Just the fact Newport Harbor High's baseball team finished fourth in the Sunset League and earned an at-large berth into the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs shows how tough the league was in 2014, Sailors Coach Evan Chalmers concurred.
The Trinity League features elite competition, as well.
The Sailors will have the opportunity to show just how challenging their league was when they play against Orange Lutheran, the Trinity's third-place team, to open the playoffs on Wednesday.
Newport Harbor is the visitor in a wild-card game that starts at 3:15 p.m. at Hart Park in Orange.
Sage Hill School (14-6), the Academy League's third-place team, opens the Division 5 playoffs in a first-round game at Sherman Oaks Buckley (12-8), the Liberty League champ, on Thursday.
Newport and Sage are the only Newport-Mesa area teams to qualify for the CIF playoffs, as pairings were released Monday morning.
"It'll be interesting," Chalmers said of the wild-card game against the Lancers. "Our kids will be excited to play just knowing that we're in the playoffs. We'll be ready."
The Sailors feature two NCAA Division I-bound pitchers in seniors Shaun Vetrovec (UC Irvine) and Connor Seabold (Cal State Fullerton).
Seabold, a right-handed pitcher, will start on Wednesday, Chalmers said in a text Tuesday night.
Chalmers had said Monday that Wednesday's starting pitcher was "still up in the air."
Vetrovec last pitched Thursday when he led the Tars to a 4-1 Sunset win over Marina that basically clinched the playoff berth, as Newport Harbor finished the regular season at .500, 13-13.
Vetrovec is 7-4 with a 1.16 earned-run average. Seabold is 4-6, with a save, and with a 3.20 ERA.
Seabold is also the Tars' top hitter, with a .439 batting average.
The Sailors also have a strong arm in junior Liam Ogburn (1.07 ERA in 26 innings pitched), who nearly helped Newport Harbor to an upset of Fountain Valley April 30, when he started.
The Barons (19-7, 13-2 in league) shared the Sunset title with Huntington Beach (21-4, 13-2). Fountain Valley is the third seed in Division 1.
The Barons and Huntington Beach were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the county by the Register heading into the final week of the season. Edison, which finished third in the Sunset, was ranked No. 7.
"The league is very well respected," said Chalmers, whose team finished 6-9 in the Sunset. "It's getting a lot of publicity. But the playoffs are a different animal. I hope from the competition in our league that will give us an opportunity to hang with Orange Lutheran."
The Lancers (15-11, 10-5) enter Wednesday's game on a six-game win streak.
Newport Harbor is making its first playoff appearance since 2010, when the Tars won a Division 1 wild-card playoff game. That was in Patrick Murphy's first season when he took over for Chalmers, who had been fired the season before after four seasons with the Sailors.
The winner of Wednesday's game advances to Friday's first round to play at Newhall Hart (21-4-1), the Foothill League champion.
Sage Hill will try to advance to the second round to play against the winner of the wild-card opponent-at Sierra Canyon (24-5) game.
Sophomore Conner Bock leads the Lightning in batting with a .484 average and 29 runs batted in. Junior Parker Reposa is also a top hitter for Sage with a .471 average and 23 RBIs.
Freshman Brett Super (6-2, one save, 2.49 ERA) and Reposa (6-1, one save, 2.85 ERA) are the top pitchers for the Lightning.