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The toughest high school softball playoff divisions to get through in the nation are in Southern California, Arizona and Texas. So when one team won its fourth in a row in Arizona’s Division I, that is enough for that team to be considered No. 1 in the nation.
Red Mountain of Mesa, Ariz., completed its four-peat by topping Chaparral of Scottsdale 9-5 in the Division I state final in May and this week has been chosen as the FAB 50 national champion by Student Sports.
The Mountain Lions also have all of the other key factors in their favor to be No. 1 nationally, including win-loss record (33-5) against a highly-competitive schedule plus major college-level pitching (junior Brianna Macha is committed to national power Arizona State) and several other Division I college recruits peppered throughout the lineup.
Finishing just behind Red Mountain with similar credentials is Santiago of Corona, Calif. The Sharks don’t have four straight titles, but they did win their second CIF Southern Section Division I title in three seasons at 30-5.
The Student Sports FAB 50 was not compiled during the season, but is an extension of a national rankings program that in previous seasons has been part of ESPN, Rivals.com and Fox Sports. Look for the FAB 50 national rankings to be back in softball every week next season and in other sports (including football) for the 2013-14 school year.
Red Mountain and Santiago are far down the list and barely mentioned in either of the two other national softball rankings, but those rankings are obviously going by criteria that doesn’t include strength of schedule in one instance or winning a championship in a team’s final game in the other.
FINAL STUDENT SPORTS
FAB 50 SOFTBALL RANKINGS
1. Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.) 33-5
Coach Richard Hamilton’s girls won their final 15 games of the season after a slow start and outscored their foes 27-6 in the playoffs. Junior catcher Jordan Beck and junior Savannah Kirkpatrick both hit homers in the team’s 9-5 win in the Division I state final over Chaparral of Scottsdale.
2. Santiago (Corona, Calif.) 30-5
Hailing from the same league as Norco, last year’s FAB 50 national champion, the Sharks beat Norco 8-2 to win their second CIF Southern Section Division I title in the last three seasons. Pitcher Erica Romero won all 30 games and had a 0.79 ERA.
3. James Logan (Union City, Calif.) 26-1
Senior RaeAnn Garza pitched the Colts to their second straight CIF North Coast Section Division I title and their second straight 26-1 season. She went 21-1 with a 0.85 ERA and batted .412 with 23 RBIs.
4. Northern (Owings, Md.) 23-0
The Patriots defeated previously unbeaten Eastern Technical of Baltimore County 3-0 in the Class 3A state final and set a state record with their sixth straight state championship. They also will enter next season on a 76-game winning streak.
5. Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.) 36-1
Arizona Republic Big School Player of the Year Taylor Nowlin pitched a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts in Sunrise Mountain’s 7-0 win over Ironwood Ridge of Tucson in the Division II state final. The team’s only loss was to a Division I team, which is generally regarded within the state as being much stronger than Division II.
6. Hoover (Canton, Ohio) 31-0
Led by head coach Jerry Goodpasture, the Vikings finished off their undefeated season with a 7-0 win over Elyria in the Division I championship game. Tara Thacker went 22-0 in the circle. They also captured their third straight state championship.
7. Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) 33-1
Bailey Rhoney was named series MVP as the Cougars as swept Wake Forest-Rolesville in the 4-A state championship.
8. Coral Reef (Miami, Fla.) 25-2
The Barracudas had a strong overall season in the Sunshine State, winning the Class 8A state title with a 5-4 triumph against Cypress Bay of Weston.
9. Vintage (Napa, Calif.) 34-1
The Crushers emerged as a dominant team from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Their only loss came in the double-elimination Division I section playoffs to Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove, but they came back to beat Pleasant Grove twice to win the title.
10. Norco (Norco, Calif.) 27-8
Despite eight losses, the Cougars end up in the top 10 of the FAB 50 due to their strength of schedule. They played in the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim and then made it to the CIFSS Division I final for the third time in four years.
11. Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) 26-6
For Division I college bound talent, this was perhaps the top team in the nation. The Mariners started slow, then won 19 straight and got back up to No. 1 in California before they lost in the CIFSS Division I semifinals to Norco.
12. Columbia (Lake City, Fla.) 28-4
Sophomore pitchers Erin Anderson and Ashley Shoup pitched a combined no-hitter as the Tigers won their first ever Class 6A state championship with a 6-2 win over the defending state champions from Pembroke Pines Charter.
13. Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.) 31-4
The Mountain Lions get credit in the FAB 50 for handing Peoria Sunrise Mountain its only loss. A strong regular season also included a win over Basha of Chandler with a loss to Horizon of Scottsdale that was avenged in the state playoffs.
14. John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.) 31-0
Rachel Brokhous hit a two-run home run as the Patriots repeated as Class 2A state champions with a 3-2 win over Riverside Academy of Reserve. They should be strong again next season with junior pitcher-hitter Katie Brignac among the returnees.
15. Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 30-1
This team’s only loss was to No. 4 Northern of Owings, Md. It won the Division I state championship in convincing fashion and made it 18 state titles in 20 years. Missouri-bound pitcher Tori Finucane was 26-1 in the circle while also driving in 45 runs to earn Gatorade State Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row.
