Stage set for more CIF San Diego Section playoff action

May 23, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

With their backs against the wall in a win-or-go-home situation, the Holtville and Imperial high baseball teams could be the two most dangerous squads in the CIF San Diego Section Division IV playoffs.

At 4 today both teams will try to stave off elimination in the losers' brackets of the playoffs.

No. 4-seeded Imperial (14-10 overall, 6-6 Imperial Valley League) High will host Citrus League champion Mountain Empire while No. 6 Holtville (8-14, 3-9) will play at Bishop's in La Jolla.

Both Imperial and Holtville enter today's games coming off huge losses — Imperial 10-3 to Santa Fe Christian and Holtville 22-3 to Marian Catholic.


The Tigers will look to Chris Cabrera to shut down Mountain Empire (18-6) as he gets the start on the mound.

Despite the magnitude of the contest, Cabrera, a junior, said this game means no more than any other.

"Going into it, knowing that I'm pitching, I'm not even nervous about it. To me it's just another game that has to be played," said Cabrera.

Still, the game carries quite a bit more urgency for the nine seniors on Imperial's squad.

"This is it right here. We have a lot of seniors on this team and this could possibly be our last game," said second baseman Julian Lopez, a senior. "People always talk about playing every game like it's their last. Well for us, that's exactly the situation we're in."

All year Imperial's relied on pitching, defense and clutch hitting to pull out of tight jams.

Against Santa Fe Christian on Tuesday, the Tigers did little of that, most notably the clutch hitting aspect. Imperial ended up leaving nine runners on base and left the bases loaded twice.

"We can't have a repeat of Thursday. We had our chances but we just didn't capitalize," said senior Aaron Hartsock, who will start at shortstop today. "We can't go into this game thinking there's going to be one player that carries us because we don't have that one player. On any given day anyone on this team can be a hero."

Imperial will go against Mountain Empire's No. 2 pitcher Andrew Tucker, who enters the game with a 3-0 record and a 0.46 ERA. Leading the team's offense are Patrick Carroll, hitting .406, and Kyle Keeran, with a .380 average.

"I have a lot of confidence in my D. I know that having them behind me makes things that much easier for me," said Cabrera. "We know that we have to go in and do what we have to and come out with a W."

Lopez said he knows the task at hand won't be easy but thinks the Tigers have what it takes to advance in the postseason.

"We know that what happened Tuesday was just one of those things, but that's already behind us. We have to take care of business," said Lopez. "No matter what, we have to play with a lot of heart. We have to put everything on the line and not leave anything on the field. When this game is over, I don't want to have any regrets at all."

For Holtville, the game against Marian was seemingly over after the first inning, when the Vikings gave up 10 runs.

Holtville will try to prove that loss was an aberration as it looks to bounce back against Bishop's (10-12).

"This definitely is a team you have to think about. But I think we can play with them. They've played a couple games already, so hopefully they're already out of pitching," said Viking coach Scott Anderson. "Right now our season is on the line. It's no longer double-elimination."

While the final outcome against Marian was brutal, it was in a way part of Anderson's strategy for the postseason.

Anderson pitched his ace Edward Castro on Monday in the team's 1-0 victory over Calvin Christian in the play-in game. Knowing the tournament is double-elimination, Anderson saved his No. 2 pitcher, Jarret Hilfiker, for today's game.

"Before Tuesday's game I was looking long-term, as far as the playoffs are concerned," said Anderson. "So if things shape up the way we hope they do, then we have our ace against Marian. And maybe it'll be a different game."

In an effort to save some of his stronger arms for the rest of the playoffs, Anderson on Tuesday gave the starting nod to Colt Snyder. Snyder, however, lasted only 2/3 of an inning.

On Monday Snyder was the team's hero, coming through with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh against Calvin Christian.

"That's already behind us. I can't even think about that anymore," said Snyder, a sophomore who will start in center field today. "In this game we're going in pretty confident. If we want it bad enough and work hard enough, I think we have a really good shot at it."

Working in the Vikings' favor is knowing that earlier this year Bishop's lost 9-1 to Imperial. Holtville beat Imperial 5-3.

"If we were to lose to Bishop's, that would be a disappointment, at least to me, because Imperial beat them and we beat Imperial, so we should be able to beat Bishop's," said Snyder.

Added Anderson: "Right now we're just taking it one game at a time. So our goal is just to make it to Saturday and we'll take it from there."

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