With huge tourneys right around the corner, there are few changes in this week’s rankings. Vintage of Napa stays among elite after winning eight games in four days. Preseason No. 1 Pacifica, meanwhile, falls out after Monday loss.
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Of all the teams in the Cal-Hi Sports top 20 rankings for softball, no team played as many games since the last rankings were released as the streaking Vintage Crushers of Napa.
First, they took a road win from Fairfield Armijo. Then they took a 200-mile road trip to the Redding area where they won the seven-game, 24-team Cubs Classic hosted by Anderson High, beating the top teams from the CIF Northern Section.
Second-year head coach Rick Robben has a ton of girls that can hit and they did a lot of that way up north.
The biggest bat was that of Sarah Hayes. The senior was voted the Offensive Player of the Tournament after going 15-for-22 with a home run. Hayes is a five-tool hitter. She can bunt, drag bunt, touch slap, power slap, and this year has been taught to hit for power by Robben.
It’s no surprise Robben has the Crushers crushing opponents. The veteran travel ball coach with 22 years in the game previously won a section title when his Napa Justin-Siena team won the 2011 CIF North Coast Section Division IV championship.
Now, he has the job he always wanted, since both his daughters, Ricci who played at Wisconsin, and Alex, who is currently a junior on the Cal roster, both played at Vintage.
“It took a year to get the program in shape,” Robben told Cal-Hi Sports.
It also doesn’t hurt Robben to have a pitcher in the circle he has tutored since she was an adolescent. Sophomore Erin Oestreich has turned in a fine season so far going into Monticello Empire League play beginning next week. With no games this week, she gets to rest her arm after pitching almost every inning so far this season.
“Erin is a great pitcher,” Robben said. “Her best pitch is a drop ball and she works her other pitches off that. She also has a curve, screw, rise and change, and she can top out at 65 (miles per hour) when she gears it up.”
Other girls that are playing well entering league play are Idaho State-bound Kacie Burnett, senior Courtney Kelly, who was named the defensive player of the Anderson tournament, transfer Haley Forbes, whom local scribe Marty James of the Napa Valley Register says “puts them over the top,” and another daughter, sophomore Baylee Robben, who is one of the team’s leaders in RBIs and average.
Top teams gear up for big tournaments
There could be changes in the top 10 for games played this week, but if there aren’t three of those teams will be using this week to get their pitching, hitting and defense ready for the Michelle Carew Classic that begins April 3 and concludes on April 6 at host Canyon of Anaheim.
Three of this week’s top 10 teams — Amador Valley (Pleasanton), Norco and Esperanza of Anaheim — will lead a field of 32 teams that also includes currently ranked Pacifica (Garden Grove), host Canyon and Woodcreek of Roseville.
The field has 28 teams from Southern California, two from Northern California and one each from Arizona and New Mexico.
While Amador Valley is down south, the Livermore Stampede will be contested with the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan taking in some of the action, most likely on April 6 for the championship.
Previous multiple winner Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) will be the favorite with Amador Valley gone but the Monarchs will be challenged by California (San Ramon), Martinez Alhambra, Heritage of Brentwood, host Livermore and Sacramento Sheldon.
Here are this week’s rankings:
(After games of Monday, March 25; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 4-0
With no games until Tuesday of this week since capturing the Queen of the Mountain tournament on March 16, the Dons have had some time to work on their hitting. They get their first chance to show it against East Bay Athletic League foe Livermore, a bubble team that lost 1-0 in the semis to a No. 12 California that lost 1-0 in the title game tournament. Going through the EBAL this season unbeaten is going to be tough enough even without the upcoming Michelle Carew Classic.
2. (2) Mission Viejo 15-1
With a 3-0 win over Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita, the Diablos extended their winning streak to 10 games and remained in the No. 2 spot after moving up seven spots in last week’s rankings. Despite losing to Norco, the Diablos are ranked higher than the two-loss Cougars as they have wins over Great Oak of Temecula and El Modena while winning the Best in the West Classic.
3. (3) James Logan (Union City) 5-0
Like Amador Valley, there were no games for the Colts since the last rankings with a date on Tuesday at Fremont American. The Mission Valley Athletic League is not looking that difficult this season, meaning the only true test the Colts will get before the CIF North Coast Section playoffs is when they head up to Nevada for the Reno Invitational in two weeks.
4. (4) Great Oak (Temecula) 9-1
The young Wolfpack girls had no games since the last rankings with Southwestern league play beginning on Wednesday with Temecula Valley of Temecula. The girls probably won’t be challenged in this league but stranger things have happened.
5. (5) Norco 11-2
The Cougars crushed Foothill of Tustin in a doubleheader on Monday, winning 7-2 and 12-1. They don’t play again until next week against Valley View of Moreno Valley.
6. (6) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 10-0
The Monarchs didn’t knock the socks off the ball but the pitching was solid and they still picked up two victories with a 2-0 non-league win over crosstown Leland, and a 3-1 West Catholic Athletic League win at Belmont Notre Dame. After a Wednesday game at a Notre Dame of Salinas team knocking on the door of the rankings, Mitty is not in action again until the Livermore Stampede.
7. (7) Santiago (Corona) 13-1
Staying steady at No. 7 the Sharks took care of buisness and defeated West Ranch of Valencia twice by a score of 6-5 and 15-7. UNLV-bound Brittany Abacherli ended the first game of the doubleheader with a walk off solo home run, her second home run of the game, as the Sharks claimed the 400th win in program history. They extended their winning streak to five games already this week with a 10-0 win against Rialto on Monday morning. Their lone loss this season was against a Roosevelt of Eastvale squad that they defeated earlier in the season at the Stu Penter Classic.
