our bases. I told them nothings gonna change, nothings gonna be different,” Ramirez said.

The Sharks (20-6) won the PCAL’s Mission division with a 13-3 record in league play, beating Alisal in the regular season finale to capture the league title.

St. Francis coach Ken Nakagawa said he expected a slightly higher seed, but he is ultimately happy with the matchup.

Especially being able to start the postseason off with a game on their own field.

“We’re pretty good at home,” Nakagawa said. “We obviously like playing at home in front of our crowd in front of our people.”

Sharks senior slugger Noel Aquino leads the CCS in RBIs with 46, and he ranks second with eight home runs, and a .506 batting average on the season. 

The Sharks will look to Aquino among others to have a productive day at the plate against Sequoia, which placed third in the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay division.

Nakagawa said they know what’s at stake and they’ve been motivated to get to this point since the beginning of the season.

“Our goal since the [outset] is to hang two banners and we got one of them, so we’re half way done,” he said. “[If we] continue to do what we’ve been doing, play catch, play good defense and throw strikes then we like our chances.”

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