16. Kingwood (Humble, Texas) 34-4
It was strange season in Texas because the eventual Division I state champion was Lewisville, which had 13 losses. While Lewisville also is in the FAB 50, Kingwood can be higher based on its overall season. Despite a 3-2 loss to Lewisville in the state final, the Mustangs avenged an earlier loss with a win over Deer Park in the semifinals. They also avenged another early-season loss to Atascocita of Humble and had an impressive sweep of The Woodlands (No. 1 in the nation in 2010) in the regional finals.
17. Yorba Linda (Yorba Linda, Calif.) 24-4
Coach Sharon Farrell and outstanding junior pitcher Paige von Sprecken brought the Mustangs out of the woodwork in Southern California. They were the ones who beat Amador Valley of Pleasanton at the Michelle Carew Classic when Amador was No. 1 in the nation by some. Their only losses were to No. 2 Santiago and No. 11 Pacifica.
18. St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) 29-2
With a starting lineup consisting of just one senior, the Lancers won the NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship for the third time in the last four seasons. Notre Dame-bound junior pitcher Katie Beriont led the way in the circle.
19. Chino (Chino, Calif.) 26-2
Junior pitcher Miranda Viramontes tossed five no-hitters to lead the Cowgirls to their second straight CIFSS Division II title. Coach Mike Smith also has been named the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.
20. Lake City (Couer d’ Alene, Idaho) 28-0
For the second time in the last three seasons, the Timberwolves not only captured the 5A state championship but they did so without losing a game. Missouri-bound pitcher/hitter Casey Stangel was the team’s dominant player.
21. Olathe East (Olathe, Kan.) 24-1
Facing undefeated Washburn Rural of Topeka in the 6A state finals, the Hawks made sure the Blues’ season would end with a loss. The 5-3 win earned Olathe East a second straight title. The team featured junior Allison Stewart, who was on our All-American as a sophomore last year.
22. Deer Park (Deer Park, Texas) 37-5
A two-game sweep over Brazoswood of Clute carried the Deer to the state final four for Division I before they lost to Kingwood. One of Deer Park’s losses was to Pearland, which is the team Brazoswood swept earlier in the playoffs.
23. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 22-5
Meghan King was dominant in the circle for the Raiders as they won by identical 1-0 scores in the semifinals and finals to win the Class 7A state championship. It was their first time winning back-to-back state crowns since 2002 and 2003.
24. San Benito (Hollister, Calif.) 25-3
If there’s a program in Northern California that knows how to put things together for the playoffs, it’s this one. San Benito won its eighth straight CIF Central Coast Section Division I title and next season will try to tie the state record with a ninth consecutive crown.
25. Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 26-2
With super sophomore Alyssa Palomino and her 18 homers leading the way, the Diablos were No. 1 in Orange County and No. 1 in California until they were knocked out of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs in an upset.
26. Greenwood (Bowling Green, Ky.) 44-0
Leaving little doubt as to whuch was the best team in Kentucky, the Lady Gators won the KHSAA State Tournament by outscoring their competition by a combined score of 42-4. It was their third state championship in program history after winning back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
27. Milford (Milford, Mass.) 25-1
Kentucky-bound Shannon Smith capped perhaps the greatest season by a player in state history with 12 strikeouts and a one-hitter in 1-0 Division I state final win over Agawan. It was the team’s second straight state crown.
28. Lewisville (Lewisville, Texas) 31-13
A team with 13 losses winning one of the nation’s major championships is tough to rank, but the Farmers certainly proved they belonged. They beat San Benito 5-2 in the Division I semifinals, then topped Kingwood 3-2 in the final.
29. Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 28-12
Over the final month of the season, the Firebirds lost only to Red Mountain (twice) and down the stretch beat some of the top teams in the state, including Basha of Glendale, Cienega of Vail, Mountain Ridge of Glendale, Horizon of Scottsdale and Mountain View of Mesa.
30. Niceville (Niceville, Fla.) 26-2
The Eagles had a great season and were on track to perhaps end with just one loss and a very high final national ranking. It all came to an end, however, in the Class 6A regional semifinals with a loss to Mosley of Lynn Haven.
31. Great Bridge (Chesapeake, Va.) 25-3
The Wildcats will no longer have to say their last state championship was back in 2009 as they won the Group AAA title with a 10-9 win over Stone Bridge of Ashburn, which was on a 20-game win streak.
32. Pearland (Pearland, Texas) 36-4
Sophomore Samantha Show won 30 games in the circle and batted .436 with 10 homers and 70 RBIs to lead the Lady Oilers. They’ll be candidates to be ranked high to start the 2014 season.
33. Barrington (Barrington, Ill.) 35-2
It was bittersweet season for the Fillies because they were 35-1 heading into the Class 4A state semifinals but then suffered an upset loss to St. Charles East. Based on their strong overall season, they can still be ranked highest among teams from Illinois.
34. Gulliver Prep (Miami, Fla.) 24-5
Former FAB 50 Coach of the Year Mark Schusterman and the Raiders won their fourth straight state championship with a 9-1 win over Madison County of Madison in the Class 4A finals.
