California does not a crown a state champion at the end of the baseball season, but it does reward over 40 divisional champions in 10 different sections. Here's a look at the teams expected to be among the favorites in each of the 10 California sections in 2010.
Like the 2009 season, the Tri-River League is stocked with talented teams as Clovis West (Fresno) and Buchanan (Clovis) are both off to strong starts to the 2010 season.
Clovis West is 9-1 on the season with only a loss to Beyer. Meanwhile Buchanan, the No. 1 seed in last year's Division I tournament, is 8-1 with a loss to Edison. John Koretoff, a junior catcher, leads the way for Clovis West while junior pitcher Seth Moranda leads the Bears.
Stockdale (Bakersfield) won the title the past two seasons but will be without Kris Hobson, who was selected in the MLB draft. The Mustangs have already lost to both Clovis and Garces in the early going. All-area infielder Kyle Desimone (.535) leads the Mustang attack.
Despite the win over Buchanan, defending Division II champion Edison is off to a rough start at 2-5-1. Lemoore is the only undefeated team in the division at this point at 6-0. Edison may still right the ship considering it has one of the section's top pitchers in Kenny Travis (10-5, 2.37 ERA, 73 Ks) and infielders in Skippy Ferreria (.429, 43 RBI).
Defending Division III champion Hanford has only a season-opening loss to Clovis North (Fresno) marring its record (3-1). The Bullpups return three all-league seniors in Gage Dominguez (P), Konor Meeks (1B), and Dalton Silva (SS), along with all-league junior Connor West (OF).
Washington Union (Fresno) loses three-time North Sequoia League MVP Andrew Rich, who led the Panthers to a 100-29 record during his tenure. However all-area infielder Adam McCurley returns after batting .525 with 23 RBI, along with all-leaguers Marc Mendoza, Yafett Thomas, John Hobbs and Jacob Phillips.
Defending Division V champion Liberty has struggled out of the gate at 4-4 while Fresno Christian (7-0) and Bakersfield Christian (6-1) have both excelled. Fresno Christian has several returning all-league players in Ryan Neufeld, Tim Miller, Riley Endicott and Aaron Hedrick while Bakersfield Christian returns all-leaguers Casey Bloomquist (Soph.), Kyle McGiffney and Chase Grisham.
Fowler is a perennial favorite and currently sits at 3-0-2. The Redcats are led by one of the Central Section's best in Kenny Corona, along with all-league returnees Russell Freitas, Gabby Gutierrez, Kevin Magill, Teddy Nunes and Armen Prieto.
So far in the young season, Farmersville (3-3-1) is the only Division VI team with a .500 record. Defending champion Orange Cove is 0-5 while runnerup McFarland is 1-2-1.
The Serra (San Mateo) Padres and the Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) Monarchs were the cream of the crop in the Central Coast Section last year and both teams are off to hot starts this season.
Serra, which defeated Mitty 5-4 in last year's section finals, has a new coach in Craig Gianinno, who takes over for longtime Padre mentor Pete Jensen. Gianinno's crew is 5-0 to start the season, including a recent 8-3 win over De La Salle, the No. 1 seed in last year's North Coast Section Division I playoffs. Ray DeNardi, Kyle Ferris and Cole Strombom all had home runs in the win. Serra has also received strong pitching from Julian Merryweather, who had a no-hitter for six-plus innings in a 1-0 win over Monte Vista last week.
Mitty, meanwhile, has looked strong with a 7-0 run to start the season. Along with a win over defending Division II section champion Los Gatos, the Monarchs also knocked off Jesuit and St. Mary's, the two teams that reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final last year. Los Gatos is the defending champion in Division II, but the Wildcats lost a ton of seniors from last year's squad. Nevertheless, Los Gatos is 5-2 to start the season with the only losses coming against St. Francis and Mitty.
Willow Glen (San Jose), a semifinalist last year, has opened the season 7-0 and has a solid quartet of returning all-league players in Ryan Sommers (P/OF), Ricardo Diaz (P), Michael Holback (IF), and Kyle Ray (C).
Palma (Salinas) won the Division III crown last season and has opened the season with a 3-1 record, including a 5-3 win over Saint Ignatius. Scotts Valley handed the Chieftans their only loss, 7-3, in February. The Falcons are 3-2 on the season with losses to Pleasant Grove and Leland.
Chatsworth (Chatsworth) lost the league championship last year to Cleveland but the Chancellors came back to defeat Cleveland (Reseda) for the City Section crown. Chatsworth has won four section titles in the past 10 seasons, but it lost its season opener to Hueneme. Cleveland is also 3-1, losing its season opener to Harvard-Westlake.
Freedom (Oakley) pulled off the surprise win over No. 1 seed De La Salle (Concord) in last year's Division I championship; however, the Falcons were senior-heavy last year and have just six seniors on this year's 16-man roster.
De La Salle has lost some early games to Valley Christian and Serra, but also has wins over Bellarmine and Elk Grove. The Spartans return all-league players Bo Walter (OF) and Erik Rowen (IF).
Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) could be the favorite this year with returning all-league players Tom Amato (C), Eric Jaffe (1B), Eduardo Mora-Loera (2B), Cody Slader (SS) and Adam Coggan (3B).
Clayton Valley (Concord), the defending champion in Division II, figures to battle Campolindo for the section title this year. The Eagles are 3-0 to start the season, including a win over Cardinal Newman. Clayton Valley lost league MVP Vince Bruno, but returns all-league players Cody Stephens (SS) and John Bekakis (3B). Campolindo, meanwhile, played at the Division III level last year, but returns Corbin Chase (OF), Chris Killeen (1B), Nick Russ (P), Michael Kathan (IF) and Tommy Stephens (OF).
Drake (San Anselmo) will be a team to watch in Division III. Led by Marin County Athletic League MVP Patrick Conroy, the Pirates also return Cory Bostjancic and Jesse Statts.
Miramonte (Orinda) might still be the favorite, however. The Matadors are 4-0 to start the season after going 23-3 last season with a section title. Miramonte returns catcher Kevin Paulson but will have to fill in a number of holes.
St. Mary's captured the Division IV championship last season with an 8-3 win over Salesian. The Panthers return Bayshore Athletic League MVP Sam Elliott along with Tony Cecchetti. Salesian, however, could be the team to beat in Division IV with all-league players Tino Leite, Andrew Ambion, and Rashawn Tillman all back.
Head-Royce was a force last year, racking up a 24-2 record and a Division V championship with a 2-1 victory over Redwood Christian. Head-Royce returns 14 players from last year's team, including pitcher Spenser Linney, outfielder Mike McGrew, utility Ryan Madden and Gus Anderson-Kline.
Redwood Christian features one of the top pitchers in the country in A.J. Venegas, but also has several returning all-league players in Michael Giltner, and Andre Davis.
Defending champion St. Bernard's lost many of the key players from last year's team that went 21-1 and won the Division VI crown. That could open the door for last year's runner-up, Tomales, which returns league MVP Brett Bell as well as all-league picks Stan Moody, Michael Freeman, Andrew Murphy, Logan Calvi and Ricky Becerra.
The Jesuit (Carmichael) Marauders have fielded the best team in the Sac Joaquin Section the past two seasons but they lost catcher Andrew Susac to the Major League Baseball draft and had 11 seniors graduate from last year's 27-5 team. Jesuit still has one of the state's best pitching prospects in Dan Child, a 6-4, 235-pound righthander.
St. Mary's, a finalist last year, has gotten off to a rough start with a 1-3 record to begin the year. The Rams return league MVP Louie Lechich (.457, 8 HR), however the Rams (24-10) have fallen to CCS powers St. Francis, Mitty and Valley Christian.
Elk Grove (23-7) will be a team to watch this year with the return of four-year starter Jake Rodriguez at shortstop. Rodriguez batted .522 last year with 47 RBI and 5 home runs.
In Division II, Rocklin has won two titles over the past three seasons, defeating rival Granite Bay 11-7 in last year's final. The Thunder dropped a doubleheader to Clovis West to open the season but recently defeated Leigh 6-0.
Granite Bay, meanwhile, returns one of the state's top catchers in Andrew Knapp, who was the Sierra Foothill Conference MVP last year.
Yuba City has ruled Division III the past three seasons, winning three straight titles behind the play of All-American catcher Max Stassi who is now in the Oakland A's organization.
Stassi is gone, but his brother Jake Stassi remains, along with father Jim, the Honkers' coach, to lead Yuba City to a potential fourth straight crown. The Honkers have already defeated Granite Bay and they return Stassi (.395, 9-1), Quentin Rocha (.367), and Sam Kuykendall (4-0) from last year's team that went 28-3.
