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Baseball Bruins Decide Playoff Fate This Week
It's been 75 days since Riverbank High's varsity baseball team hit the diamond for their first official contest. The last three days of the regular season will decide whether the Bruins can continue circling days of the calendar.

Riverbank (5-5 Trans-Valley League) split an important series with Ripon (6-4) on May 1 and 3, leaving the Bruins somewhat in control of their own future in a two-game series with Hughson (5-5) this week.

The Bruins hosted Hughson on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. If Riverbank can escape the series with two victories, it could potentially force a two-way or three-way deadlock with both Ripon and Hilmar (7-5) for the final two seeds from the conference into the Division V Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

It's a muddled collection of records and tiebreaking criteria, but not a bad position for the Bruins to be in after winning two or less TVL games in the last six seasons. Riverbank last qualified for the playoffs in 2004.

"We have a real young team, but we have done a good job thus far," Riverbank coach Ismael Mercado said. "We still have something to play for and this week is going to be a big task against a tough Hughson team."

Since Riverbank could potentially enter three-way ties for second or third place, their postseason hopes may depend on a collection of three main criteria the conference has in place.

The first is head-to-head, but since the Bruins split with Hilmar and Ripon, it would only matter if the Bruins split with Hughson and the two enter a three-way tie for third with Ripon (who beat Hughson twice).

The second criterion is ultimately a variation of the first based upon points gained by beating teams higher in the standings. The tiebreaker won't likely end there if Riverbank, Hilmar and Ripon all end up 7-5, because then Ripon and Riverbank will have the same record of opponents beaten.

If the tiebreaker surpasses that stage, a postseason seed will be decided by the fewest runs allowed by the programs within the tie during league play. Hilmar (38 runs against) would do well at this stage, considering they are the only team in the conference with a last-week bye. Riverbank (48), Ripon (49) and Hughson (58) would follow in succession.

On the chance that Ripon splits their last series, Riverbank sweeps theirs and the two teams end up with the same number of runs scored against them, the tiebreaker would slip into a final stage where coaches either agree upon one last game at a neutral site or a coin flip or to decide the third seed.

It's a plethora of what-ifs, but ultimately Riverbank will likely need to beat Hughson twice and have Ripon lose at least once to Orestimba (9-12 overall) just to sneak away with the third and final TVL ticket to the postseason.

Riverbank is only in the discussion because the Bruins beat Ripon 6-2 on May 1 after a lights-out pitching performance from Antonio Perez (five innings) and Chad Oliver (two). Perez and Oliver also batted 2 for 4 in the victory while Armando Manriquez was 2 for 2 and Sam Gong scored twice.

Noel Sanchez (five strikeouts) proved tough on the hill two days later, but surrendered four runs to Ripon after four walks and two hit batters in seven innings of work. Riverbank only mustered together three hits against the Indians and saw a lone score when Tristan Rogers belted a sacrifice fly in the third inning.

Gong, Perez and Anthony Gonzales had the only Bruin hits.

Riverbank completes the regular season at Hughson on Thursday.