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Softball playoffs: Who will win Division 1?
OCVarsity takes a close look at the top teams in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoff bracket.
2015 champion: Norco
Top four seeded teams: 1. Etiwanda (28-2); 2. Orange Lutheran (26-3); 3. Los Alamitos (23-2); 4. Norco (23-5)
O.C. teams: Canyon (15-11); Mater Dei (22-7); Huntington Beach (20-6); Pacifica (19-5); Santa Margarita (17-10); Los Alamitos (23-2); Rosary (19-7-1); Kennedy (13-13); Edison (15-12); Cypress (19-8); El Modena (12-16); Orange Lutheran (26-3)
Analysis: The bracket is what you’ve come to expect, chock-full of talent with no “easy” paths to the championship game. As many coaches have remarked, oftentimes it’s not the best team that wins, but who’s playing the best at this time of the year.
Over the last month of the regular season, the county’s top two ranked teams – Orange Lutheran and Los Alamitos – each can make legitimate claims for that distinction, as both appear to be peaking as we enter one-and-done territory. Lancers pitcher Maddy Dwyer has been spectacular all season long in the circle, and of late, OLu has been almost unbeatable with the run support it has been getting from Mackenzie Boesel, Ciara Briggs, Lauren Espalin and Noelle Hee atop the lineup.
In the Griffins' case, the Sunset League champs are finally playing at 100 percent with a pair of difference makers back from injury. Junior pitcher Ryan Denhart was able to get four quality starts in at the end of league play after bruising her forearm in late March, and adding junior Cami Sellers back into the mix gives Los Al another power bat alongside Mary Iakopo in the middle of a lineup that has zero holes.
No one would be surprised if Orange Lutheran and Los Alamitos met in the semis with a spot in the championship game on the line.
The top half of the bracket appears a little bit harder to navigate through. Huntington Beach has the talent to make a run. Pacifica has championship experience on its side. And even though Mater Dei has lost three of its last four, the Monarchs have played best in tournament-style settings this season. Throw top-seeded Etiwanda and defending champ Norco into the mix, and whoever survives the top half of the bracket will be more than prepared for the finale.