The last time Palo Alto received a No. 1 seed for the Central Coast Section baseball playoffs was in 2010. The Vikings were the top team in Division 2 and advanced all the way to the championship game.
In the finals, however, Palo Alto was upset by No. 6 Burlingame and finished with a 29-4 record -- the most wins in program history.
A year later, Paly was the No. 3 seed in Division 1 and advanced to the finals to beat San Benito, 5-4, for the Vikings first-ever section baseball crown with a 28-9 record.
Since then, Palo Alto has found the road to the finals quite challenging. The Vikings lost to eventual champ Valley Christian in the Division I semifinals in 2012 and eventual champ St. Francis in the Division I semis in 2014. The first-ever Open Division made its debut in 2014 and Paly was eliminated in the opening round. The Vikings made another first-round exit last year.
That brings us to 2016. Palo Alto is back in the CCS Open Division playoffs with a glossy 23-5-1 record and is coming off a series victory over Los Gatos in the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs. Moreover, the Vikings are the No. 1 seeded team for the first time.
In a bracket that includes perennial powers like No. 4 Serra (24-5-1) No. 5 St. Francis (20-7), No. 11 Bellarmine (18-9) and No. 15 Mitty (15-11), Palo Alto is the top pick -- despite losing to Serra and St. Francis this season.
Not only does Paly have that big target on its back, but has those two first-round exits in Open Division play to get past in Pete Fukuhara's second season as head coach. It's a daunting task, indeed, in a bracket at includes Carlmont (the Scots eliminated Paly last year), Serra and St. Francis.
The other half of the bracket includes No. 2 Palma (19-5), No. 3 Santa Teresa (21-4-1) and No. 6 Westmont (20-7).
Palo Alto begins its quest for a second CCS title, the first in the Open Division, when the Vikings host No. 16 Valley Christian (15-14) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The winner moves on to Saturday's quarterfinals. Championship games will be Saturday, May 28.
Paly is one of three baseball teams opening on Wednesday at the same time. Sacred Heart Prep (14-15) is seeded No. 4 after winning three games last week and claiming the Peninsula Athletic League Tournament title. The Gators will host No. 13 Monterey (12-14).
Menlo School (20-7) is seeded No. 3 and will host No. 14 Soquel (8-15), also at 4 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep is coming off its first-ever CCS title last season, in Division II. Menlo last reached the finals in 2013, losing to Pacific Grove for the second straight year. The Knights won back-to-back section titles under Craig Schoof in 2010 and '11.
SHP started the season 0-7 after graduating seven starters from its championship team. While things looked bleak early, the Gators gathered momentum. At the PAL Tournament, senior Andrew Daschbach reached base safely in 11 of 13 at-bats (.846 On Base Percentage). He went 6 for 7 over the final two games with three doubles, three runs and two RBI.Junior Schafer Kraemer was equally as productive as he was 6 for 11 with five RBI.
The CCS softball playoffs will get under way Wednesday, as well, with Castilleja (13-8) seeded No. 13. The Gators will visit No. 4 Carmel (20-3) after finishing second in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) last week.