Corona receives No. 1 seed for Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs

And so it begins. Call it May Madness. One of the toughest sports playoffs anywhere — the Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs — begin on Friday. Corona High, which finished the regular season 25-3, was awarded the No. 1 seed on Monday.

As proven by past history, favorites sometimes have a difficult time winning the Division 1 championship. There are so many obstacles to overcome, from top pitchers to road games even though you’re the higher seed.

“This is the mecca of baseball. Everyone’s good,” Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert said.

On paper, Corona looks like the overwhelming favorite. The team has not lost this season when either of its top two pitchers, Ethan Schiefelbein or Seth Hernandez, was the starter.

Yet there are teams that have been competitive with the Panthers and figure to be legit challengers. Corona will open on Friday against El Dorado, which has its own top pitcher in AJ Frausto, so nothing will come easy. There’s also the possibility of a rematch from the Boras Classic final against Mater Dei, which received an at-large berth despite finishing last in the Trinity League. Mater Dei will open at Damien.

Harvard-Westlake is seeded No. 2, Orange Lutheran No. 3 and Santa Margarita No. 4. If Harvard-Westlake and Orange Lutheran advance to the semifinals, they’d meet for the fourth time this season. Defending champion JSerra opens against Bonita and could face Harvard-Westlake in the second round if the Wolverines get past Norco. The championship game is scheduled for May 17 or 18 at Lake Elsinore’s Storm Stadium.

Westlake received the No. 1 seed in Division 2 and Corona Centennial is seeded first in Division 3. There are eight divisions.

Harvard-Westlake hasn’t had last season’s ace, Thomas Bridges, since he pitched briefly in the first week of the season, then was shut down because of an injury. He has been cleared to pitch next week if the Wolverines advance.

Get ready for plenty of competitive openers. Harvard-Westlake and Palos Verdes played a 14-inning playoff game last season that required parts of two days to complete.

Also, the Southern Section has emailed to athletic directors a reminder that batting practice is not allowed before games, with forfeiting the game a possible punishment.

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