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Eventful season creates wide-open 5A baseball playoffs

There will be a new Class 5A baseball state champion this season. A wild season on and off the field has created a wide-open race for the title.

Reigning 5A state champion Bishop Gorman and last year’s state runner-up, Desert Oasis, missed the playoffs.

Basic, the 2022 state champion, looked like the clear-cut title favorite this season but missed the playoffs after having to forfeit all of its league wins for using ineligible players.

Finding a new favorite is anybody’s guess.

The 5A and 3A Southern Region playoffs begin Monday, and the 4A state playoffs get underway Wednesday.

Here’s a breakdown of how the playoffs shape up:

Class 5A

League champions: Shadow Ridge (Desert), Faith Lutheran (Mountain)

The favorite: Faith Lutheran

Several teams could make a strong case to be the favorite in 5A, but Faith Lutheran’s depth gives the Crusaders a slight edge.

Led by Alexander Jang (.433), Faith Lutheran has 10 players with at least 50 at-bats hitting .300 or better. Starter Chase Sorlie is 5-0 with a 1.65 ERA and is one of several pitchers the Crusaders have relied on.

Faith Lutheran didn’t get much of a break in its first-round matchup. The Crusaders host Las Vegas High, which they held on to defeat 12-10 on April 12.

Dark horse: Palo Verde

Palo Verde’s bats give the Panthers a chance in any game. Five players are hitting .427 or better, led by Texas Christian commit Brady Dallimore (.565). Drew Kaplan is tied for second in the state with six home runs, and Oregon commit Tanner Johns leads Palo Verde with 40 RBIs.

Potential first-round upset: No. 4M Green Valley over No. 1D Shadow Ridge

Any of the first-round games could go either way. Shadow Ridge used strong pitching and contributions from everyone in its lineup to emerge as the Desert League champion. The question will be if the Mustangs can maintain that consistency throughout the grind of the region playoffs.

Fortunately for the Mustangs, with the double-elimination format, they won’t be out of it if they lose on the first day.

Class 4A

League champions: Tech (Desert), Durango (Mountain), Sierra Vista (Sky)

The favorite: Sierra Vista

Sierra Vista has faced very few challenges from its 4A competition. The Mountain Lions have defeated all their 4A opponents, and their only losses have been to 5A and out-of-state opponents.

Starter Austin Angelo leads a deep starting rotation with an 8-1 record and 1.77 ERA. Jayson Schmeisser is leading Sierra Vista in most offensive categories, hitting for a .490 average, 32 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.

Dark horse: Durango

Durango might be the only challenge to Sierra Vista. The Trailblazers went 10-0 in Mountain League play and have lost just once since March 26.

Blake Goudie is fifth in the state with a .611 average, and Durango’s starting rotation could match Sierra Vista’s. Xander Mercurius is 6-2 with a 1.78 ERA, and Teagan Payne is 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA.

Potential first-round upset: No. 4S Eldorado over No. 3D Cheyenne

Eldorado finished fourth in the tougher Sky League. Cheyenne moved up to a No. 3 seed after Legacy was dropped from the playoffs after forfeiting games because of an ineligible player. Most of Cheyenne’s wins from its 21-5 record have come against teams in 3A and lower classifications.

Class 3A

League champions: Virgin Valley (Desert), The Meadows (Mountain)

The favorite: Virgin Valley

The Bulldogs have put together a dominant season, going 24-1 and outscoring opponents 324-42. Kurt Felix (.588) is one of six players hitting .500 or better.

Dark horse: None

Virgin Valley was a class above the rest of its 3A competition. Virgin Valley and The Meadows should advance to play one another for the region title and qualify for the state tournament.

Potential first-round upset: No. 3D Mater East over No. 2M Boulder City

Of the rematches in the first round, Boulder City’s 4-0 win over Mater East was the closest. The Eagles have had close games against other 3A opponents, and their rematch with Mater East should be close again.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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