Every coach will agree. There is no favorite when tourney play opens Tuesday at host sites.
“I don’t think you can pick a favorite. The way Manogue played, they won like 13 in a row to win it, after we swept them,” Reed baseball coach John Phenix said. “They’re hot as Hell right now. They’ve got three quality pitchers. What I see now is they’re hitting the ball one through nine … I could not predict a winner right now.”
Spanish Springs baseball coach Ben Hofmann had similar sentiments and said it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a lower seed beat a higher seed.
“I was talking with some coaches last weekend, and there are a lot of good teams right now. It’s going to be a tough tournament,” Hofmann said. “If you asked me who was going to win this thing, I have no idea. I just think there are a lot of good teams and a lot of good pitching.”
Spanish Springs was one of those teams to finish with a 16-6 record in league play after being swept in its final league series. Still, it earned the No. 2 seed and a home game against No. 7 Douglas (13-9).
Hofmann said he expects Douglas to throw Nolan Weintz Tuesday, while his plan is to counter with Nikk Audenried.
The Cougars have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the North, which will certainly help in the double-elimination tournament.
“We’re going to have to pitch well because that’s what we’ve done all year,” Hofmann said. “I’d like to get to some timely hitting. We didn’t have that this past series. That’s something we need to work on and have a little better approach at. If we can get some timely hits, get quality starting pitching and play a little defense, I think we’ve got a chance.”
Reed went 14-8 in league play and claimed the sixth seed. The Raiders were only swept once this year, but it just happened to be by their first-round opponent, No. 3 Reno.
Phenix isn’t sure who the Huskies will throw on the mound. He had a hunch it might be right-hander Matt Young, who threw a good game against the Raiders during the regular season. But Reed has also seen a lot of left-handers due to how many lefties are in their batting order.
Phenix didn’t want to tip his hand at who he would start, but he did say he wanted his best hitting lineup out there as well against the Huskies.
“We’ve got to play good defense and put the ball in play,” Phenix said of the game against Reno. “When we get runners in scoring position, we’ve got to score. Their pitching isn’t overpowering, but they play great defense behind them. If you give them a base, like you walk a guy or boot a ball, they take advantage of it. They’ll hit and run and they end up scoring. If you give them more than three outs in an inning, you’re in trouble. That’s what we did the two times we played them.”
Reed is entering the postseason on a mini hot streak, winning eight of its last 10 games, including a 17-2 dismantling of cross-town rival Spanish Springs in the regular season finale last Thursday.
“The way we ended the season, the last couple of weeks, it was on a real positive note,” Phenix said. “Early on in the season, it was pretty iffy. It was 50-50 in a lot of games. It just seemed like I saw a lot better approaches as the season went on because we lacked a lot of varsity experience on the field.”
While the Raiders are hoping to ride some momentum into the postseason, the Cougars are looking for a fresh start.
“We’re looking at it this way, that the top eight teams are all 0-0,” Hofmann said. “It doesn’t matter now what your past record was, you’ve made the playoffs. Anybody who is in, has a chance. It’s a new season for us.”
All playoff games start at 4 p.m. Tuesday. In other action, Manogue hosts Carson, while No. 5 Galena heads to No. 4 Damonte Ranch.