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Softball playoffs: Connolly breaks down Division 1
2014 champion: Pacifica
Top-four seeded teams: 1. Santiago of Corona (27-3); 2. Pacifica (20-5-1); 3. Los Alamitos (23-6); 4. Murrieta Valley (24-6)
O.C. teams: Canyon (20-7); Cypress (22-6); Edison (14-12); El Modena (18-8); Huntington Beach (17-8); Kennedy (12-18); Los Alamitos (23-6); Mater Dei (19-9); Orange Lutheran (24-3); Pacifica (20-5-1); Santa Margarita (18-7); Yorba Linda (16-7)
Analysis: The bracket is flat-out loaded like it is every season, and right out of the gate we get a matchup between two county top-10 teams in Mater Dei-El Modena on Thursday. Pacifica – the defending champions – was awarded the division’s No. 2 seed, while Los Alamitos scored the 3-seed, meaning the two could very well face-off in the semifinals. The Mariners and Griffins played back in mid-March with the Griffins grabbing a 6-5 win in that one. Pacifica’s Hannah Boos and Los Al’s Katya Duvall will be two of the division’s more important players to keep track of throughout the postseason. Boos has been one of the area’s best pitchers the second half of the season, while Duvall has been waiting for this moment for more than a year, having suffered a season-ending ACL injury a season ago.
Outside of the top-seeded teams, Canyon and Orange Lutheran both have the tools to make deep runs. Senior Hailey Hilburn pitched the Comanches to the semifinals a season ago, and with Paulina Anasis, Brianna Betschel and a lineup that’s finally starting to score some runs, Canyon is plenty capable of making a trip to the finals. The Lancers are one of the younger teams in the bracket, but there’s tons of talent on the diamond for Steve Miklos’ squad, led by sophomore pitcher Maddy Dwyer and junior shortstop Mackeznie Boesel. Orange Lutheran does have an interesting first-round matchup against Long Beach Millikan. Two of the Lancers three losses this season came against Mater Dei, who Millikan beat less than two weeks ago.