By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Baseball just won't be the same in the Peninsula Athletic League next season. In fact, it's likely to get a whole lot better thanks to the pending merger of the West Bay Athletic League and the PAL in baseball only.
In anticipation of the new league order, the Central Coast Section baseball committee voted to extend 'A' status to the PAL Bay Division for next year. The CCS Board of Managers likely will make it official in January.
With the addition of Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep, the Bay Division could become a sort of super league. The Knights and Gators tied for the WBAL title this season, and both teams advanced to the quarterfinal of the CCS Division III playoffs, with Menlo reaching the title game.
"Scheduling will be a lot easier," Menlo coach Craig Schoof said. "More teams will want to play Bay teams now that we are an 'A' league."
Both the PAL Bay Division and WBAL were 'B' leagues this spring.
Five PAL Bay Division teams qualified for the CCS tournament, with Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova joining the ranks of Division III, while Burlingame played in Division II and both Carlmont and Menlo-Atherton participated in Division I playoffs.
The Ocean Division co-champions, Mills and Sequoia, both advanced to the CCS playoffs.
Menlo will even have a PAL title to defend next season. The Knights went undefeated (12-0) in frosh-soph play in the Ocean Division. Sacred Heart Prep's frosh-soph played an independent schedule.
"There was a lack of frosh-soph teams in the WBAL, so this opportunity makes their scheduling easier and creates a more competitive situation for them as well," Sacred Heart Prep coach Gregg Franceschi said. "I've looked to schedule the best teams in the area to play and that routinely includes teams from both divisions, this year was the top six in the Bay and three of the top four in the Ocean."
Menlo-Atherton suddenly will have an interesting set of geographical rivalries. The Bears and Carlmont have a rivalry that dates to the old South Peninsula Athletic League days.
With Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep just a few miles away, there's more a likelihood of students at all three schools growing up together and playing for or against each other.
"I don't see any real effects on having three teams so close together, although it will cut down on travel time and missed classes for all of us," Schoof said. "Competition is always good and the competition in this league will be intense."
Franceschi had a similar reaction.
"We've got a great rivalry with Menlo already," he said. "And most of our kids grow up playing with or against the kids from M-A, so there is a rivalry there that will continue to grow."
The new seven-team PAL Division will include Burlingame, Carlmont, Half Moon Bay, Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Terra Nova and Sacred Heart Prep. There will be 12 league games in round-robin order. League play begins March 13, 2014.
The new eight-team Ocean Division will have Aragon, Capuchino, El Camino, Hillsdale, Mills, Sequoia, King's Academy and Woodside. The 14-game 'B' league season begins March 18, 2014.
The new seven-team Lake Division will feature Crystal Springs, Harker, Jefferson, Pinewood, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Westmoor and will play 12 games in a round-robin format that starts March 11, 2014. The Lake will be a 'C' league for CCS purposes.
There will be two frosh-soph leagues, Bay and Ocean.
PAL commissioner Terry Stogner also has created space in the final week of the season for a 12-team PAL Tournament.
"The merger will allow for three very competitive divisions," Franceschi said. "We are very excited about the opportunity to play baseball in the PAL."
Schoof echoed those sentiments.
"This obviously makes the PAL Bay one of the top leagues in the CCS," he said. "It will be a lot of fun going out and competing against top teams every game, especially since this was not always the case in the WBAL."