NorCal/SoCal Regional Playoff Primer

Players and coaches from Ridgeview of Bakersfield (left) won the CIF SoCal D4 championship last June. At right are players and coaches from Sultana of Hesperia after they won first-ever CIF SoCal D2 crown. Photos:

As some of the various CIF section champions are crowned this weekend in baseball and softball, here’s how each CIF section in the state will be determining which teams to advance into this year’s first ever Northern and Southern California regional playoffs in baseball and softball.

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There was a CIF Southern California regional playoff in late June of 2021 that included the CIF Central Section in the south. It was the first one ever for softball and the first playoffs in baseball beyond the section level in the state since 1922 when Sacramento High defeated Franklin of Los Angeles for the CIF state baseball title. There were no Northern California regional playoffs in either sport because the CIF sections up north outside of the Central Section did not have playoffs due to COVID-19.

Since the 2021 regionals were so late on the adjusted 2020-21 calendar (due to COVID), many section championship teams opted out. This included state No. 1 Thousand Oaks and state No. 2 Harvard-Westlake in SoCal baseball plus state No. 1 Esperanza of Anaheim and state No. 3 Clovis North of Fresno in SoCal softball. Opt outs could still continue this year after section championships are concluded. The softball travel ball season for many players will begin on the weekend of June 3-5, which is the same date (June 4) as the regional finals. It’s just not known how much of an impact this will have until the regional pairings are announced on Sunday, May 29.


All three rounds with eight teams in each regional bracket will be conducted within one week, beginning on Tuesday, May 31. Semifinals will be Thursday, June 2 with championships held on Saturday, June 4. Home sites (highest seeded team still playing as host) will be utilized for each round. There is no state final matching the two regional champions.


There will be 80 teams total with 40 in the north and 40 in the south that will be seeded into the two regions. The CIF Central Section’s eight teams are split in half with four going north and four going south and there is no rule about which four those have to be. It tends to be that teams from the Fresno area are placed in the north and teams from Bakersfield are placed in the south due to travel, but it’s a part of the seeding process that has not been easy to completely predict correctly.

The section-by-section breakdown of how many teams each section is getting and how each section is determining its teams that will be advancing to the regional playoffs is below. Thanks to Sutter High head coach Stewart Peterson for asking about it, which gave us the idea to do it. Note: It is the same format for softball as it is for baseball in every section.

CIF Central Section
Eight teams total. Championship teams from D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 and D6 plus the next two highest ranked finalists will be the ones moving on. Unless there’s a head-to-head result that becomes important, it’s highly, highly probable that it will be the D1 and D2 runner-ups placed on the list.

CIF Central Coast Section
Nine teams total. Both the semi finalists and finalists in D1 will advance to the NorCal playoffs. It’s then just the championship teams for D2, D3, D4, D5 and D6.

CIF North Coast Section
Nine teams total. Six of the nine will be the championship teams from D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 and D6. The other three will be determined among the three highest remaining finalist seeds in all divisions. That means it’s most likely the runner-up from D1, D2 and D3 but again there could be head-to-head results that become important once all of the titles have been decided.

CIF Northern Section
Six teams total. Five of the six teams in baseball advancing will be champions from D2, D3, D4, D5 and D6. The sixth team will be determined according to the highest runner-up team according to a playoff points formula. There is no D2 in softball in the Northern Section. It will be the D3, D4 and D5 winners plus runners-up that will be moving on.

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section
10 teams total. In the SJS, it will be the champion and runner-up teams from D1, D2 and D3 playoffs that are going to continue. It will be just the championship team from D4, D5, D6 and D7.

Oakland/San Francisco Sections
One team each. That will be the championship team for each.

CIF L.A. City Section
Six teams total. This is the only one of the state’s sections in which it is slightly different for baseball and softball. According to SID Dick Dornan, it will be the Open Division champion, runner-up, and then the highest seeded semifinal loser plus the D1, D2 and D3 champions for baseball. For softball, there also is a D4 bracket so it will be the Open Division winner, Open Division runner-up and then the champions for D1, D2, D3 and D4.

