|OCVarsity Softball Dugout: Mission Viejo ready for playoffs|
Carlos Arias and Steve Fryer travel to Mission Viejo to preview the first round of the playoffs. Who has the edge in the Marina vs. Etiwanda matchup? Will Yorba Linda upset Esperanza? Video by Jonathan Khamis, OCVarsity.com.
|OCVarsity Top 10: Clutch home run and lacrosse championships|
Highlights include a go-ahead two-run home run in the 7th, a lacrosse championship, an amazing leaping catch, a massive volleyball kill, and more! Video by Jonathan Khamis, OCVarsity.com.
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Big questions for the softball playoffs
Some big questions hover over the county softball teams as they prepare for the start of the CIF-SS playoffs. Check out OCVarsity's list of some of the biggest questions, and check back as the postseason goes along to see what answers are revealed.
1. What is the toughest division in the CIF-SS playoffs? Division 1 is without a double the toughest division in the CIF-SS playoffs and in the state. Division 1 features 10 teams ranked in the most recent Cal-Hi Sports state rankings with No. 1. Pacifica, No. 2 Norco, No. 4 Orange Lutheran, No. 8 Royal of Simi Valley, No. 9 Esperanza, No. 11 Los Alamitos, No. 12 Edison, No. 13 Simi Valley, No. 15 Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga and No. 17 Vista Murrieta of Murrieta. Division 1 is a minefield.
2. What is the best wild-card game on Tuesday? Fountain Valley vs. Rosary at Cal State Fullerton at 3:15 p.m. Monmouth-bound pitcher Cerissa Rivera and UC Santa Barbara-bound shortstop Emily Brucelas lead the Barons and Arizona State-bound shortstop Chelsea Gonzales and St. John's-bound infielder Kaitlin Fitzgerald lead the Royals. Rosary owns victories over Esperanza and Marina. Fountain Valley owns victories over La Mirada, Riverside Poly, Orange Lutheran and Los Alamitos. The Fountain Valley-Rosary winner plays second-seeded Pacifica on Thursday.
3. Who has the toughest draw in Division 1? There are no easy paths to the Division 1 title, but second-seeded Pacifica might have the toughest. The Mariners face the Fountain Valley-Rosary winner on Thursday in the first round. The Barons are led by Rivera and Rosary is a good-hitting team. Pacifica would likely face Arizona-bound pitcher Nancy Bowling and Royal of Simi Valley in the second round. The quarterfinals would bring West Ranch of Valencia, El Modena or Santiago of Corona. Orange Lutheran, Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga, Edison and Canyon are possible semifinal opponents. You get the point? Division 1 is brutal.
4. Which team is the hottest heading into the Division 1 playoffs? Royal of Simi Valley brings a 10-game winning streak into the postseason, but Esperanza's nine-game winning streak, which includes victories over Sheldon of Sacramento, Valencia of Valencia, El Modena (twice) and Canyon, to close out the regular season is more impressive.
5. Which team is a live darkhorse in Division 1? Saugus has proven it can hang with many of the top teams in SoCal. The Centurions have also shown they can knock off top teams with victories over South Hills of Covina, West Ranch of Valencia, Valencia of Valencia and Santiago of Corona. Saugus plays host to Kennedy in the first round on Thursday.
6. Who has been the biggest surprise heading into the Division 1 playoffs? Many believed Los Alamitos' chances at winning the Sunset League title and making a run in the Division 1 playoffs were doomed when All-County pitcher Andie Formby went down with an injury early in the season. Senior Halle Humphrey stepped in and developed into the Griffins ace. She went 14-5 with a 1.56 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 1211/3 innings. Formby is healthy and now Los Al has a terrific 1-2 punch in the circle to go along with its high-powered offense.
7. Which team is a sleeper team that could do some damage in the Division 1 playoffs? Marina was up and down during the regular season, but the Vikings have one thing that makes them dangerous against anybody: Tera Blanco. The sophomore pitching ace pitched through nagging injuries all season, but when she is healthy she is one of the top pitchers in the nation. If she gets on a roll she can carry Marina a long way. Sam Agamaite has been a consistent bat all season and if Sandy Simmons heats up Marina will make some noise. Marina doesn't have much time to ease into the playoffs. The Vikings play at Etiwanda in the first round on Thursday.
8. Which O.C. team has the most potential in Division 1? Orange Lutheran has a veteran team that has a legit shot at making a run at the Division 1 championship. The Lancers played a tough nonleague schedule with victories over Esperanza, Etiwanda, Edison, Marina, La Mirada, Canyon and top-seeded Norco. OLu has a solid 1-2 punch in the circle with Ole Miss-bound Madison Osias and Illinois-bound Jade Vecvanags, both of whom are also outstanding hitters. The Lancers have four hitters hitting above .400, led by San Diego-bound Olivia Sandusky (.500, 4 HR, 21 RBIs). The Lancers play host to the Cypress-Roosevelt of Eastvale wild-card winner on Thursday. Cypress upset second-seeded Pacifica, 1-0, in the regular-season finale and the Centurions have one of the top freshmen in the county in pitcher Ashley Ross.
