Section titles are on the line this week

With a Sac-Joaquin Section championship already in his pocket, Johansen High junior Daniel Covrig tees off in the Northern California Tournament this morning in Chico.

Covrig fired a 3-over 75 to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament a week ago, and will be joined by Turlock Christian's Beau Warda at Butte Creek Country Club.

They are hoping to secure one of the six individual slots for the California State Tournament, to be played June 10 at Poppy Hills Golf Course.

The last Stanislaus District golfer to win the NorCal title was Beyer's Matt Bettencourt in 1993, when the tournament was 36 holes. He shot a 72-71 for a winning total of 143.

The District has four other NorCal champs: Ron Ewing (Merced, 1986), Kevin Wentworth (Manteca, 1985), Joe Rassett (Turlock, 1977) and Gary Aguilar (Beyer, 1976).

The tournament shifted to its one-round format in 1998; only once in 11 years has an over-par score won the title.

Today's tournament -- Covrig tees off at 9:48 a.m. and Warda at 10:06 a.m. -- is just the beginning of a busy week of high school playoffs:

BASEBALL -- Central Catholic, pursuing its 10th consecutive section title, hopes to win its Division V best-of-three series tonight vs. Calaveras at Zupo Field. The Raiders (23-6) beat Calaveras (17-6) 7-5 in eight innings in Saturday's opener for a 1-0 lead.

Bill Flamion (12-2, 2.18 ERA), who threw 153 pitches in Central's playoff opener a week ago, is expected to be available for tonight's game.

Western Athletic Conference rivals Patterson (11-17) and Hilmar (13-15) play Game 2 of their series Tuesday. Hilmar opened with a 15-3 win.

The winners meet Memorial Day for the title at Zupo.

The Division I playoffs also resume tonight, with Golden Valley (16-14) in a do-or-die game vs. Lincoln (20-10) at the University of the Pacific.

Two-time defending champ Oakdale (25-4) resumes its Division IV best-of-three set with Placer (18-8) on Wednesday in Sacramento. Oakdale has to win twice to advance to the Memorial Day title game.

SOFTBALL -- Davis (22-3) returns to Sacramento for tonight's semifinal vs. Pleasant Grove (21-5). Davis scored 15 runs in Saturday's two playoff wins -- no other team managed more than a dozen that day.

If Davis wins, it plays Tuesday -- likely vs. national power Sheldon (26-1) -- for a berth in the Division I final. If it loses tonight, they have a second game afterward.

Buhach Colony (23-5), in the losers' bracket following Saturday's 1-0 loss to Pleasant Grove, faces Napa (19-10) tonight. The winner plays a second game afterward.

TRACK AND FIELD -- The postseason kicks into high gear as these athletes face their first round of elimination in the section divisional meets. The Modesto Metro and Central California stars will be in Sacramento on Thursday and Friday for Division I trials and finals.

The remainder of the District's athletes are at Modesto Junior College on Tuesday and Thursday for the Division III trials and finals. The top performers in each meet go to the Masters Meet, a step from the state championships.

TENNIS -- Pitman is a step from playing for the section Division I team title, and the Pride hopes to take that step today when it hosts Vintage in a semifinal. If Pitman pulls off today's win, it will host the final match Tuesday.

In Division III action, Escalon hosts Argonaut, and Central Catholic hosts Bret Harte in today's quarterfinals.

Bee staff writer Rich Estrada can be reached at or 578-2300.