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Previews & predictions for the CIF-SS softball quarterfinals
Kenny Connolly takes a look at the matchups - and makes his predctions - for the CIF-SS softball quarterfinal games on Thursday.
OCVarsity will have a reporter at every game for a county team on Thursday , so make sure you check back Thursday night for our coverage - stories, photos, scores and more.
CIF-SS SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS
Vista Murrieta (18-7) at Los Alamitos (25-2)
Breakdown: These two squads squared off in the Michelle Carew Classic in April with Los Al taking the encounter, 8-4. The Griffins have reeled off eight straight wins, and have scored seven runs in both of their playoff wins, over Long Beach Wilson and Chino. Junior outfielder Jenna Kean went 4 for 5 on Tuesday, continuing the theme of different players coming up clutch at different times for the Sunset League champs. One to nine, Los Al boasts what’s arguably the best lineup in the county, and it will need to stay hot against a team that racked up 14 hits in a 7-1 second-round victory over Kennedy. Griffins junior right-hander Ryan Denhart has been rock solid since returning from a forearm injury last month, and if she can keep the ball down in the zone, the Griffins should have an excellent shot at advancing to the semifinals.
Prediction: Los Alamitos
Lakewood (26-4) at Orange Lutheran (28-3)
Breakdown: It’s not how you start, but how you finish. Top-ranked Orange Lutheran didn’t play its best ball against Cypress early in Tuesday’s second-round matchup, but the Lancers did show how rapidly their bats can strike at any moment. The Trinity League champs put up 10 runs over the final three innings against the Centurions, getting a pair of homers from senior shortstop Mackenzie Boesel. Seven of the nine starters for the Lancers have a multi-hit game this postseason. When the team is putting up double-digit run totals like it has in the first two rounds, pitcher Maddy Dwyer and teammates are almost impossible to beat. Lakewood has limited opponents to a run or less in six straight outings, but the OLu lineup is another beast.
Prediction: Orange Lutheran
Great Oak of Temecula (17-6) vs. Mater Dei (24-7) at Carl Thornton Park on Friday
Breakdown: As it proved Tuesday, Mater Dei is a three-seed in name only. The Monarchs knocked off top-seeded Etiwanda, 2-1, in the second round behind Maddison Flores’ RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth and Gabby Sandoval’s gem of a performance in the circle. The senior right-hander held Etiwanda to a season-low one run, and scattered just three hits to a team that was averaging 11-plus runs a game. Sandoval and the Monarchs are 9-2 in games played at Thornton Park this season, and playing at the pitcher-friendly field could help Mater Dei again against a Great Oak team that has seven players with multiple home runs this season. All four of the Wolfpacks runs against Huntington Beach in Tuesday’s second round came via the long ball.
Prediction: Mater Dei
Rio Mesa of Oxnard (15-10) at La Habra (28-1)
Breakdown: The Highlanders' consistency has been nothing short of phenomenal in their 25-game win streak. Junior pitcher Janelle Rodriguez has led the way in the circle, and on Tuesday she got it done with her bat, belting a two-run home run and adding an RBI double in an 8-4 win over Redlands East Valley. La Habra will host Rio Mesa in the quarters, a 10-loss team that played incredibly well in a 6-1 win against county-ranked Capistrano Valley on Tuesday. Spartans pitcher Taise Thompson does a little bit of everything for her squad, much like Rodriguez does for La Habra. With a little more depth around the field, look for the Highlanders to advance in front of their home crowd.
Prediction: La Habra
Oaks Christian (29-1-1) at Aliso Niguel (21-9)
Breakdown: No team has shown more fight and grit in the last three weeks than the Wolverines. Aliso started the month with a win over Mission Viejo, and over its current four-game win streak, it overcame a seven-run deficit to beat Dana Hills, topped a 28-win Savanna team, outlasted Sonora in an eight-inning affair, and edged Oxnard, 4-3, in a second-round matchup. Haeley Tran finished with three RBI on Tuesday, and Ashley Ruiz belted a solo home run. Oaks Christian comes in as the division’s No. 3 seed, but the Lions haven’t played the schedule Aliso has. Eighteen of their 29 wins have come against teams with 10 or more losses. This one seems like a toss-up, but playing at home and riding a wave of momentum, Aliso pulls off a minor upset.
Prediction: Aliso Niguel
Mission Viejo (24-4) at Yucaipa (22-3)
Breakdown: The Diablos and Thunderbirds are plenty familiar with one another having played three times last season alone. Mission Viejo went 2-1 against Yucaipa in 2015, but the one loss came in the Division 2 championship game, ending the Diablos’ bid for a perfect season. That should fuel Mission as it hits the road for the second time this week. Junior third baseman Camryn Ybarra has been bashing the ball in the first two rounds of the playoffs, already hitting four homers atop the Diablos order. Terra McGowan has five hits and six RBI in that same span, and the Hanna Nilsen-Kyra Snyder combo gives the Diablos two quality arms in the circle. Yucaipa enters the game on a 16-game win streak, but it hasn't played a team of Mission Viejo’s quality in some time.
Prediction: Mission Viejo
Laguna Hills (20-6) at Bishop Amat of La Puente (22-4)
Breakdown: The Hawks notched a pair of 4-1 wins against Woodbridge and Chaminade to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal showdown with second-seeded Bishop Amat. Erika Morris and the Thies sisters - Cali, Riley and Teah - have each put forth tremendous seasons as Laguna Hills reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2010. Reaching win No. 21 appears to be an uphill battle against Samaria Diaz and the Lancers. The senior pitcher owns a 0.98 ERA and has 19 strikeouts in the first two rounds of postseason play.
Prediction: Bishop Amat