Pat Fuentes’ baseball team is in unfamiliar territory.
Los Banos is no stranger to the playoffs, having made the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV tournament in three consecutive years. Included in that was a run to the semifinals two season ago.
But despite the Tigers’ success, the group had never entered the postseason higher than a six seed. All of that changed last week when LB was named the No. 1 over two-time defending champion and two seed Lincoln. The top seed earned the Tigers a first-round bye. They opened the playoffs on Thursday against No. 9 Colfax at Tony Zupo Field. The results weren’t available at press time.
A win would put Los Banos into a best-of-three semifinal series against the winner of No. 4 Liberty Ranch and No. 5 Placer. The series would begin on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“I was surprised. I had us penciled in at No. 2 or 3,” Fuentes said. “We earned it, though. It’s like I told the kids, the No. 1 next to your name doesn’t mean anything. We have to go out and take care of business. I kind of like being the underdog, but now we’ll get used to having the target on our back.”
The Tigers’ resume is undeniable after posting a 20-4 regular-season record and cruising to the first league crown in 23 years. Just as importantly, they have wins over larger division playoff opponents like Pitman, El Capitan and Manteca.
“There’s going to be pressure from being No. 1 if the guys allow there to be,” Fuentes said. “Right now, everybody is equal. All that matters is getting into the playoffs. What we do with it is up to us. If we go out an play the way we have for most of the season, we’ll have the chance to do some big things.
“We played great at the beginning of the season and then had a little hiccup around spring break. I think winning that game in extra innings against Livingston was big for us. It settled everything back down. Now we just have to stay focused.”