Placer (20-8) was a bit of a surprise in Division IV last year, upending two-time defending champ Oakdale in the semifinals and then knocking off El Dorado 6-1 for the title. Anthony Amara, who went 9-1 last year, returns on the mound for the Hillmen who are off to a 3-0 start. Oakdale is the perennial favorite, but the Mustangs have already lost twice, falling to Downey and Pitman.
In Division V, Central Catholic (25-6) is the only champion the division has ever known since it was created in 2003. The Raiders have won seven straight Division V titles and 10 straight overall dating back to the 2000 season. The Raiders will likely be the favorite again this year with all-state pitcher Billy Flamion back on the mound after going 13-2 with 125 strikeouts last year. Flamion also batted .446 with 36 runs scored. Also returning are all-league players Chris Sauls and C.J. Carson.
Victory Christian was the winningest team in Division VI last year but lost in the playoffs to San Juan. The Vikings return two of the division's top hitters in Johnny Coburn (.500) and Nathan Coppernoll (.500). Marysville could also be a team to watch with a solid group of juniors that includes Derrick Brown (.452), Davis Walker (.441) and Blaine Huber (.387).
Faith Christian has the top two players returning in Division VII in Daniel Atkins (.571) and Josh Dunham (.571).
The Poway Titans defeated Rancho Buena Vista (Vista) 4-3 for the section title last year and figure to be the odds on favorite to win another crown this year. Besides returning Josh Anderson (1B, .479), Joe Connor (2B, .423), Dillon Donney (3B, .393), Brett Thomas (.OF, .378) and C.J. Rowe (C, .351), the Titans also have pitcher Keegan Yuhl (12-1).
Rancho Buena Vista also should be a factor with Tony Wolters (.380), one of the top-rated shortstops in the country. La Costa Canyon, meanwhile, will rely on Will Swanner, one of the top catchers in the country.
Rancho Bernardo should also be on the radar with Brad Haynal (C, .410), Max Homick (OF, .404) and Brandon Berry (1B, .387) back in the lineup.
El Capitan topped Grossmont for the Division II crown last year, but the Foothillers are off to another solid start at 4-0 and could reclaim the crown they lost after winning it all four straight years from 2005 to 2008. Steven Brault, currently batting .571, is the top returning player for the Foothillers.
Cathedral Catholic remains the favorite in Division III, as evidenced by its recent win over Poway. Casey Munoz (OF, 1B) is the lone returning all-leaguer for the Dons; however, they have won the division the past two seasons.
Montgomery has been the runner-up the past two years but the Aztecs return 15 letterman from last year's 24-9 team, including all-leaguers Agustin Lopez, Kevin Carreon, Johnny Miranda and Luis Leyva. Christian won the Division IV title with a 5-4 win over Madison. The Patriots return all-league pitcher Cody Poteet, a sophomore.
The defending Division I champion Pleasant Valley (Chico) Vikings are off to a dominating start in the preseason with six straight shutout wins and a pair of tournament championships. The Vikings have benefitted from the transfer of Brad Lohse from Hamilton. The senior third baseman is batting .538 with 9 RBI, two doubles and a home run through his first four games. Zeke Colby has also been a force, batting .500 with 12 RBI and three home runs.
Central Valley (Shasta Lake) set a Northern Section record last year for most wins in a season while going 32-2 and winning the Division II championship. The Falcons figure to be the favorite again this year, but have already lost two games (Durham, Shasta). Central Valley has one of the section's best players in Curtis Frisbie, who batted .425 last year with 55 RBI and 11 home runs. The Falcons' top three pitchers from last year, Hayden Pitt (7-1), Brandon Piercy (6-0) and Cameron Imhoff (8-1) all return.
Durham has been the team to beat in Division III for the past decade, winning five section titles in the past 10 years including the last two in a row. The Trojans are off to an impressive start this year, posting wins over Central Valley, Hamilton and Sutter.
Quincy is the defending champion in Division IV, but East Nicolaus (Nicolaus), which moves down from Division III, could be the team to beat. The Spartans have a veteran crew that went 22-3 last year before being upset by Willows in the playoffs. Top returning players include John Kukuruda and Dylan Culp.
