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June 29, 2022

Baseball | Aztecs take on Sharks in CCS semifinals

SOLEDAD — During the regular season, the Soledad Aztecs and the St. Francis Sharks split their season series at 1-1 in the Mission Division.

The Sharks ended up winning the league title, but when both teams meet Wednesday, May 25, at 4 p.m. at Washington Park in Santa Clara for the third time, it will be for a spot in the CCS Division IV Championship game.

Both the Aztecs (21-7) and the Sharks (21-6) got the win in their first round of the CCS Division IV playoffs. Soledad upset the No. 1 seed Santa Teresa 4-1, while St. Francis beat Sequoia 11-8.

You can make the case that Soledad and St. Francis are the two best teams in the Mission Division. Both squads are filled with college baseball prospects. It’s no wonder that these teams split their season series 1-1, and in two games, they both scored 12 runs.

In the first game in Soledad, the Sharks won 8-6. St. Francis scored four runs in the third, with their pitcher Junior Ibarra going 5.1 to get the win. Soledad hurt itself by committing five errors in the game and leaving the bases loaded twice in the final two innings.

In game two in Watsonville, Soledad was able to win 6-4. St. Francis pitcher Kai Price went five innings and struck out 10 Soledad batters while giving up three runs. Soledad pitcher Eric Segura went all seven innings and got the win. Both Soledad’s Noah Fregoso and Daniel Raso combined for three RBIs.

St. Francis Sharks

What We Know: St. Francis has shown that they can hit Soledad’s best pitcher in Segura, and when given an extra opportunity, they will make you pay by driving in those additional runs. Their pitching staff might not be the best remaining in the tournament, but give them a lead and it’s going to be hard coming back. As a team, their batting average is 330, and their pitching staff has an ERA of just under 3.

Players to Watch: Noel Aquino leads his team in batting average (500), home runs (8) and hits (40). Ibarra this year is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.26.

Soledad Aztecs

What We Know: In two games against St. Francis, the Aztecs have committed seven errors, and five of those came in the first matchup between these teams. In their two games this year, Soledad batters drew 14 walks. As a team, their batting average is 349, and their pitching staff has an ERA of 1.83.

Final Thoughts and Prediction: The word rivalry in sports is often overused because two teams face off against each other that happen to be good in a random year. What makes a rivalry is heartbreak. Up to this point, St. Francis vs. Soledad is not a rivalry. Especially with the divisions always changing, it’s hard to establish new rivals outside of the inner city or close school in the area.

If you look at how the Mission Division played out, St. Francis won the league title, but if Soledad takes care of business against King City, they are co-champs. And with them splitting their season series, it’s hard to label it a rivalry after a year

You can make a case that a league title is better than CCS final appearance, and you would get no arguments from me. With both of these teams projected to be moved up to the Gablian Division next year, today’s game could be the start of a rivalry because both of these teams will see a lot of each other and probably contend for the Gabilan Division title.

With that being said, Soledad once again has the best pitcher, and I believe pitching wins championships. Aztecs win round three, 5-2.

Jason Gallardo
Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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