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Softball notes: Every game a 'war' in Division 1
How tough are the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs? Pacifica vs. Royal of Simi Valley is a game worthy of the semifinals or finals, but the two powerhouses are meeting in the second round on Tuesday at Royal High.
Pacifica (27-2) is ranked No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 2 in the nation by ESPN, and Royal (25-2) is No. 8 in the state and No. 25 in the nation.
The Mariners have one of the best 1-2 pitching duos in the state with sophomore Kaylee Carlson (14-2, O.77 ERA) and freshman Kaley Winegarner (12-0, 0.51 ERA). Royal counters with one of the top pitchers in the nation with Arizona-bound Nancy Bowling (25-2, 0.36 ERA, 156 IP, 240 Ks).
The question is can Bowling shut down Pacifica's loaded lineup, led by Florida-bound Nicole DeWitt (.528, 8 HRs, 24 RBIs, 41 runs)?
"It's going to be a tough game," Pacifica coach Mark Campbell said. "Nancy Bowling is one of the top pitchers in the nation. Our hitters are really going to have to compete every pitch of every at-bat. A couple of our girls play on the same travel team as Nancy and others have played against her, so there is no secret as to what she does. (It's going to be) another Division 1 war."
• Canyon shortstop Lauren Young, who has signed with Arizona, will be trying to extend her final high school season when the Comanches play host to Edison in a Division 1 second-round game Tuesday.
"Overall I have really enjoyed my senior year despite the challenges we have faced being a relatively young team," Young said. "In my last year, I'm still learning to be a better player. I've learned to manage the game a bit more as the team captain, to be more patient, to put team before self and to help motivate my teammates.
"I will, of course, remember the (CIF-SS Division 1) championship game in 2011 – how can I not? But more so, I will remember the camaraderie with my teammates and with Coach Dan Hay. They have helped shaped me to be the player I am today and the player I will be in Arizona, and I am thankful for them." ...
• Edison exorcised some demons when it beat Murrieta Valley of Murrieta, 6-0, in a Division 1 first-round game on Thursday. The Chargers had been bounced from the playoffs in the first round the past two seasons.
"Well, I'm really excited for CIF this year," said Edison outfielder/infielder Karley Wester, who has committed to Notre Dame. "The past two years we haven't been able to push past the first round, but this year we beat a talented Murrieta Valley by stringing key hits together and having (Chargers ace) Sammy (Cordova) hit her spots.
"That's essentially all we have to do, just come up with clutch hits to put runs on the board and then be able to minimize our errors on defense. Sammy's been pitching a great year so far, and we just need to be able to support her when she gives up little bloopers and rolls up ground balls. Canyon has some very good hitters, so Sammy is really going to have to hit spots and we are going to have to make defensive plays. Offensively, we have to jump on their (Canyon's) freshman pitcher (Hailey Hilburn) early and get a pitch we can drive. We just need to play one game at a time, pitch by pitch, and I'm excited to see how deep we go into the playoffs." ...
• Top-seeded Mission Viejo has a serious test against Chino in the second round of the Division 2 playoffs Tuesday at Mission Viejo High. Chino has victories over Bishop Amat of La Puente and Santiago of Corona on its record.
"(Chino coach) Mike Smith has always put together a winning program and I'm sure he will have his players prepared," Diablos coach Troy Ybarra said. "We will go through our normal before game day practice routine and hopefully it will carry over into Tuesday's matchup. This time of season is very exciting for softball everywhere, whether playing rec ball all-stars to collegiate regionals, the CIF high school playoffs one-and-done format makes every inning during the game even more exciting." ...
• If La Habra is to make a run at a Division 4 title, it will be in large part due to the efforts of Northern Illinois-bound shortstop Maleena Esparza, who is hitting .571 with 12 homers, 41 runs and 35 RBIs.
"Her actions speak louder than her words," Highlanders coach Frank McCarroll said of Esparza. "As a captain she has shared her will to win with her team. (She) competes at the highest level but is humble about her successes. Coaching is easy when you are lucky enough to have your best player lead by example. Maleena has carried us at times. She shares her knowledge with our younger players. She is not afraid to step up and take the last shot. For the past four years I have been fortunate in knowing that her presence on the field has always given us a chance to win. No matter who are playing she makes things happen. Like Reggie Jackson, she is the straw that stirs the drink."