BARSTOW • A collision course between Barstow and Granite Hills on the way to a Desert Sky League title seemed inevitable just a few weeks ago.
Then the rest of the DSL collided with both baseball teams. So much for a nicely packaged, two-team DSL race.
While Victor Valley, Silverado and Burroughs may have taken some of the luster away from a matchup between the reigning DSL co-champs, it hasn't decreased the importance of a Barstow vs. Granite Hills game, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. today at Granite Hills High School. It's actually increased it due to the increased value of each league game.
"We are in a race," Barstow coach Bruce Mitchell said. "Like I said, there are no weak sisters in our league."
A season after sharing the title, Barstow and Granite Hills looked like the favorites again heading into the DSL season this season.
Granite Hills (10-3; 1-2 DSL) opened the preseason 9-1 and put up huge numbers, outscoring opponents 98-33. The Aztecs didn't quite overpower teams but lost just two games before opening DSL play.
Then the rest of the DSL had a difference of opinion.
"I can't even think how long it's been since the league has been strong," Barstow Assistant Coach Paul Negrette said. "Usually it was Victorville that was really strong and then Silverado and the last three teams are playing for that third spot. This year it's been you just don't know what's going to happen."
Granite Hills was the first to fall, losing to Burroughs 11-4 in the DSL opener. The Cougars went on to lose a second straight DSL game against Victor Valley before picking up their first win on Wednesday against Silverado.
Barstow (8-3; 2-1 DSL) was undefeated until Victor Valley handed the Aztecs their first DSL loss Wednesday.
"It's been relaxed after the game," said Barstow senior infielder Daniel Rodriguez of the mood following the loss. "Nobody's too tense and upset about the loss. It's time to move forward to the rest of the season."
If a fighting a 2009 title wasn't incentive enough, the Aztecs are still looking for revenge from the way the 2008 season ended.
The two teams shared three memorable DSL battles, and one game in a preseason tournament, last season with each team picking up two wins. Each league game was decided in the final inning including an 11-inning battle to open DSL play a season ago. Barstow came out victorious, winning 9-8.
The Aztecs had the DSL title almost wrapped up when several late season loses earned them a tie for the title. It's a feat they don't want to repeat.
"It's a lot of motivation," Rodriguez said. "You want take it for yourself and not have to share it with anyone this year."
Today's game will end the first round of league play with each DSL team having faced each other once. Next week the teams move into two-game series before the regular season ends on May 14.
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