CIF Southern Section
20 teams total. The state’s biggest CIF section by far will be able to advance its championship, runner up and semifinal teams from D1, D2 and D3 playoffs. For the other divisions – D4, D5, D6 and D7 – it will be the championship team plus the runner-up but not the semifinalists.

CIF San Diego Section
10 teams total. All four teams getting to the SD Section Open Division semifinals will be eligible for the regional playoffs. It’s going to be the champion plus runner-up for Division I and then just the champion for D2, D3, D4 and D5.

Competitive Equity Seeding

It’s very important to know that a team can be in a different division for the regionals compared to the division it was just competing in during the section playoffs. The CIF seeding committee will look at various rankings at this point of the process and it will be advised about any key head-to-head results and it will be given a list of teams from each section ranked in order of each section’s preference.

At this point of the season in both baseball and softball, and based on what’s happened so far, that the CIF Southern Section’s top four teams in its highest bracket, for example, will all be in the D1 South playoffs. The next highest Southern Section team also could be in D1 South (which would have happened last year in baseball if it was a normal year for Thousand Oaks).

Smaller schools also could be moved up into higher competitive divisions according to this format. Unbeaten Colusa baseball in the CIF Northern Section, for example, clearly isn’t going to be D5 if it wins out on Saturday in its D5 section championship.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle.

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  1. Tommy
    Posted May 20, 2022 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Softball in the Northern Section is different than baseball. D3 D4 & D5 send both finalists. There is no D2.

  2. robert hewitt
    Posted May 24, 2022 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Any thoughts on where Sutter and East Nicolaus will be placed

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted May 26, 2022 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Well, Heritage is playing in the NCS D1 final, Livermore was eliminated from D1 earlier this week by losing in the NCS D2 semis, and Sutter has that win over Heritage. It’s looking like D1 for Sutter. Root for Lincoln of Stockton to upset Sheldon because then at least SJS might get four teams into D1 (with St Francis & Del Oro both in D1). The other problem for Sutter not being in D1 is that CIF may have to put Clovis (if it wins in its final) into the South. The south isn’t much for San Diego and hard to see L.A. City team in D1 South. East Nic has two close losses to Sutter and Vanden. Vanden is now out so could be CIF gives East Nic a break and puts them in D3.

      • robert hewitt
        Posted May 29, 2022 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        How does D1 runner up 4000 student Central get put in D3

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted May 29, 2022 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

          Competitive equity seeding. There are large schools from San Francisco that have been in lower divisions than D3. You may not know much about it as a softball person, but it’s been that way in other sports for several years. Enrollment means nothing with that seeding system.

          • robert hewitt
            Posted May 30, 2022 at 6:28 am | Permalink

            I am not sure if a 4000 student school placed with schools of 300 students is equitable as depth plays an important factor in team sports
            In Texas the conferences and divisions for the true state playoffs are based on enrollment and location.
            I do like the California idea of an open division in football and the state wrestling format of one state champion
            Any thoughts about Sheldon’s chances in D1

          • Mark Tennis
            Posted May 30, 2022 at 9:50 am | Permalink

            Well, it’s not equitable, but I just try to explain the CIF system.
            The whole thing in Central Sec D1 was screwed up by the injury to Clovis North pitcher. If she’s healthy, they probably win and everything is different. Central made the finals through that side of the bracket.
            Sheldon could go all the way with the lineup it has. Don’t see why CIF put Clovis ahead of them at all. Way too much emphasis on a loss to Del Oro early in season. Del Oro just lost twice in league. Sheldon beat St. Francis & Elk Grove second round of league and beat St. Francis at Livermore Stampede. Now they have to go on road to probably play at SF on Thursday.

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