Dons get a rematch with Mission Viejo in CIF semifinals

It was during a break from school that Santa Barbara’s baseball team took some lumps against some quality opponents during an early April roadtrip to Orange County. And it’s proven to be a key factor in the team’s success in the CIF Division 2 baseball playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Dons (23-6) travel to Mission Viejo in South Orange County on Tuesday for a semifinal game and a shot to play for the championship in Dodger Stadium.

Kees t'Sas will be the Dons' starting pitcher on Tuesday in the CIF Division II semifinal. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Santa Barbara was rolling along with a 10-1 record at spring break when it ventured down to the OC to play in the Anaheim Lions Tournament. There, the Dons were humbled, losing consecutive games to Brea Olinda (8-1), Servite (7-1) and Mission Viejo (11-6) before routing Bountiful, Utah (13-1).

The results were humbling, but the games served a purpose: preparing the team for a long run in the playoffs — exactly what coach Fred Warrecker had in mind when he made the schedule.

“We set it up that way,” he said. “The Chatsworth tournament and (Anaheim) tournament both, the teams are really good and we expect to lose some games. But I think it’s good to lose against good teams as opposed to winning against bad teams.”

When the Dons played Mission Viejo, they made mistakes in the field and the Diablos took advantage of them.

“I don’t think we had our best focus. We played bad defense for two days down there and we had a real bad first two innings aginst them. I think they scored six unearned runs,” Warrecker said.

“We did not play very well the first time we played them,” Dons senior second baseman Spencer Fraker said of Mission Viejo. “They are beatable for us. We’re really excited to play them.”

The Dons will send junior Kees t’Sas (3-1, 3.10 ERA) to the mound against Mission Viejo’s Dallas Draviczki (7-2, 1.36 ERA). Draviczki pitched a complete-game win over Dos Pueblos in the second round while t’Sas went six innings for a win at Yucaipa.

Like the Dons, Mission Viejo is solid up and down its lineup. The Diablos have three Division 1 recruits, leadoff man Austin Saenz (Cal State Fullerton), second baseman Ryan Raslowsky, (Cal State Northridge) and outfielder Ryan Muno (San Diego State), and are peaking at the right time of the season.

“They’re playing with confidence,” Mission Viejo coach Chris Ashbach told OC Varsity after his team routed Damien 12-2 on the road in the quarterfinals. “When you get a good feel like that, different guys contribute, and it makes it fun. … We’re playing as well as we’ve played all year, that’s for sure.”

Mission Viejo (21-13) started the season as the No. 1-ranked team in Orange County and in the Southland by the Los Angeles Times.

The Diablos went through a midseason slump and finished second in Sea View League, but they’ve caught fire at the right time of the year.

“We’re in the playoffs, and now we’ve got the motivation,”  Mission Viejo’s Boog Powell told OC Varsity after the Damien win. “It’s lose and go home.”

Santa Barbara has beaten one Sea View League team in its playoff run, pounding Aliso Niguel 13-3.

The senior-laden Dons will have to go through another one to get to Dodger Stadium.

They’re prepared to do it.