Sheldon baseball coach Stan Manley made a quick trip over the weekend.

Manley's son, Zach, plays baseball for Linfield, so he decided to fly to Appleton, Wis. where the No. 1-ranked Wildcats were set to defend their national championship. Instead of being in the stands for two Linfield wins, Manley watched the 'Cats lose twice and get bounced from the NCAA Division III College World Series.

Manley did get to see his son pitch 5 1/3 innings in relief in Linfield's game Saturday, but by that point the Wildcats were already down three runs.

"They had a good season," said Manley, who played for Linfield from 1980-82. "It's an accomplishment just to make it back there."

Now, Manley is back in Eugene and has his No. 8-ranked Irish ready for their Class 6A first-round playoff game at 5 p.m. today against Sunset. It's safe to say he's hoping for a bit of a different outcome for his team, also the defending champion.

"It's a little different of a vibe this year," Manley said of comparing this year's team and last year's 6A champions. "But the kids know when you put on a Sheldon jersey other teams are gunning for you."

First up are the Apollos, the fifth-place team from the Metro League who finished 13-13. The .500 record doesn't fool Manley, though. All six teams in the Metro League qualified for the playoffs, and Sunset won games against all the teams above it. In the one-and-done world of the state tournament, they could easily knock off the Irish.

"They're just a solid team," Manley said.

Starting for Sheldon is senior Brandon Brancato, who is 7-2 this season with a 1.27 ERA. He's struck out 64 batters in 60 innings for the Irish (19-8).

"Brandon has pitched really well for us," Manley said. "I feel real confident with him on the mound. He competes like crazy."

While Manley wasn't looking ahead to a potential second-round game, he said his players are prepared for a playoff run despite not having many players left who played on the 2013 title team.

"They know what it's like," Manley said. "A lot of those kids have been around winning programs. They know how to act when there are championships on the line."

Thurston (16-10) is on the road today. The Colts play at 4:30 p.m. at Westview (16-11).

In the first round of the Class 6A softball tournament, No. 9 Thurston hosts Oregon City at 5 p.m. today. The Colts (17-9) won the Special District 2.

Sheldon plays at 2 p.m. today at Glencoe. South Eugene is at No. 2 South Salem at 4 p.m. today.

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