Dons, Chargers clash in a pivotal three-game series

If only this was the final week of the regular season.

That’s probably the one thing that could make this week’s titantic three-game baseball series between unbeaten Channel League leaders Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos even better.

The two teams, who have 30 wins between them, are the class of the league, and whomever takes the series figures to claim the championship.

Dos Pueblos (14-4, 4-0) will have five league games remaining to play and Santa Barbara (16-4, 7-0) two after the showdown series, which begins Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. at Eddie Mathews Field and continues Wednesday and Friday at Dos Pueblos. Wednesday’s game is a rain make-up from late March.

“It’s pivotal for the league,” Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker said Monday at practice. “It’s important for DP to get a couple of wins against us, because they’re going to have to get couple of wins against (third-place) Buena next week. If we get a couple of wins this week, then we’re in pretty good shape.”

DP coach Nate Mendoza said right now all the focus is on beating Santa Barbara.

“All season, we’ve been getting ready for them,” he said. “We knew they were going to be tough competition and we knew we were going to be good, so in the back of our minds we knew the league would come down to this. We’re calling this ‘Championship Week.’ We’re not worried about the next couple of weeks, we’re trying to focus on this week.”

Both coaches stressed the importance of Tuesday’s opener.

“Tomorrow is just huge for us,” said Warrecker.

“Tomorrow is the biggest game by far because we’re playing at their place,” said Mendoza. “They’re going to be ready. They don’t make very many mistakes, they’re a smart team, and we’re going to have to be ready for that.”

The Chargers will send junior Joe Huthsing to the mound against Dons’ senior Danny Zandona.

An emotionally charged atmosphere is expected at both ballparks. Parents will be out in force rooting on their boys, questioning umpire calls and charting every pitch and play in their scorebooks.

For the players, the three-game series is the kind of event that will leave lasting memories.

“They’re like little boys in a candy store — they’re all yak, yak, yak,” Warrecker said of his players’ excitement about the series.

“It’s a big deal for them,” he added. “It’s a big community thing because a lot of them have played club baseballl with (the DP players) or against them since they were 7-8 years old.”

Each game will have a playoff feel to it.

Santa Barbara comes into the series riding a six-game winning streak. The Dons have been pounding the ball since returning from the Anaheim Lions Tournament during spring break. They’ve also been getting outstanding pitching. Aces Zandona and Collin Dewell, have thrown shutous in their last starts — Zandona, in fact, has post back-to-back shutouts.

They’ll be facing an aggressive Dos Pueblos lineup that averages 6.8 runs per game. Seniors Michael Spiritosanto, Steven Reveles, Kyle Richardson and Huthsing lead the Charger attack.

Dos Pueblos has rebounded from a mini two-game slump, beating Ventura twice last week. Before losing the back-to-back non-league games, the Chargers had a 12-game winning streak.

Huthsing and sophomore lefthander Gabe Speier have been stellar on the mound for DP. They’ll try to contain a Santa Barbara offense that is averaging 6.85 runs, and has scored in double figures in four out of its last six games.

Seniors Zandona (.444), Dewell (.414), Cam Gniadek (.369), Pepe Gil (.352) and Spencer Fraker (.350) lead the Dons’ attack.

“I encourage anyone who has time to go watch,” Mendoza said. “I think it’s going to be a high-energy, competitive game.”