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It was hard to bang out this year’s package announcing the Cal-Hi Sports State Softball Teams of the Year as the first game of the College World Series was on ESPN2 between Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The epic game, which Oklahoma won 5-3 in 13 innings, had former California players starring throughout. The winning run was scored by Briana Turang, who is from Santiago of Corona, on a two-run homer by Lauren Chamberlain, who is from El Toro.
When Turang was at Santiago as a senior in 2009, the No. 1 team in the state was 32-0 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, which was led that season by senior Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma’s current dominating pitcher/hitter.
Since Turang and Ricketts have graduated, Santiago (and the rest of the Inland Empire for that matter) has not missed a beat. The Sharks were State Team of the Year for 2011 and today they are being anointed the same honor for 2013.
Santiago completed its quest to be No. 1 with an 8-2 triumph last Saturday against league rival Norco in the CIF Southern Section Division I final.
Norco was the No. 1 team in the state from last season. The Cougars advanced to the CIFSS D1 final by knocking off Pacifica of Garden Grove 3-2 in extra innings in the semifinals. Heading into the last week of the season, Pacifica had been the state’s No. 1 team.
Prior to Santiago’s 2011 crown, the State Team of the Year for 2010 was Ayala of Chino Hills, which isn’t in San Bernardino County but is counted by many to be part of the Inland Empire.
One of the keys to the Inland Empire’s strength is the ability of top coaches like Corona Santiago’s John Perez and Norco’s Rick Robinson to develop teams mixed with veterans and younger, emerging talents.
Santiago’s veteran crew for 2013 was paced by pitcher Erica Romero, who picked up the win last Saturday and was in her third straight CIFSS D1 final. The team’s contingent of youngsters was led by freshman Marissa Varrati with a two-run homer and sophomore Rachel Minogue, who had a three-run double.
“That’s the kind of experience you just can’t trade,” Perez said of Romero. “This was a veteran team in many ways. While we’re really going to miss the seniors, the program is in good shape.”
Yes, with two State Team of the Year honors in the last three years, you could say that the Santiago program is in good shape.
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State Teams of the Year
Division II: Chino
One year after the Cowgirls were 24-9 and finished No. 4 in the final rankings of their state division, they ramped it up to 26-2 with the CIFSS Division II crown.
Winning the same division that at the start included overall state No. 1 Mission Viejo makes the choice even easier, although Chino was aided when unbeaten Archbishop Mitty was upset in the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs. Mitty was No. 1 for this division for the last three seasons.
Junior pitcher Miranda Viramontes was lights out all season and was backed by a deep offensive lineup that in the final featured RBI hits from freshmen Corina Gamboa and Alyssa Gonzalez.
“The freshmen we had have been huge,” said coach Mike Smith after the team’s 3-0 victory over Lakewood. “They’re real poised and focused. We were losing three seniors from last year and we knew these freshmen were going to be good, but how good. They didn’t miss a beat.”
Division III: Sierra (Manteca)
The Timberwolves were done with their season more than two weeks ago in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and now their selection as a State Team of the Year is official.
CIF San Diego Section D3 champ Santana made it close, but it’s just too difficult to flop any final ranking when both teams are done for the season.
Two years ago, Sierra won the CIFSJS D4 title with freshman Allie Wallsjasper leading the way in the circle and at the plate. After that year, the girls were No. 2 in the state behind Ridgeview of Bakersfield. This time, with the LSU-bound Wallsjasper again in a leading role, they complete the task.
Last season, Oakdale (from the same league as the Timberwolves) was No. 2 in the final D3 state rankings behind Chino Hills.
Division IV: Aquinas (San Bernardino)
Ciera Luna belted a pair of doubles and added a home run to lead the Saints past Montebello 8-1 last Friday in the CIFSS Division V championship.
Had Aquinas (26-2) lost, which came into the contest in the No. 1 position for the division, then Hughson (24-4-1) was poised to move up. This is the second straight year that Hughson is ending as a runner-up.
Division V: Port of Los Angeles (San Pedro)
This choice was actually made one week ago when the Polar Bears (28-8) were jumped to No. 1 in place of previously unbeaten Redwood Christian (Castro Valley). It is believed to be the first time in any sport that a CIF L.A. City Section small school has been considered No. 1 in the state for its division.
At first glance, choosing an L.A. City school ahead of one from the Southern Section in any division and at any time in softball might seem odd. The Polar Bears, though, played one of the stronger schedules of any Division V team in the state. They also didn’t have to worry about perennial power Pomona Catholic getting the nod in this division once that team lost in the CIFSS Division VI playoffs.
Port of L.A. also did what a strong small school should do against other teams in the L.A. City Section and that’s win easily. In the section small school final, they took on previously unbeaten Northridge Academy and cruised to a 16-3 triumph.
Cal-Hi Sports All-Time
State Softball Teams of the Year
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2013 – Corona Santiago (31-5)
2012 – Norco (31-2)
2011 – Corona Santiago (28-5)
2010 – Chino Hills Ayala (29-5)
2009 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (32-0)
2008 – Sacramento Sheldon (32-2)
2007 – Valencia (32-1)
2006 – Oakley Freedom (25-0)
2005 – Simi Valley Royal (29-2)
2004 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2003 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – San Diego Mira Mesa (31-1)
2001 – Fresno Bullard (36-1)
2000 – Tustin Foothill (33-2)
1999 – Fresno Bullard (38-1-1)
1998 – Clovis Buchanan (35-2)
1997 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-1-1)
1996 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (30-1)
1995 – Huntington Beach Marina (24-5)
1994 – Clovis (31-3) (plus 2 wins by default)
1993 – Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Stockton Lincoln (35-3)
1991 – Stockton Lincoln (29-3)
1990 – Roseville (37-2)
1989 – Lakewood St. Joseph (26-1)
1988 – Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (21-6)
1987 – Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1985 – Huntington Beach Ocean View (32-0)
1984 – Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Lodi (27-2)
1982 – San Diego Madison (20-0)
1981 – Santa Maria Righetti (25-1)
1980 – Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Downey Warren (18-1)
1974 – El Segundo (undefeated)