You can't win if you can't score, and that could pose a problem for teams when they battle The Bee's top-ranked large-school baseball teams.
No. 1 Oakdale and No. 2 Buhach Colony each played in a Sac-Joaquin Section championship game last year, with Oakdale winning its second consecutive Division IV title.
Hondo Arpoika and Wayne Fitzgerald have built powerhouse programs at Oakdale and BC, respectively, and they share a love of pitching.
Each coach has an all-Stanislaus District hurler they can call on, Oakdale lefty Justin Jones and BC's Dylan Floro, and they've got two other potential aces ready to come in.
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Oakdale has yet to lose, running its record to 9-0 with Friday's 5-0 win over Pitman. BC, which fell in last year's D-I final, is 6-3 going into today's Central California Conference debut at Turlock.
No. 3 is a surprising Modesto team (6-3) that is expected to battle perennial contenders Davis and Beyer in the Modesto Metro Conference. The Panthers host perennial MMC contender Beyer today.
Davis is fourth in this season's opening district rankings, while Turlock is No. 5 -- setting up a CCC showdown this week.
In a shift from last year, the MMC and Valley Oak League play Tuesday and Thursday, with the CCC games Wednesday and Friday. The section rotates the schedules to make sure it has enough umpires.
Escalon (8-0) is No. 1 in the small-school rankings and Central Catholic (6-3), which has won nine consecutive section championships, is No. 2. No. 3 Hughson is followed by Southern League rivals Waterford and Denair.
The final nonleague games were held Friday, so the intensity increases this week with everyone in league games.
Five of the six leagues use a home-and-home format, with teams facing each other twice in one week so everyone's facing a No. 1 and No. 2 pitcher.The Southern League is the lone holdout, playing a random round-robin schedule.
Leagues use the home-and-home to expose shallow pitching staffs. Previously, teams could use their ace against the best team each week, then try to get past a lower-tier team with their No. 2 hurler.
Now, every team must use its top two pitchers against the same team each week.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.