9. Which O.C. team has the best shot in Division 2? Top-seeded Mission Viejo is loaded with talent and looks like the favorite in Division 2. The Diablos have freshman Taylor McQuillin, who has committed to Oklahoma State. McQuillin has established herself as one of the premier power pitchers in the county. Mission Viejo's offense is loaded with Alyssa Palomino (.476, 7 HR, 23 RBIs), a freshman who has committed to Arizona, Alysha Everett (.472, 3 HR, 16 RBIs), Shianne Ybarra (.387, 14 RBIs) and Janelle Gusiff (.358, 16 RBIs). This could be the beginning of a long reign for Mission Viejo in Division 2. The Diablos play host to the West Covina-Arroyo Valley wild-card winner in the first round on Thursday.
10. Which O.C. team is the top sleeper team in Division 2? San Clemente is much better than its 15-13 record would indicate. The Tritons swept Aliso Niguel to win the Sea View League title. It was the first league title for San Clemente since 2000 and the third in the school's history. The Tritons have a solid pitcher in Columbia-bound Summer Secrest, and Yale-bound catcher Lauren Delgadillo (.465, 8 HRs, 31 RBIs) is a legit power hitter. San Clemente plays host to Millikan of Long Beach in the first round on Thursday.
11. Which O.C. team has the most potential in Division 2? Aliso Niguel split a doubleheader with Mission Viejo and has victories over Canyon, Bishop Amat of La Puente, Etiwanda and Tesoro. The Wolverines lost a lot of their momentum losing three off their final six games, but they have a ton of potential. Oklahoma State-bound third baseman Tiffany Mikkelson (.434, 8 HRs), Minnesota-bound Marissa Gilbuena (.402, 7 HRs) and Chloe Sharabba (.393, 4 HRs) are all big-time hitters and if they get hot Aliso Niguel can make a run. The Wolverines play host to Woodbridge in the first round on Thursday.
12. Which teams grabbed the seeds in Division 4? Aquinas got the No. 1 seed, La Quinta of La Quinta got the No. 2 seed, Dos Pueblos of Goleta got the No. 3 seed and Segerstrom got the No. 4 seed. Segerstrom is the lone O.C. team to grab a seed in Division 4. The Jaguars are led by Long Beach State-bound pitcher Selene Pola (11-3, 0.83 ERA, .446, 17 RBIs) and Western Michigan-bound shortstop Marleen Rodriguez (.425, 10 HRs, 40 RBIs).
13. Can the Freeway League teams be a factor in the Division 4 playoffs? La Habra, Sunny Hills and Troy are capable of putting together a string of victories and making a run at the Division 4 title. The Highlanders are led by Northern Illinois-bound shortstop Marleena Esparza (.568, 12 HRs, 33 RBIs). La Habra has Dos Pueblos and Ocean View in its bracket. The Lancers are led by the Knighten sisters, Marjani (.525, 11 HRs), who has committed to Nebraska, and Marshaylee (.444, 4 HRs), who has committed to Oklahoma. Sunny Hills has Garden Grove and Segerstrom in its bracket. The Warriors are in the same bracket with La Quinta and Rancho Alamitos. UCLA-bound Alexis Bennett (.588, 37 SBs) is Troy's top player.
14. Can Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana make a move in Division 5? The Eagles won their fourth consecutive Orange Coast League title under fourth-year coach Ed Gonzalez. The next step is stringing together some victories in the playoffs. Calvary Chapel has a good shot to beat Mark Keppel of Alhambra in the first round on Thursday. But the Eagles will be huge underdogs against defending champion and top-seeded La Canada, which has San Diego-bound Lauren Cox in the circle. Calvary Chapel is led by the Estes twins, Kaitlin (.573, 41 runs) and Kimberlee (.500, 28 RBIs), and pitcher Melanie Coyne (15-3, 1.04 ERA, .590, 39 RBIs).
15. Is there and O.C. contender in Division 6? The county's best hopes in Division 6 are with Saddleback Valley Christian, which went undefeated on the way to the San Joaquin League title. The Warriors are led by Madisyn Moynihan (.587, 39 RBIs) and Cindy Gallina (.475, 7 HRs, 34 RBIs). SVC plays host to the Rio Hondo Prep-Bishop Diego wild-card winner in the first round on Thursday.