The start of the high school baseball season is still a few weeks away, and if there weren’t two local prep teams in the finals of a recent winter preseason tournament this past weekend, this story wouldn’t make print. But, since the Vista Murrieta Broncos and Murrieta Mesa Rams gave us something to write about, game on!

The Broncos won the Desert Cities Baseball Classic in Palm Desert, which is a semi-competitive tournament featuring about 48 teams from various schools in Southern California. Despite the challenging wet weather, the Broncos managed to come out on top against their neighbors to the West, Murrieta Mesa.

Competing teams play multiple games in just a few days and the competition is all over the board. The Broncos started strong, winning all three of their pool play games, and continued their winning streak throughout the remainder of the tournament. Vista Murrieta managed to win all three games on Sunday to secure their spot as tournament champions.

The Vista Murrieta Broncos are looking to win their third straight Southwestern League title when baseball season starts in February. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

In the championship game, the Broncos faced off against their cross-town rivals, the Murrieta Mesa Rams. Both teams had played six games over the weekend, with the Rams going 5-0-1, but only one undefeated team could carry the crown. This win shows the potential of what could be with the current Vista Murrieta baseball team, who have a history of firing on all cylinders.

The Broncos have currently won back-to-back Southwestern League titles, and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs last season. This season the Broncos were bumped up to Division 1 and probably yield one the toughest teams in the SWL, led by LSU commit Vaughn Neckar.

Along with Chaparral, Murrieta Mesa is always in my peripheral since I was a former coach at both schools. The Rams won a CIF Division 1 title in 2016 and remain to be the only local program to ever win at that level. So, it’s good to see them having some preseason success as they also played well in the Austin Gorrell Memorial Classic last November.

In fact, the vibe surrounding the program now reminds me of their past campaigns, which garnered competitive success. Murrieta Mesa also won the Southwestern League title in that 2016 championship season and did it again in 2021. That year after the pandemic was also their only other time the Rams made the postseason. Murrieta Mesa fell in the Division 4 semifinals to Rancho Cucamonga at the end of that 2021 season, but since then they have not been able to get out of the cellar of the SWL standings.

Murrieta Mesa was one of the top two teams in the recent Desert Cities Baseball Classic. Valley News/Jared Furubotten Photography

This past summer Murrieta Mesa Athletic Director John Broussard brought in a new head coach to replace Mike Wolford, who is now at Xavier Prep. If this year’s standings were based off of social media campaigns, the Rams would be right at the top with Michael Nagamatsu (former Portola High School coach) having this year’s squad chasing excellence with every post.

Murrieta Mesa will be competing in Division 6 this year, which is the furthest down the Divisional placement totem pole they have ever been. The Rams should fare well, especially compared to most of their league counterparts, if they can secure a spot in the middle of the standings and get to the postseason in 2024. In their way are some incredibly competitive league foes, including Murrieta Valley. The Nighthawks are being coached by Murrieta Mesa’s former 2016 Championship coaches, Bryn Wade and Mark Barbee.

Nonetheless, the Desert Cities tournament should give both teams some momentum going into the Southwestern League season and CIF-SS preseason, which starts as early as Saturday, Feb. 10, of this year. In addition to the Broncos and Rams, other local teams also participated in the tournament as well. Linfield Christian, Hemet, and West Valley all competed and while they may not have won the tournament, the experience will surely benefit these teams in future games as the season lurks right around the corner.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.