It’s often said that there aren’t any bad teams in the playoffs. In recent years, the cliché has proven to be particularly true when used to assess the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball field.
Paso Robles High saw its season come to an end Wednesday afternoon at Barnhart Field, as the Bearcats lost 13-3 to Palos Verdes in the wild-card round.
The Sea Kings (20-11) finished tied for fourth place in the Bay League this season at 4-6 but were considered a tough at-large entry into the bracket thanks to a 15-5 nonleague record.
“They’re a really good ball club and put some good swings together,” Bearcats coach Derek Stroud said. “And obviously we didn’t play our best game, but it’s a one-shot deal, and give them all the credit.
“That’s a fourth-place team,” Stroud said, “so it’s a very competitive division.”
Palos Verdes advanced to face Chaminade in the first round today.
“I think we underachieved to put ourselves in an at-large situation,” Sea Kings coach Evan Fujinaga said, “but it’s a competitive league.”
After going 0-5 in the Division 2 playoffs a year ago, the PAC 7 is 0-4 so far. League champion Arroyo Grande (20-7) is the only representative remaining and will host South Hills of West Covina (21-4) at 3:15 p.m. today in a first-round matchup.
Paso Robles (18-10), the PAC 7 runner-up, took a 1-0 lead Wednesday in the bottom of the first inning as Mac Stuart got on base with a single, stole second and then came home on a throwing error.
Palos Verdes got a lead-off triple from USC-bound star Bobby Stahel in the top of the first but stranded him with three straight flyouts.
That trend continued in the second inning, before the Sea Kings began to find some gaps and broke through for three runs in the third.
Bearcats starter Ryan Brockman battled, but Palos Verdes blew the game open with a seven-run fifth that provided a 10-1 lead.
Brockman was relieved by Stuart, who threw for the next two innings, before Anthony Ramos came on in the seventh. The Sea Kings tacked on three more runs in the sixth to take their largest lead at 13-1.
Stuart scored on a sixth-inning Jesse Horne single to make it 13-2, and Stuart drove in Scott Plescia with a double for the game’s final run in the seventh.
Palos Verdes’ Bo Ellis picked up the complete-game win, striking out eight batters and walking one while scattering seven hits.
Stahel led the Sea Kings’ 14-hit attack, going 3 for 3 with a triple, two doubles, an intentional walk and two RBI. Chris Markulis blasted a solo home run for Palos Verdes in the crucial fifth. He finished 2 for 4 with four RBI.
“We played well,” Fujinaga said. “We beat a pretty good team, so we’re happy with that.”
Stuart finished 3 for 3 with a triple, a double, the RBI and a walk.
The junior came into the day leading the league with a .479 batting average and 30 RBI and was second in homers with five.
“He had a tremendous year,” Stroud said.
This season was the fourth in a row in which Paso Robles finished at least in the top three of the league standings.
“I’m thankful for the season we had,” Stroud said. “It was fulfilling to watch our guys improve. And obviously it ended on a tough note, but looking at the overall picture, I was very pleased with what our guys did this year.”