The playoffs take shape around the state except in the CIF North Coast Section. Plus, more on M.L. King’s recent surge and players from top 20 teams that shined.
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For most of this season and the past few seasons the talk of the Big VIII League in Southern California’s Inland Empire is always about Santiago of Corona and Norco.
Prior to this season, Santiago had won two league titles in softball and Norco one since the league was formed in 2010.
Now, after knocking off both Santiago and Norco in shocking fashion last week, the girls from new state No. 17 M.L. King (Riverside) have basically stolen the title right out from under the noses of their two top league foes – and it was a freshman who isn’t one of their college bound stars that led the attack.
Last Tuesday at Santiago, the hosts pretty much could have sewn up the league crown with a win.
Instead, King first-year shortstop Emily Ramelot, who hadn’t homered all year, blasted a third inning grand slam for all the runs the Wolves would need and get. From there, junior Alabama-committed pitcher Alexis Osorio took care of business in a 4-0 victory.
With the Santiago loss, a Norco team that dropped two games to Santiago during league was now playing King for the league championship.
Once again it was Ramelot. She took the King girls to Camelot – or is that Slam-A-Lot? — after breaking a 2-2 tie with a fourth inning home run. Osorio then closed out the 3-2 victory.
With the win, the Wolves are now 23-6 and finished 8-2 in Big VIII action compared to 7-3 for both Santiago and Norco.
Even so, and although they technically don’t seed after No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, the Wolves basically got the No. 5 slot, but the reward is an opening round game against a Los Alamitos team that’s played the state’s best and is well seasoned.
“You could say we got the shaft with teams ranked lower than us in the power rankings getting a wild card team to play, but there’s a lot that goes into seedings, and my feeling is there are 32 good teams out there,” said head coach and King PE teacher Lucinda Brewer, who is in her second stint since 2009 after guiding the Wolves from 2002-2006.
And what does coach think is the reason for her team’s late season surge?
“The team chemistry is really high right now and we’ve been getting great pitching.”
Late blooming King and its six college bound stars will certainly be ready. Besides, Osorio there is Northwestern-bound senior third-sacker Alcy Bush, Georgetown-bound senior first-base girl Ale Gargicevich-Almeida, senior CSU Northridge-committed DP/P Daphne Pofek, University of San Diego-bound senior catcher Kelly Cobb, and junior George Washington-committed pitcher McKenzie Phillips.
Elsewhere in the CIFSS D1 playoffs, despite winning 16 straight, including the Michelle Carew Classic, and capturing the pretty tough Empire League, state No. 2 Pacifica (Garden Grove) was penalized for its early season losses, and fell to the fourth seed behind No. 8 Esperanza (Anaheim), No. 7 Mater Dei (Santa Ana), and No. 15 Marina of Huntington Beach. Their losses also penalized a Yorba Linda team they beat three times, but had a win over Esperanza.
Division II sees No. 1 Mission Viejo as the top seed with No. 13 Moorpark seeded second. The Musketeers are followed by No. 14 Chino and No. 18 Lakewood.
For those that still say Mission Viejo won’t deserve to finish No. 1 in the state if it wins the D2 bracket and not D1, we say phooey. This bracket is nearly as tough as D1 is this year.
In the CIF Central Coast Section, its two familiar faces sitting firmly in the catbird seat of the Division I and II playoffs.
No. 20 San Benito of Hollister will be going for its eighth straight Division I title, a number that is closing in on the all-time state record of nine straight set from 1998-2006 by league rival Notre Dame of Salinas. That number tops the Most Consecutive Section Championships list in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book.
Archbishop Mitty could jump from No. 3 to No. 1 should Mission Viejo and Pacifica falter, and the Monarchs go undefeated and win their eighth Division II title in nine years. Head coach Brian Yocke will bring in a team that is a heavy favorite.
In the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, No. 9 Vintage drew the top seed as expected in the Division I playoffs. With a first round bye and not having played since a win over arch rival Napa on May 3, will the Crushers be a little rusty after a 15-day layoff?
“No way,” chuckled head coach Rick Robben. “I brought a ton of players up from JV and we’re scrimmaging inter-squad all week. We’re rolling so I hope we won’t be rusty.”
The CIF Central Section saw No. 11 El Diamante of Visalia awarded the top seed in the Division I playoffs.
Meanwhile, in the North Coast, No. 6 Amador Valley (Pleasanton) will look to finish up with another East Bay Athletic League title, but even if the Dons do that, there’s no guarantee they will get the No. 1 seed in the Division I playoffs.
As defending champion, and with only one loss to Newark Memorial (Newark) that they avenged, the top seed could go to No. 10 Union City James Logan, a 1-0 winner over Amador Valley in last year’s title game.
The two toughest choices were where to place California (San Ramon), and how to get Big VIII League winner M.L. King (Riverside) into the rankings.
The problem is that of the six losses the Wolves have on their record, more than one is a stinker.
Instead, after closer examination of the California resume up against Norco, the decision was made to drop seven-loss Norco and replace them with the M.L. King team that was the league champion.
This was done despite Norco being held in place by an 11-0 win over Moorpark, and a 3-1 victory that gave No. 1 Mission Viejo its lone loss, however at this stage of the season, teams are going in different directions many times, and Norco has seven losses and has to pay for it eventually.
California has one stinker loss to Elk Grove Pleasant Grove, although that team is the No. 3 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Against Pleasant Grove, in a meaningless game at the Livermore Stampede, head coach Joe Callaway played everyone and starting pitcher Lindsey Chalmers didn’t start. California and Chalmers do own a win over Amador Valley and that team beat Lakewood, so the decision was to hold the Grizzlies in place ahead of Lakewood despite a loss to Amador Valley last week in 10 innings. They are directly in front of newcomer No. 17 M.L. King of Riverside.
Despite dropping out of this week’s rankings, Norco will get its chance at redemption. It begins the CIFSS D1 playoffs with a trip to Oxnard to face the Pacific View League champions.
Players that shined
Kim Goulart (James Logan, Union City)
This senior has been on a tear from the first game onward. She scored twice and went 1-for-2 in last week’s 6-1 win over Newark Memorial and then went 2-for-2 in a 10-0 romp past Washington of Fremont. Entering this week, Goulart was hitting a robust .558 with three homers, 20 RBIs and 30 runs scored.
Sierra Hyland (El Diamante, Visalia)
Heading into the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs, this Cal Poly-bound pitcher continues to roll. Last week, with wins over Hanford West (Hanford) and crosstown Golden West, she upped her record to 24-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 162.2 innings pitched. Opponents are batting a paltry .168 against Hyland.
Alyssa Palomino (Mission Viejo)
In an 8-3 win over San Clemente that ended the Trinity League season, the State Sophomore of the Year candidate hit her state leading 17th home run entering the CIF-SS Division II playoffs. That also ties the Orange County record set in 2010 by Lauren Chamberlain of Lake Forest El Toro.
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