By KEVIN SAULS
It's first things first for the Bret Harte High School baseball team in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
The Bullfrogs, runners-up in the Mother Lode League, meet Golden Sierra of Garden Valley, the third-place team from the Golden Empire League-East, in a first-round game Saturday at 9 a.m. at Zupo Field in Lodi.
Though every team in the postseason dreams of a section championship, such a thing probably is out of reach for the present. Bret Harte (14-9) has no recent playoff history the Bullfrogs last qualified in 1986 and has only one senior starter third baseman John Dorsey.
"This is setting us up for next year and beyond," Bret Harte coach Heath Lane said. "Next year, we'll have been there. It won't be new to us anymore."
That is not to say Lane doesn't think his team can make a run right now. He simply knows that championship teams usually have experience and dominant pitching, neither of which Bret Harte possesses. Such things are the domain of teams like Amador, the defending section champion and twice a 10-run winner over Bret Harte this season, and playoff regulars like Vanden of Travis Air Force Base, San Juan of Citrus Heights and Patterson.
"It'll probably take a small miracle for us to beat Vanden, but we should be competitive with Golden Sierra," Lane said.
The Bret Harte-Golden Sierra winner will play GEL-West champion Vanden, which has a first-round bye, Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Zupo. The loser goes home with a notch of playoff experience in its belt.
The 12-team tournament continues with the semifinals May 23 and the championship game May 28, all at Zupo, a jewel of an old minor league park.
Golden Sierra (12-12) is in pretty much the same position as Bret Harte. The Grizzlies have little playoff history and really aren't expected to make a run at the title.