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Lions Tournament features region's best

04/12/2014, 5:25pm PDT
By John Maffei

Classic Division includes six teams in San Diego Section Top 10


Rancho Bernardo catcher Alex Jackson and his Broncos teammates will be tested in the Classic Division of the Lions Tournament.

This is when the prospects separate from the suspects, when pretenders find out if they're contenders.

The 64th annual Lions Tournament, an eight-division, 128-team baseball event played at 75 sites around San Diego County, starts Monday and runs through Thursday's finals.

"This is the time we really start paying attention," said one professional scout. "The pitchers are stretched out. The hitters have had 30-35 at-bats to feel comfortable.

"Honestly, the Lions Tournament is a showcase for the scouts.

"And the matchups, especially in the upper brackets of the Lions, are really good."

The 16-team Classic Division is the top of the food chain.

Six of San Diego's Top 10 teams are in the Classic Division, led by No. 1 Cathedral Catholic (13-1), No. 2 Rancho Bernardo (11-2), No. 3 Vista (11-2), No. 4 Poway (9-5). No. 5 St. Augustine (12-2) and No. 6 Carlsbad (10-3).

Vista is at Cathedral at 3 p.m. Monday.

"We played in a national tournament in North Carolina last season and played some great teams," said Cathedral coach Gary Remiker. "But there were no teams better than RB, Vista or Saints."

Vista coach Rick Lepire plans to start right-hander Austin Ott against Cathedral. Ott is 4-0 with two saves and a 1.01 ERA. In 32 2/3 innings, he has 33 strikeouts.

Cathedral left-hander Brady Aiken is ranked as the No. 1 pro prospect in the nation by Baseball America and is the only high school player in the country on USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award List, which recognizes the best amateur player in the nation.

Aiken is 5-0 with an 0.54 ERA. He has allowed just 10 hits over 26 innings with four walks and 48 strikeouts. He's scheduled to pitch Wednesday at Granite Hills.

Also in the Classic Division are Fresno Clovis North (15-4), which is ranked No. 10 in the state by Cal-Hi and No. 40 in the nation by MaxPreps, Tucson Sahuaro ((16-1) and Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley (15-4).

Sahuaro is ranked No. 31 in the nation by USA Today. Green Valley is No. 5 in Nevada.

Rancho Bernardo hosts Sahuaro at 3 p.m. Monday.

Sahuaro left-hander Alex Verdugo was 10-0 last season with 129 strikeouts and hit .484 with 40 RBIs. He's 3-1 this season with an 0.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 30 innings. He's hitting .644 with 10 doubles and 24 RBI. Baseball America ranks him as the 31st best prospect in the nation.

Rancho Bernardo catcher Alex Jackson is rated the fourth-best prospect in the country. Jackson is hitting .436 this season with seven home runs, giving him 43 career homers. The San Diego Section record is 47 by RB's John Drennen from 2002-05.

"I love the Lions Tournament," said RB coach Sam Blalock. "We get invited to tournaments all over the country, but I see no reason to travel because the Lions is as good as any tournament anywhere."

The 16 teams in the Classic Division are combined 171-55.

Bracket A - Carlsbad, Clovis North, Valhalla and Otay Ranch - is a combined 46-14.

Bracket B - Rancho Bernardo, Sahuaro, St. Augustine and Montgomery - is 45-11.

Bracket C - Grossmont, Lakewood Mayfair, Madison and Poway - is 34-19.

Bracket D - Cathedral, Green Valley, Granite Hills and Vista - is 46-11.

The Premier Division, next after the Classic, has the San Diego's No. 8-9-10 teams in Patrick Henry (10-5), Ramona (9-3) and Eastlake (10-3) along with three teams from Nevada - Rancho (12-5), Coronado (7-7) and Silverado (10-9) as well as Woodland Hills El Camino Real (12-4).

Bracket winners in all divisions advance to Thursday semifinals with the semi winners moving on to a Thursday afternoon championship.

LIONS TOURNAMENT

What: 64th annual prep baseball tourney

Who: 128 teams in eight divisions

Where: 75 sites around San Diego County

When: Monday through Thursday

Schedule: List of games at lionsbaseball.org

ALUMNI IN THE MAJORS

During the Lions Tournament’s first 63 years, nearly 200 players have gone on to play in the major leagues. Alumni active in the majors:

Trevor Cahill, Vista (Diamondbacks)

Eric Chavez, Mt. Carmel (Diamondbacks)

Kevin Correia, Grossmont (Twins)

Adrian Gonzalez, Eastlake (Dodgers)

A.J. Griffin, Grossmont (A’s)

Anthony Gwynn, Poway (Phillies)

Cole Hamels, Rancho Bernardo (Phillies)

Aaron Harang, Patrick Henry (Braves)

J.J. Hardy, Tucson Sabino (Orioles)

Adam Jones, Morse (Orioles)

Mike Leake, Fallbrook (Reds)

Chad Qualls, Harbor City Narbonne (Astros)

Carlos Quentin, USDHS (Padres)

Stephen Strasburg, West Hills (Nationals)

Nick Vincent, Ramona (Padres)

TOP TEAMS

Cathedral Catholic: No. 1 San Diego, No. 5 state by CalHi, No. 24 nation by MaxPreps.

Rancho Bernardo: No. 2 San Diego, No. 12 state by CalHi, No. 22 nation by Baseball America

Vista: No. 3 San Diego, No. 18 state by CalHi

Poway: No, 4 San Diego

St. Augustine: No. 5 San Diego

Carlsbad: No. 6 San Diego, No. 17 in state by CalHi

Patrick Henry: No. 8 San Diego

Ramona: No. 9 San Diego

Eastlake: No. 10 San Diego

Green Valley: No. 5 Nevada

Tucson Sahuaro: No. 31 in nation by USA Today

Clovis North: No. 10 in state by CalHi, No. 40 in nation by MaxPreps

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