Santiago beats rival for CIFSS title

Four of Santiago's graduating seniors, including 30-game winning pitcher Erica Romero (far right), show off their goofy side during post-game photo after Saturday's CIFSS D1 final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Four of Santiago’s graduating seniors, including 30-game winning pitcher Erica Romero (far right), show off their goofy side during post-game photo after Saturday’s CIFSS D1 final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

The 8-2 triumph over Norco in the Division I final on Saturday night also will give the Sharks the state’s final No. 1 ranking for the second time in three seasons. James Logan of Union City will be No. 2 after winning its own section title on Saturday. In CIFSS D2 final, Chino blanks Lakewood and will be No. 1 in state in D2.

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It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the last time when the Santiago High of Corona softball team wrapped up a No. 1 state ranking, but many of the cast of characters were in familiar starring roles.

The Sharks, who won their last CIF Southern Section Division I title two years ago 4-1 over Canyon of Anaheim on a walk-off grand slam homer by 2011 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Lauren Sweet, beat league rival Norco 8-2 on Saturday night at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine to claim the 2013 crown.

In doing so, Santiago (31-5) also will finish No. 1 in this season’s final overall state rankings and head coach John Perez earned his fifth CIF Southern Section title.

If Santiago had lost, James Logan of Union City had put itself in position to be No. 1 in the state by winning earlier in the day.

Among those who were key cogs from the Sharks’ 2011 squad that came through on Saturday were senior pitcher Erica Romero and junior catcher Randel Leahy.

Romero, who was the winning pitcher two years ago in the final and also pitched in last year’s CIFSS final when Santiago lost to Norco, went the distance and pushed her own final season record to 30-5.

“Comparing it to two years ago, both were great but this was less stressful,” said Romero, who has signed with San Diego State. “We relaxed a little (after taking an 8-1 lead) but tried not to think too much and keep our composure.”

Leahy reached base in all four of her plate appearances with three singles and a walk. Her second single in the fourth inning started a four-run rally that essentially put the game away.

Norco, which advanced to its second straight CIFSS final by knocking off top-seed and previous No. 1 state-ranked Pacifica of Garden Grove in the semifinals, scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Ashley Goodwin.

Santiago answered with a four-run spot in the top of the second. That uprising was capped with a two-out, three-run triple by sophomore Rachel Minogue. Earlier in the inning, the Sharks scored on an RBI single by sophomore Amanda Lynch.

In addition to Leahy’s leadoff hit, a dropped pop-up helped lead to the Sharks scoring their four runs in the fourth. The final two runs scored courtesy of freshman Marissa Varrati launching a home run over the left centerfield fence.

“It felt great to do that,” Varrati said. “This season, at the beginning, I was really scared. But this turned out to be a great team.”

Norco’s best chance to get back in the game came in the third inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Abby Lockman hit a grounder to second base that appeared to score a run. Umpires ruled, however, that there was interference by Goodwin (running from first base), which results in one out and the runners on second and third being forced back to their bases. Then with two outs, Romero struck out Taylor Koenig to end the threat.

Norco scored its only other run of the game in sixth on an RBI single by Lockman. The team’s Cal-bound leadoff hitter, Kylie Reed, also played well. She had two hits to give her 73 for the season and set a new Inland Empire record for career hits with 210.

“We were on a mission today,” said Perez. “Rick (Robinson, the Norco coach) is great and their teams are always good. It was just our turn this time. We wanted to redeem ourselves from last year.”

Perez, who is retiring from teaching after the current school year ends, was asked by Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise if he’ll be back next spring. Earlier this year, he already had surrendered coaching duties with a state-ranked Santiago girls basketball team.

“I don’t know about next year yet,” he said. “Just want to enjoy this. No matter what the decision is, it was worth giving up coaching basketball for this.”

RaeAnn Garza ended a sensational prep career for James Logan on Saturday. Photo: Harold Abend.

RaeAnn Garza ended a sensational prep career for James Logan on Saturday. Photo: Harold Abend.