35. California (San Ramon, Calif.) 21-5
Junior pitcher Lindsey Chalmers pitched well for the Grizzlies all season. They went 1-1 against Amador Valley, winning the second time, and made it to the CIF North Coast Section Division I final where they lost to No. 3 James Logan.
36. Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) 22-3
Many in California rank junior Johanna Grauer of the Dons as the state’s most impressive pitcher. The Arizona State-committed player, though, stepped in a gopher hole prior to the team’s CIFNCS Division I semifinal game and suffered a severe ankle sprain. She couldn’t go, the team lost so the final ranking suffered as well.
37. Pembroke Pines Charter (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) 22-4
The Jaguars advanced to the Class 6A state final and were hoping for a repeat but lost 6-2 to Columbia of Lake City. Their earlier playoff run, though, still featured quality wins over teams such as Naples and Gainesville.
38. Mountain View (Mesa, Ariz.) 27-8
Valerie Kaff pitched the Toros to a strong season. She was the Gatorade State Player of the Year and is headed to Michigan State. The team’s playoff loss was to No. 1 Red Mountain.
39. Immaculate Heart (Washington Township, N.J.) 31-2
Finishing No. 2 in the Star-Ledger’s Top 20, the Eagles were unable to hold on to a lead against No. 18 in the nation St. John Vianney of Holmdel in the Non-Public Class A finals. Lafayette-bound junior Steph Thomas went 29-2 on the season and will chase the state’s all-time career win record next season.
40. San Benito (San Benito, Texas) 34-3
The Greyhounds advanced to the Division I state semifinals with a win over Smithson Valley, then lost 5-2 to eventual champion Lewisville.
41. Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 29-6
Coach Lindsey Collins’ squad posted quality wins during the season against Mountain Ridge, Basha, Red Mountain, Chaparral, Mountain View and Desert Mountain. The team’s playoff loss was to Chaparral.
42. Minooka (Minooka, Ill.) 23-8
The Indians broke a state record for hits in a state title game with 18 in a 14-3 win over St. Charles East in the Class 4A championship game.
43. North Medford (Medford, Ore.) 27-5-1
In dramatic fashion, the Black Tornado scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and then won in walkoff fashion as they defeated Glencoe of Hillsboro 2-1 for their second straight Class 6A state championship. Louisville-bound pitcher Maryssa Becker pitched a no-hitter in the state finals win.
44. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 27-1
The Monarchs looked like they might cruise to a 29-0 record and another CIF Central Coast Section Division II title, but they were upset by Gilroy in the semifinals. They still had a strong overall season, including the title at the annual Livermore Stampede.
45. Glenbard South (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) 31-7
Needing extra innings, the Raiders defended their Class 3A state championship with a 1-0 win over Marquette of Alton. With the win, they also became the first large-school team to win back-to-back state titles since 1991.
46. Marina (Huntington Beach, Calif.) 25-4
Junior Tera Blanco was one of the state’s top pitchers and led the Vikings to a top finish in Southern California’s very strong Sunset League.
47. Mattawan (Mattawan, Mich.) 35-8
Six-foot-5 junior pitcher Allie Havers, who has All-American abilities in volleyball and basketball in addition to softball, tossed a two-hitter, struck out 11 and had an RBI to lead the Wildcats past Bay City Western 2-1 in the Michigan largest class state final.
48. Smyrna (Smyrna, Tenn.) 40-10
Just two years from winning only 10 games all season, the Lady Bulldogs had a season for the history books as they finished with the most wins in program history and a Class AAA championship. On their way to the title, Smyrna topped perennial national power Soddy Daisy.
49. Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) 24-4
Entering the CIFSS Division I playoffs, the Aztecs were seeded No. 1 based on their outstanding season, which included a first-place finish in the Century League, another of the toughest leagues in the nation that is in Southern California.
50. Connell (Connell, Wash.) 27-0
This small school powerhouse is hard to rank due to strength of schedule, but there’s no question that the Eagles were the top overall team in Washington due to a few bigger schools they played. There’s also no doubt they have one of the nation’s top players in BYU-bound Ashley Thompson. She pitched 11 no-hitters, including one stretch of seven in a row.
More Honorable Mention Teams
American Heritage (Delray Beach, Fla.) 22-6
Basha (Glendale, Ariz.) 26-6
Bay City Western (Bay City, Mich.) 37-3
Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.) 36-6
Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) 25-1
Desert Ridge (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 23-10
Elyria (Elyria, Ohio) 27-6
Estrella Foothills (Goodyear, Ariz.) 33-2
Freedom (Tampa, Fla.) 22-4
Hays (Buda, Texas) 31-10
Lakewood (Lakewood, Calif.) 24-6
Las Cruces (Las Cruces, N.M.) 30-1
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 23-5
Portage (Portage, Ind.) 25-6
Soddy Daisy (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) 38-10
The Woodlands (Conroe, Texas) 30-9
Washburn Rural (Topeka, Kan.) 24-1
Washington Township (Sewell, N.J.) 30-2
Paul Muyskens, Doug Huff and Brentt Eads contributed to this post.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com and is a national editor for Student Sports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports