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With its 26-4 final record, including a win over Central Coast Section Open Division champ St. Francis-Mountain View plus an avenging win over De... Park’s Place

With its 26-4 final record, including a win over Central Coast Section Open Division champ St. Francis-Mountain View plus an avenging win over De La Salle in the North Coast Section Division I championship, it ended up not being too hard to elevate College Park to the final No. 1 baseball ranking in the state for this season.

The Falcons getting named State Team of the Year also quickly forced us to start flipping pages in the state record book. It turns out the last time that an NCS baseball team was No. 1 in the state was 1983 when El Cerrito went 27-1.

With a stellar cast of players led by pitcher-hitter Joe DeMers, College Park had the pieces, in fact, to be even stronger this season. While the Falcons did indeed finish No. 1 in the state and deservedly so, their three losses to East Bay Athletic League teams does prevent them from being in the stratospheric reaches of El Cerrito 1983, Redwood-Larkspur of 1977 and perhaps a few other teams in all-time rankings of NCS baseball champions.

Of all the teams we’ve seen in person from Northern California since 1980 (not including the CIF Central Section), this group of Gauchos guided by head coach Larry Quirico is still the best. The simple reason is speed. This team not only had the pitching and hitting, but had a lineup on offense and defense that took advantage of its quickness and athleticism.

In addition to winning the CIF North Coast Section Class 3A title, El Cerrito also went to the Fresno Easter Classic and took top honors. One of its players, outfielder Terry Brown, also led the North to victory in that year’s North-South all-star series.

Including Brown, seven of the nine regular players would eventually sign pro contracts. The group was led by State Junior of the Year James “Pops” Mitchell, who hit .425 and went 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA. Future USC standout Brian Nichols was the closer and led the team in hitting at .432 with 36 RBI. Steve Pearse, Brian Brooks and Brown also contributed to the team’s .325 average. The Gauchos also had Antoine Pickett and Andy McDonald at the top of the lineup with 27 stolen bases each.

The Giants (33-3 and coached by the legendary Al Endriss) were awarded a mythical national title after this season by the Easton Bat Company, but we have them No. 2 in the state behind Edgewood-West Covina, which was 29-1. Both teams just happen to be considered among the best in state history and are from the same season. Think De La Salle and Long Beach Poly football for 2001. The 1977 Giants also were better than Redwood’s 1978 squad (30-5) that is listed as State Team of the Year.

One of Redwood’s losses was 2-1 to the Taiwan national team in a game that was tied 1-1 after seven innings. Two losses were to league rival Terra Linda (a team the Giants also beat) while two notable wins were against top teams from Oregon and Washington.

The most famous player on the team was infielder Buddy Biancalana, who was a hero for the Kansas City Royals in the 1985 World Series. Third baseman Greg Zunino set a state record by scoring 65 runs and helped the team score 356 runs for a NorCal record. The Giants also had 358 hits, a total that still makes the state record book. Pitchers David Hoffmeister and Steve Travers (both who pitched at USC) along with outfielders Steve Hoffmire and Jim Connor were among the team’s other standouts.

So where does College Park 2015 fit in? Since the Falcons also were a section champion from 2014, probably in or near the top five. In addition to the two above, De La Salle’s 26-1 squad from 2000 probably ranks higher. The Spartans weren’t State Team of the Year, but ended No. 2 behind national and state No. 1 Rancho Bernardo-San Diego.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of Contact him at and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.

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