In addition to overall No. 1 Norco, others that can claim they are mythical state champions for 2019 are Cypress (Division II), Oakdale (D3), Ripon (D4) and East Nicolaus of Nicolaus (D5).
For State Team of the Year announcement recognizing state’s No. 1 overall team for the 2019 season, CLICK HERE.
Last year’s team at Norco went 28-3 and was No. 2 in D1 behind San Marcos (San Diego Section). Two years ago, the Cougars were No. 2 at 33-1 because they lost in the CIF Southern Section Division I final to Los Alamitos in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. Three years ago, the team went 26-6 in losing in the CIFSS D1 semifinals to Mater Dei (Santa Ana).
The Centurions’ league rivals from Pacifica (Garden Grove) were No. 1 for the state in D2 in 1997 and 2004. Two of their losses in a 24-8-1 campaign this year also were in league to Pacifica (which was in the CIFSS D1 playoffs). Head coach Kevin Dull’s squad was helped by a couple of higher-ranked teams losing elsewhere, but came through in the later rounds of the CIFSS D2 playoffs. With senior pitcher Maddy Wilson leading the way, Cypress beat a 27-4-1 team from Ayala of Chino Hills 2-1 in the quarterfinals, topped an El Modena team in the semifinals 2-1 that was tied with CIFSS D1 playoff team Esperanza for its league title and in the final beat South of Torrance 2-1. South was a team that ousted 26-3 Lakewood from the playoffs. The bracket also included two other teams — Marina of Huntington Beach and Rio Mesa of Oxnard — that were in the State Top 25 at various points this season.
If the Mustangs hadn’t been unbeaten entering the double-elimination CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D3 playoffs, their loss in those playoffs to Vanden of Fairfield (2-0) would have cost them the final No. 1 ranking for D3 state teams. Instead, they came back to post wins against Del Campo of Fair Oaks, then Vanden in a rematch and then beat Golden Valley of Merced twice (12-2 and 3-2) to win their section title. Also aiding Oakdale (29-1-1) and head coach Larry Loger in getting this mythical state title is wins against some bigger schools (such as Tracy) plus Golden Valley having some quality wins as well. Oakdale, which would be the top-ranked team overall in the SJS for the season, previously was State Team of the Year in D3 in 2005 and 2006 and in 2012 ended No. 2.
We were lucky enough to be able to watch the Indians clinch their No. 1 ranking last Friday at Arnaiz Fields in Stockton when they defeated Calaveras of San Andreas 7-3. We had only determined they had a chance for it the day before due to other teams losing in the previous week, including Cloverdale (previously unbeaten) and Santiago of Garden Grove. Head coach Robert Vernon found out about it the previous night as well and wanted to keep the news from his players until after the game. Once the Indians (24-2) had won, he let the cat out of the bag. “We lost one game to Oakdale and the only other game (to Hilmar) after we had locked up the league title,” Vernon said. “It didn’t matter who they played, these girls just banged away, banged away and banged away.” Sophomore pitcher Sydney Thomason got out of some tough situations and also picked up her 24th win. “She was lights out all year,” Vernon said. “She’s not going to strike out everybody, but she’s great at being able to pitch to contact.” This is Ripon’s first-ever D4 softball top ranking, but some of the school’s nearby rivals such as Escalon and Linden have been No. 1 before.
East Nicolaus (Nicolaus)
This is a repeat for the Spartans (30-2-2) and also marks the fifth time that they’ve ended No. 1 in the state in this division. The other three top finishes came in 1987, 2001 and 2008. Unlike last year, they didn’t have to wait to see if another undefeated team would lose or if Woodland Christian might drop a game in the Sac-Joaquin Section. There was no doubt after the 10-0 win over Etna in the CIF Northern Section D5 final. That’s because East Nic this time already had proved it was the best team in the Northern Section period with wins over both Sutter and Chico. The Spartans also played many other top teams from the Bay Area and Sac-Joaquin Section. Could they be in the final overall, expanded top 40 for California? Yes, but it’s not done yet.