In Orange County baseball action this week, the last of the regular season, the South Coast and Empire leagues are the ones to watch.
Everything should be on the line Thursday when Cypress (23-5, 9-1) plays host to Garden Grove Pacifica (21-5, 9-1). They are tied atop the Empire League standings, and there's plenty riding on the outcome. Led by Tyler Alamo (batting .510), Cypress comes into the game No. 2 in the Southern Section Division 2 rankings with a 1.30 team earned-run average. Pacifica is No. 3.
The Mariners aren't without their own mound threats, including pitchers Max Bethel (9-1, 1.72) and Kyle Davis (6-1, 1.28), who has 26 RBIs.
The loser of the game will slide to the other side of the playoff bracket—to be released on Monday—with Harvard-Westlake, which is the No. 1 team the the Powerade State rankings.
Further south, El Toro (22-6, 7-3) and Tesoro (18-8-1, 7-3) are tied for first place in the South Coast League and they close the season with home and away games against each other. El Toro is ranked No. 7 in the Southern Section Division 1 poll, while Tesoro is a bubble team.
El Toro is led on the mound by Chasen Ford (9-0, 1.30) and Dan James (.376, 17 runs, 24 RBIs).
Here's how the leagues shake out in Orange County going into the last three days of the season, which is scheduled to end on Thursday—which makes Friday available for playoff games.
Academy: St. Margaret's (13-1) will win the league title even though the Tartans play second-place Oxford Academy (9-4) twice. Crean Lutheran (8-6) and Sage Hill (6-6) are vying for the third playoff berth.
Century: Esperanza will win the league title because the Aztecs have a two-game lead with only one to play, against El Modena (10-6), which shares second place with El Dorado (10-6). Both second-place teams also have a game against Foothill.
Empire: Cypress (9-1) and Garden Grove Pacifica (9-1) are tied. Cypress plays host to Pacifica in the season finale on Thursday. Before that, Cypress plays Yorba Linda (3-7) and Pacifica faces Valencia (4-7). Tustin (5-6) and La Palma Kennedy (4-6) are locked in the battle for third place.
Freeway: La Habra (10-3) leads Sonora (9-4) with two to play. La Habra faces Troy (7-6) twice, and Sonora faces Buena Park (1-12) twice. Troy (7-6) and Sunny Hills (7-6) play each other for the third qualifying berth.
Garden Grove: Rancho Alamitos (11-2) leads Garden Grove (10-3) and Fountain Valley La Quinta (9-4) with two to play. Rancho plays Los Amigos (6-7), Garden Grove plays Bolsa Grande (2-11) and La Quinta plays Garden Grove Santiago (1-12).
Golden West: There's a four-way battle for first between Westminster (9-4), Ocean View (9-4), Segerstrom (8-5) and Loara (8-5) with two to play. Westminster plays Santa Ana (2-11) twice; Ocean View plays Segerstrom twice; and Loara plays Orange (3-10) twice.
Orange: Savanna (11-2) and Katella (11-2) share a three-game lead with two to play. Savanna plays Santa Ana Valley (1-12) twice, and Katella plays Magnolia (2-11) twice. Anaheim (8-5) and Century (6-7) play each other for third automatic qualifying berth.
Orange Coast: Calvary Chapel Santa Ana (11-2) and Estancia (10-3) battle for first. Calvary plays Godinez (5-8) twice and Estancia finishes with Costa Mesa (2-11). Laguna Beach (8-5) has the inside track on third place and could tie for second if Estancia falls twice.
Pacific Coast: University (9-4) and Beckman (9-4) share first place and there's a three-way battle for third. University closes with two against third-place Corona del Mar (7-6); Beckman closes against last-place Irvine (3-10); Northwood (6-7) and Woodbridge (5-8) are trying to catch CdM.
Sea View: Mission Viejo (8-2) leads by two games with two to play against second-place Trabuco Hills (6-4). THHS, Aliso Niguel (5-4) and San Juan Hills (4-6) are playing for two automatic playoff berths. Trabuco closes with Mission Viejo; Aliso plays San Juan Hills twice and Laguna Hills (2-9).
South Coast: El Toro (7-3) and Tesoro (7-3) share a two-game lead over Capistrano Valley (5-5) and play each other twice this week, with the finale Thursday at El Toro. The third playoff berth comes down to Capo Valley vs. San Clemente (4-6) twice this week.
Sunset: Los Alamitos (10-3) leads Marina (9-4) by one game and Edison (8-5) by two. Huntington Beach (7-6) could factor into the final playoff berth race. Los Alamitos and Edison play twice with the season ending at Edison. Marina closes with two against Huntington Beach.
Trinity: Orange Lutheran (12-1) and Mater Dei (11-2) will finish first and second. The other four schools are within two games of each other for the third playoff berth with two games to play. OLu plays third-place JSerra (5-8) twice; Mater Dei plays Servite (4-9) twice; St. John Bosco (4-9) plays Santa Margarita (3-10) twice.