In the CIF North Coast Section Division I championship:
Logan’s Teri Johnson claims sixth crown

For the third time in four seasons, and the sixth time in the 27 years head coach Teri Johnson has been at the helm of the Union City James Logan softball team, the Colts are the CIF North Coast Section Division I champion, after a 4-1 victory over Oakley Freedom on Saturday afternoon at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

“No doubt, despite the doubters, our team never gets respect,” said Johnson, the 2010 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year, who recorded career win No. 557 in the victory. “When the girls saw they only got the third seed (this year) after we beat Amador last year, it actually fired them up and gave them something to prove.”

The stage was similar to the one for the 2010 NCS Division I title game that secured Johnson’s honor, also held at St. Mary’s and won 4-3 by Logan over Freedom.

In fact, it was the same two starting pitchers facing each other, only this time they are now seniors instead of freshmen, but the result was pretty much the same.

Logan ace RaeAann Garza, a senior that does not have a D1 offer despite being a certain finalist for Ms. Softball State Player of the Year, outdueled Madison Williams of Freedom. The diminutive but powerfully built Garza tossed a six-hitter with eight strikeouts.

“As a team, winning NCS is always a big deal for us,” Garza remarked. “This one to me personally is the most important. I’m a senior. I had to win this one.”

The Colts’ junior shortstop, Tayler Peters, had a second-inning double that drove in Caley Bonansea and Melina Rodriguez for the game’s biggest hit. Peters later scored the inning’s third run and finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

With a 1-0 championship game win last year over Amador Valley of Pleasanton, Garza has been in the circle for each of Logan’s last three section titles.

In the CIFSS Division II championship:
Chino 4, Lakewood 0

Coach Mike Smith’s club repeated as champion and this time also will add the additional honor of Division II State Team of the Year.

The Cowgirls moved into the top spot when last year’s No. 1 team for the division, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, saw a 27-0 record go up in smoke in an upset loss in the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs. Although Oaks Christian of Westlake Village gave them a scare in the semifinals in a 2-1 game that went to nine innings, they ended the playoffs with just two runs allowed.

Junior Miranda Viramontes, who has a verbal commitment to Utah, chalked up eight strikeouts in throwing a one-hit shutout for Chino.

“We worked hard to build on what we did last year,” said Smith. “I told everyone that that was the peak. It’s unbelievable to do it again.”

Ruby Barroso, one of just five seniors on the team, delivered the first run for the Cowgirls (26-2) on a deep blast over the right centerfield fence in the bottom of the second inning. Freshman Corina Gamboa then drove in senior Ayrika Simmons for the second run on a single in the third. Fellow freshman Alyssa Gonzalez had an RBI double in the sixth and was quickly driven in by an RBI single from senior Vanessa Gutierrez.

Lakewood (26-7), which was eliminated by Chino last year in the semifinals, got its only hit on an infield single by Lindsay Cerulle in the third inning. The Lancers, in fact, didn’t hit the ball out of the infield against Viramontes.

In the CIFSS Division IV championship:
Hemet 16, Santa Monica 2

Jade Gandara supported the pitching of older sister Cheyenne Gandara by going 4-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs. The Bulldogs, who won their first CIFSS title, also were led by Taylor Van Zee, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs. Hemet’s impressive performance and 28-5 final record could enable the girls to finish as high as No. 3 in the final D3 state rankings.

In the CIFSS Division VI championship:
Bellarmine-Jefferson (Burbank) 8, Mary Star (San Pedro) 4

Monique Landini hammered a solo homer and a three-run blast to lead the Guards (23-10), who lost in CIFSS finals both last year and the year before.

In the CIF NCS Division III championship:
Campolindo (Moraga) 4, Terra Linda (San Rafael) 3

Seventh-seed Campolindo (15-9) won its third NCS title and first since 2002 after taking an eight-inning affair at San Marin (Novato) over top-seeded Terra Linda.

Senior centerfielder Sarah Reynolds (2-for-4, double, RBI) drove in the winning run in the top of the eighth after a bottom of the seventh two-out, three-run home run by Terra Linda junior Cheyenne Cooper sent the game into extra innings.

Terra Linda (23-5) was unable to score with runners in scoring position on three occasions.

Alyssa Ross doubled in the first and hit the ball hard, but she couldn’t deliver anything else. The Terra Linda catcher and Notre Dame de Namur-bound senior still finished the season with 17 home runs, the most ever in Northern California, according to the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book.

Note: Thanks to Harold Abend for covering the CIF NCS contests.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports

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