Sondheimer: Players to watch in the Southern Section baseball playoffs

Get ready for lots of twists, turns, drama, excitement and big-time players coming through in big-time situations as the Southern Section high school baseball playoffs begin this week.

Pairings will be announced Monday. Let’s take a look at players to watch during May Madness:

Bryce Rainer, Harvard-Westlake. Nobody has improved his draft status more than Rainer, who has been having an MVP season at the plate and at shortstop. His senior year has been nothing short of spectacular with 44 hits and a batting average of .518. Players are most remembered for what they do in the playoffs, and that will be the challenge for Rainer, who is also the team’s closer.

Seth Hernandez, Ethan Schiefelbein, Josh Springer, Corona. The fantastic trio for No. 1-ranked Corona will try to live up to expectations and deliver the Division 1 title that has been predicted for months. There’s no guarantee in a single-elimination tournament facing top teams and top pitchers every game, but in pitchers Hernandez and Schiefelbein, the Panthers have the best one-two punch of any team. And their catcher, Springer, continues to excel defensively and with the bat.

Cade Townsend, Santa Margarita. Townsend is reaching peak form just as the playoffs begin. He’s 5-0 with 76 strikeouts in 50 innings. He has given up only 28 hits. He didn’t play high school baseball last season, so the playoffs should be his opportunity to show off his talent and potential to pitch in college and the pros.

Nate Castellon, Calabasas. A clutch hitter and standout at shortstop, Castellon continues to thrive under pressure. He finished the regular season with 42 hits and a .506 batting average.

Boston Bateman, Camarillo. Bateman has given up only six hits in 48 innings while striking out 102. He’s 6 feet 8 and committed to Louisiana State. Camarillo went unbeaten in the Coastal Canyon League and is ranked No. 1 in Division 4.

Dylan Volantis, Westlake. Volantis, a left-handed pitcher committed to USC, led the Division 2 Warriors to their first Marmonte League title since 2011. He’s 7-0 with an 0.41 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 51 innings with 15 walks.

Zach Ireland, Beckman. He struck out 16 and threw a no-hitter last week against Irvine.

Trevor Goldenetz, Huntington Beach. The junior outfielder leads Surf League champion Huntington Beach in hitting with a .392 average and 29 hits.

Landon White, San Dimas. With 34 hits, 36 RBIs and four home runs, White has been the clutch hitter for Valle Vista League champion San Dimas.

Levi Sterling, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. As a pitcher and hitter, the Texas commit will be someone who must be dealt with in the Division 1 playoffs.

Vinny Van der Wel, Chaminade. He has 37 hits and is the closer for Chaminade, which finished second to Harvard-Westlake in the Mission League and gets relief playing in Division 3.

Jackson Klein, Santa Monica. Klein is 8-0 with an 0.24 ERA for the team ranked No. 1 in Division 5.

Michael Malki, Corona Centennial. After competing in the Big VIII League, Malki moves to Division 3, where he will be tough to contain. He has six home runs and is 5-1 pitching with a 1.39 ERA.

Chapman Weber, Paloma Valley. In helping his team finish the regular season 27-1, Weber batted .378 with four home runs and was 6-0 with a 1.20 ERA. He’ll be in the Division 2 playoffs.

Brandon Tatch, Aliso Niguel. He had 30 hits and went 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA for the Sea View League champion. Aliso Niguel will be in a wide-open Division 2.

Walker Calvo, La Mirada. He’s one of the many Division 1 pitchers capable of delivering a top performance. He went 7-1 with a 1.34 ERA.

Nathan Chavez, Arlington. Chavez, a junior left-hander committed to Cal Baptist, is 8-0 with an 0.64 ERA. Arlington was ranked No. 3 in Division 2.

Zach Strickland, Maranatha. The junior UCLA commit throws in the 90s and isn’t going to lose when he’s on the mound in the Division 2 playoffs.

Anthony Pack, Long Beach Millikan. The junior is a dynamic player for Moore League champion Millikan. Committed to Texas, he’s fast, athletic and puts pressure on pitchers to throw strikes.

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