8. (8) Esperanza (Anaheim) 10-1
With a quality win earlier last week over an El Modena team that probably will bounce in and out of the top 20 all season, the Aztecs moved up four spots into the top 10 and they remained at No. 8 this after picking up wins against Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita and Ocean View of Huntington Beach at the Northwood Tournament. Esperanza faces Canyon of Anaheim on Wednesday in Century League action.
9. (9) Vintage (Napa) 16-0
Chances are the crushers may not be tested until the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division I playoffs. It therefore will be hard to them to move up any higher due to strength of schedule of teams coming up.
10. (11) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 10-3
The Monarchs move up into the spot previously occupied by Woodcreek despite having no games played since the last rankings. Visiting San Juan Capistrano JSerra is up next on Wednesday to open Trinity League action.
11. (12) Marina (Huntington Beach) 9-1
Like Mater Dei, the young Vikings gain a spot without playing since the last rankings. Fullerton Rosary is up next on Tuesday.
12. (14) California (San Ramon) 4-1
The Grizzly girls played one game since the last rankings and it was an 8-0 blanking of Fremont Washington. Danville Monte Vista is on tap Tuesday to open EBAL play. Mitty better watch out for them at the Livermore Stampede.
13. (15) El Diamante (Visalia) 13-1-1
Sierra Hyland continues to strike out batters in bunches and the Miners’ offense has been averaging over six and a half runs per game. They scored 23 runs against Mt. Whitney of Visalia before scoring a combined 11 runs in two wins at the Clovis Easter Classic against Centennial of Bakersfield and Clovis West. In the 23-3 win over Mt. Whitney, sophomore Rylee Pierce and senior Katy McJunkin each drove in five runs as the Miners scored 11 runs in the first inning and 10 more in the second inning. El Diamante already has won twice this week with wins on Monday over San Joaquin Memorial and Taft.
14. (16) Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) 9-1
With two teams above them losing, the No. 4 team from the Inland Empire gets a two-spot bump despite not playing since the last rankings. Alta Loma and Upland is on tap for this week.
15. (17) Chino 11-2
This team moved into the top 20 last week and finished off the home and home against Don Lugo of Chino with another victory, this time by a 5-2 final score. Their lone losses this season were to No. 10 Mater Dei of Santa 1-0 and to No. 2 Mission Viejo by a 7-6 final score at the Tournament of Champions in Arizona.
16. (18) Canyon (Anaheim) 9-3
Bouncing back from a loss to Great Oak of Temecula, the Comanches defeated El Modena of Orange and then Villa Park to move into the top 20 and after defeating El Modena again on Thursday by a 4-0 final score they earn another small move up. Hailey Hilburn allowed just two hits while striking out 10 in the circle as they moved to 2-0 in Century League play. Their three losses all came in a span of four games to teams ranked that have been in the top 20 – Norco, Pacifica of Garden Grove and Great Oak.
17. (NR) San Benito (Hollister) 5-1
The Balers break back in as the top newcomer after wins over host and arch-rival Gilroy (2-1) and Monterey (2-0) last week. The lone loss that dropped the preseason highly-ranked girls out of the rankings came when University of San Diego-bound senior pitcher Megan Sabbatini was not in the circle. They begin this week with a date against North Salinas of Salinas at home.
18. (NR) Rocklin 12-1
This week’s second newcomer has a lone loss in its second game on the road at Sacramento El Camino. Since then, the Thunder has won 11 straight. Last week, they went 5-0 and defeated teams by a combined score of 41-4, including a 3-0 blanking of Woodcreek. The Thunder girls are idle this week and next play Christian Brothers on the road in Sacramento.
19. (NR) Saugus 8-4
With preseason No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove losing again on Monday, a spot was created for another another newcomer and the nod went to the Centurions. They have an earlier win over the Mariners and also have quality wins over Kennedy of La Palma, Lakewood and Vista Murrieta (all bubble teams).
20. (10) Woodcreek (Roseville) 8-2
The Timberwolves’ loss to Rocklin means a 10 spot drop, but they get to stay in the rankings pending participation in the Michelle Carew Classic that is preceded by a game next Tuesday with Grass Valley Nevada Union before heading down south.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 13 Pacifica (Garden Grove); No. 19 Cypress; No. 20 Chino Hills.
Teams On The Bubble:
Alhambra (Martinez) 2-0 d
Bonita Vista (Chula Vista) 5-2-1
Carlmont (Belmont) 9-2
Carondelet (Concord) 9-1
Chino Hills 11-5
El Modena (Orange) 6-6
Elk Grove 6-4
Foothill (Santa Ana) 7-4
Frontier (Bakersfield) 17-0
Heritage (Brentwood) 5-1
Kennedy (La Palma) 5-4
Leigh (San Jose) 5-2
Los Alamitos 9-5
Lutheran (Orange) 12-4
Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 3-0
Notre Dame (Salinas) 10-1
Pacifica (Garden Grove) 8-5
Poly (Riverside) 11-4
Roosevelt (Eastvale) 9-3
Rosary (Fullerton) 10-3
Sierra (Manteca) 10-0
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 5-4-2
Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 3-3
Corrections or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Mark Tennis and Paul Muyskens contributed to this report.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend