May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PCL baseball coaches planning 24-game league only schedule starting March 19

If all goes as planned, high school baseball can start in Orange County on Friday, March 19 under the latest CIF schedule.

Pacific Coast League coaches prepared for a different scenario brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic which delayed the start of the season and have announced a league only 24-game schedule for each team. Each of the seven teams will alternate having a bye on each of the game days.

CIF officials announced tentative starting dates for all sports in the spring one and spring two seasons last week.

In the PCL openers on March 19, defending PCL champion Beckman will host the newest member, Laguna Hills; Irvine will play at University and Woodbridge at Northwood. Portola gets a bye and plays on Tuesday, March 23, vs. Beckman at Beckman.

All the games will start at 3:30 p.m. and under current guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and the CIF, only immediate family members will be able to attend the games. It will be up to the host school to decide.

“Months ago, we didn’t really know what we were practicing for, whereas today, we know there is a really good chance that on March 19 we’re going to play Laguna Hills in our season opening game and they’re (his players) super, super excited about that, putting on real uniforms and making it feel like a real baseball game,” said Beckman Coach Kevin Lavalle last week.

“Some kids have participated in the club and travel baseball (which was allowed under the CIF rules) and some kids haven’t so there is a varying degree of rust being shaken off at every single practice by the kids here at Beckman and over at Northwood and Woodbridge and everywhere.

“I just think it’s going to be exciting when that moment comes and the umpire says, ‘play ball,’ I think we will be as excited in 2021 as we’ve ever been.”

Coaches decided the league-only concept was the best approach since there will be restrictions on tournaments under the latest guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. There are also restrictions for traveling to schools out of the county.

While baseball teams were able to get some non-league games in last year, the PCL season was cancelled in March after just one game due to the pandemic.

“As PCL coaches, we discussed the best option for our student-athletes to get as many games as possible,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota.

“With all the uncertainty connected to the pandemic, we weren’t sure what would be allowed in terms of playing teams in different cities, travel, etc. 
We are very excited to play games of any sort.

“After having our season cancelled last year, the boys have been preparing every day. It was never a guarantee that we’d get to play games so we’re going to take advantage of any opportunity we get. Add to that all our games will be against league opponents and it should make for an interesting year.” 

Laguna Hills Coach Drew Hillman said he’s excited about the season.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty as to what might happen this year, but it’s great to see the numbers trending in a more positive direction which allows some sports to continue,” he said.

“When the league decided to do the 24-game league schedule, we were unsure what other districts would be allowing sports, but we felt confident that we could make a season work just in the PCL. We are definitely excited to be in the PCL this year and compete with those schools.”

Because of the league-only schedule, Woodbridge, Irvine, University, Northwood and Portola had to cancel plans to compete in the annual Ryan Lemmon Invitational March 27-31. Final plans have not yet been announced for that tournament. A decision may be made next week, according to tournament director Dick Owens of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation.

Beckman wrapped up its eighth PCL title in April 2019 and second in a row.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com