Fall River (McArthur) has won the last two Division V championships in the Northern Section and the Maxwell Panthers won the three before that while losing to the Bulldogs in the past two title games. Both teams return a bundle of players from last year's team with the Panthers relying on all-section players Steven Perry and Tyler Wells both on the mound and at the plate.
Princeton and Redding Christian (Palo Cedro) will likely battle it out again this year in Division VI.
Washington (San Francisco) won the league last year and defeated Galileo (San Francisco) 6-4 for the section championship. Galileo, however, had the league's best player in Dylan Nelson, who returns for his senior year. Washington will still be tough to beat; however, with returning all-league players Paul Duchene, Dane Vande Guchte, Alex Kozakiewicz, Walter James, Jumaane Bowdry, and Gabe Morse.
Only one week into the season and already the preseason Southern Section Division I rankings are a mess.
Preseason No. 1 Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo), last year's champ, has a pair of losses while No. 2 JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano) has also lost. No. 3 West Ranch (Valencia) and No. 4 Edison (Huntington Beach) are both 4-1 while No. 5 Santiago (Corona) and No. 6 Wilson (Long Beach) are both 3-2 and No. 7 Mater Dei (Santa Ana) is 2-3.
Lutheran (Orange) is one of five teams that is undefeated at 5-0. The Lancers have defeated Bishop Amat, which holds wins over Capistrano Valley, Mater Dei and JSerra. Royal (Simi Valley) could also be a contender thanks to the presence of pitcher Cody Buckel, who is already 2-0 with 16 strikeouts.
Defending champion Crespi (Encino) is 5-0 to start the season in Division II. The Celts have barely been challenged and have a pair of wins from Ryan Brockett and Ryon Healy. South Hills (West Covina) begins the season right where it left off last year, on top of the Division III rankings. The Huskies defeated Beckman 8-2 for the title last year and are off to a 5-1 start with a loss to Chino Hills. The Huskies are in for another strong season with all-league players Cody Doyle, Tyler France, Dakota Behr, and Christian Ibarra back in the lineup.
Beckman [Arnold O.] (Irvine) is also 4-1 and returns Brandon Trinkwon, Justin Hazard, and Ricky Navarro from last year's runner-up team.
Torrance, a runner-up last year to San Dimas in Division IV, is off to the best start of any team in the division. The Tartars are 5-0 with a win over Poly (Long Beach). Besides Pioneer League MVP Angelo Gumbs, Torrance also returns Rafael Ramirez, Ivan Dominguez and Josh Mingura.
Bishop Amat (La Puente) could end up being the power out of this division, however. The Lancers have already defeated Capistrano Valley, Mater Dei and Santiago, three teams ranked among the top 10 in Division I in the Southern Section. The Lancers return league MVP Jerry McClanahan at catcher along with standouts Paul Paez at pitcher, Rio Ruiz at shortstop, Jay Andreson in the outfield and Jordan McCraney in the outfield.
Dylan Covey leads Maranatha (Pasadena) in quest of a second straight Division V championship. Covey is ranked as one of the top prospects in the country and could go in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft in June. Covey was 11-2 last year with 127 strikeouts. So far this season Covey has pitched 10 innings and struck out 22 batters.
The Minutemen are just 1-4 to start the season, going up against mostly large schools at the SoCal Invitational. Another team to watch is Tahquitz (Hemet), which returns all-league players Andrew Morovick, Tim Morovick, Ryan Miller, Stefon Houston and Jonathan Armenta. In its first full varsity season last year Tahquitz was 19-9 and reached the Division V semifinals.
Oxford Academy (Cypress) won the Division VI championship last year with a 5-1 win over Rosamond. The Patriots also begin the season No. 1 in the rankings thanks to the return of all-league standouts Steve Criss, Lucas Sardo, Patrick Zajac, Daniel Lucak, and Nick Foutris.
Cornerstone Christian (Camarillo) begins the season ranked No. 1 by Southern Section coaches in Division 7. The Eagles had just one senior on a team that last year went 22-0 and won the section title. Top returning players include pitcher Aaron Roth (13-0, 120 Ks), and Mark Stover (.516, 6 HR).
Skyline (Oakland) won the Oakland Athletic League last year with a 16-3 mark and it returns all-league players Riley Fitzsimmons, Eric Robles, Taylor Jones, Royce Tsukayama, and Zack Bonzell.