Wolverines to face Mater Dei in baseball wild-card playoff game

Cole Jacobson

Despite an impressive 22-5 regular season record and a 22nd place spot in MaxPreps’ national rankings, the CIF Southern Section seeding committee was not very kind to the varsity baseball team. In the CIF-SS Division I playoff brackets released on Monday morning, the Wolverines were given a wild-card matchup at perennial powerhouse Santa Ana Mater Dei (17-12 overall, 8-7 in Trinity League), in which the winner will gain admission into the 32-team bracket.

Harvard-Westlake finished 15-0 in non-league games, but fell to 7-5 in Mission League play after a 6-5 upset loss to Chaminade on May 14, dropping the team to fourth place in the league at the conclusion of the regular season. Mater Dei struggled early on in its league games, but finished the regular season by winning five of its last six to clinch third place in the Trinity League and an accompanying playoff berth.

In the CIF-SS Division I bracket, 27 teams are already assured of spots in the Round of 32. The final five spots are to be determined by wild-card games played on Tuesday, and the media has already taken note of the spectacular matchup involving the Wolverines and Monarchs. The Los Angeles Times’ @latsondheimer tweeted, “Is there any wild-card matchup better than Harvard-Westlake at Mater Dei? No!” The Los Angeles Daily News (@DNPrepSports) asked “who’s a more [sic] deadlier wild-card team than Harvard-Westlake?”

Even though the game has wild-card status, the matchup between the two national powers is not light by any means. Harvard-Westlake is currently ranked eighth in California by MaxPreps, while Mater Dei is not very far behind at 14th in the state. The Wolverines were one of two fourth-place teams (along with Long Beach Poly, which finished in fourth place in the Moore League) to make the playoffs, which ensured that they would be chosen for a wild-card game. The Monarchs finished in third place in the Trinity League, but still were not able to get into the Round of 32 automatically, as the lone third-place teams to do so were Long Beach Milikan, Alemany and Dana Hills.

Whoever advances between the Monarchs and Wolverines will go on to face Vista Murrieta (18-8 overall, 11-4 in Southwestern League), the seventh seed in the bracket and the 13th ranked team in California on MaxPreps. Later on, the winner could see No. 2 seed Huntington Beach in the quarterfinals, although the CIF-SS Division I bracket is notorious for rarely unfolding as the seeds predict.

Still, for now, Harvard-Westlake’s focus will entirely be on Mater Dei, as the Wolverines will head 47.5 miles south in a matchup of historically renowned programs. According to MaxPreps’ “Freeman Ratings,” the Mission and Trinity Leagues are the top two leagues in all of California, so Tuesday’s matchup will be a source of pride for both the two competing teams and their chief rivals.

The showdown will also be a rubber match between the Harvard-Westlake and Mater Dei athletic programs, as boys’ water polo defeated Mater Dei in the CIF-SS DI championship game in the fall but the Monarchs’ girls’ soccer team eliminated Harvard-Westlake from the CIF-SS DI playoffs in the winter.

The last time Harvard-Westlake played Mater Dei in baseball, the Monarchs topped the Wolverines 4-0 in the finals of the 2013 National High School Invitational, before Harvard-Westlake went on to win the CIF-SS Division I title in the postseason. This year’s matchup will take place at 3:15 p.m. at Mater Dei on Tuesday. The Wolverines will be throwing Cameron Deere ’16 (7-1, 1.56 ERA), while the Monarchs are expected to start Michael Thomas ’17 (7-2, 1.32 ERA) if ace Nick Pratto ’17 (2-0, 0.35 ERA) is still unavailable due to injury.

The full brackets can be seen here: