Toughest choice ends up for Division III and the nod goes to St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs. Amador Valley (Division I), Mission Viejo (Division II), Taft (Division IV) and St. Bonaventure of Ventura (Division V) all finish on top as well.
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While there was a major debate for the final No. 1 state ranking, there is none about both Mission Viejo and Amador Valley ending as No. 1 teams according to their statewide divisions.
Mission Viejo not only has been named as State Team of the Year but also is the Division II State Team of the Year. Amador Valley would be the Division I State Team of the Year.
With the Division IV No. 1 team, Taft, already done two weeks ago in the CIF Central Section and last week’s Division V No. 1 team, St. Bonaventure of Ventura, winning in its section final, the only tough decision remaining at the top of any division was in Division III.
In that grouping, previous No. 1 La Serna of Whitter lost in the CIF Southern Section Division III final to previous No. 4 St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs. The hair-splitting therefore had to be done between St. Paul coming up to the top or elevating previous No. 2 Notre Dame of Salinas, which won the CIF Central Coast Section Division III title.
After reviewing details of both teams’ seasons, St. Paul has been selected as the Division III State Team of the Year. The Lady Swordsmen ended up 28-4-1 and also finished 2-2 in games against La Serna. The most impressive aspect of St. Paul’s ledger is wins over nine league champions, including some from Division I such as Orange Lutheran of the Trinity League. St. Paul also beat La Salle of Pasadena 8-1 after an earlier loss with its only other loss coming to D1 Yorba Linda in the second game.
St. Paul’s lineup was led by senior outfielder Lovie Lopez, who batted .441 and has signed with Oregon State. Tennessee State-bound Danielle Munoz batted .506 while St. John’s-bound infielder Krystal Gutierrez had a .424 average.
Notre Dame didn’t venture far from its area but did beat two of the three teams it lost to (San Benito in a rematch and Salinas earlier in the season). The only other loss by the Spirits was to CCS Division I champion Carlmont of Belmont.
While St. Paul was primarily a senior-laden squad, it’s a good bet Notre Dame will be back as a team to watch next season. Only two top position players have graduated, although one of them is Aireal Sakasegawa, who led the team with a .563 average.
Here’s more on each of the five divisional State Teams of the Year in softball:
Amador Valley – The last CIF North Coast Section team to finish unbeaten was Freedom of Oakley (26-0) in 2006. Freedom, however, didn’t have a championship team like Mission Viejo from Southern California to contend with (the CIFSS D1 champion that year had five losses) so it was No. 1 in Division I and No. 1 overall for the state. Most at this point would pick Amador Valley as being a stronger unbeaten NCS champ than Freedom because of the trip to SoCal to play in the Carew Classic.
Mission Viejo – The team that the Diablos beat last Friday, Chino, was No. 1 for Division II last season. Mission Viejo, which has never been State Team of the Year before or No. 1 in any state division before, is the first D2 State Team of the Year from Orange County since Pacifica of 2004.
St. Paul – This is the first mythical state title for St. Paul in softball. The city of Santa Fe Springs had a No. 1 team in D3 in 1990 when Santa Fe High ended 26-1. The Chiefs were led that season by future U.S. Olympian Laura Berg.
Taft – The Wildcats (35-2) will be getting into the state record book in several offensive team categories in addition to being No. 1 in the state for Division IV. Their best win was against Clovis when the large school Cougars were unbeaten and nationally ranked. They are just the second team ever from the CIF Central Section to end with a D4 mythical state title. The first was Garces of Bakersfield (29-4) in 2004.
St. Bonaventure (Ventura) – The Seraphs (24-4) edged Cantwell Sacred Heart 4-3 to win the CIFSS Division VI title and topped Pomona Catholic (No. 1 in the state in D5 in 2011 and 2012) in the semifinals. Junior Cielo Meza struck out 15 batters and went 2-for-2 with a run scored to lead the team. This is the first time that a team from Ventura County has ended No. 1 in the state for this division.