ISA’s playoff berth completes climb from basement 

It was a beating so bad, Nathan Cox can recall not only the score, but the exact date of the defeat.

"March 3, 2004," the International Studies Academy baseball coach said. "It was my first game and Lincoln beat us 49-0. We couldn’t throw, field or hit in those days and we were getting our butts whooped every time out there."

Back then, the Cobras were little more than a glorified junior varsity team: A group of a dozen freshmen learning the game that went 0-15 and was outscored 327-33 in Academic Athletic Association play. But over the past four years, the core group has stayed together through some lopsided results and developed into a formidable team.

Led by staff ace Jerwin Leyson, power-hitting first baseman Evan Mui and eight other current seniors from Cox’s original squad, ISA (5-7 AAA) has clinched a berth in the San Francisco Section playoffs for the first time in recent memory.

The Cobras have had impressive comeback wins over Wallenberg and O’Connell this season and will play either Galileo or Washington on May 2 in the first round.

"That Lincoln game was horrible — I just remember it was my first game and I was really scared out there and didn’t know what to do," said Leyson, the starting pitcher on that fateful day. "And making the playoffs this year feels great. It’s four years of hard work and determination paying off."

And with his first postseason game as a coach on the horizon, Cox is drawing on the surprising success of another perennial Bay Area underdog to rally his team.

"I find myself thinking a lot of the same things Don Nelson is saying about the Warriors," Cox said. "We want to surprise somebody. We want to surprise ourselves."

Heavyweight matchups: The regular-season titles in both the AAA’s A and B divisions will be settled by intriguing head-to-head matchups this week.

In the A Division, first-place Lowell (10-1) plays third-place Lincoln (9-3) in a two-game set, starting Wednesday at West Sunset at 3:30 p.m. and continuing Saturday at 2 p.m. at Big Rec. Second-place Balboa (10-2) could still earn the top playoff seed should it sweep Mission (4-8) at Crocker-Amazon on Wednesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

In the B Division, co-leaders Galileo (11-2) and Washington (11-2) will do battle twice to determine the regular-season champion. Wednesday’s game is at Hennessey, while Thursday’s is at Big Rec, with first pitch for bothset for 3:30 p.m. Each division winner receives an automatic berth in the playoff semifinals.

ETC.: University’s Mike Kremer put up perhaps the weirdest line of the season in last week’s 13-3 win over Urban. Kremer was 1-for-1 with one run and five RBIs. He came up three times with the bases loaded, delivered one bases-clearing triple and was walked twice. ... The Stuart Hall baseball team is coming off a huge 4-2 win Saturday over Justin Siena, which has won three out of the past four North Coast Section Division I titles. Ben Costa earned the win, while Kris Suzuki pitched the seventh for the save.

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