High-SchoolSoftball: Amador Valley

Big shakeup behind No. 1 Norco

June, 6, 2012
There are no state playoffs in California, but winning the CIF Southern Section Division I title like POWERADE FAB 50 No. 1 Norco did last Saturday is perhaps a more difficult task than winning an actual state title anywhere else in the nation.

The Cougars cemented their No. 1 ranking by defeating defending champion Santiago (Corona, Calif.) 6-4 in the CIFSS title game and capping a 30-2 season.

Reasons that the CIFSS Division I bracket is so tough include the size of the section (it's bigger in number of schools than 44 states), the single-elimination format and the section's desire to place most of the top-level programs in the top division.

With previous No. 2 Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) and No. 4 Plano East (Plano, Texas) both losing last week, there were changes in the top five of this week's rankings. Porter Ridge (Indian Trail, N.C.) moved up to No. 2 while Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.), which has been done with its season for nearly a month, has now inched up to No. 3.

There probably won't be too much movement in the rankings, however, for the rest of the season. There are only a handful of states in the Midwest and East regions still playing softball. The season ended last weekend in California, Oregon, Texas and North Carolina.

Click here for the complete Week 14 rankings.

Norco (Calif.) clinches national FAB 50 title

June, 3, 2012
Norco (Calif.) clinched the No. 1 spot in the final POWERADE FAB 50 national softball rankings on Saturday night with a 6-4 win over Santiago (Corona, Calif.) in the CIF Southern Section Division I title game in Irvine, Calif.

Norco (31-2), which became a national title contender in March when it won top honors at a national invitational tournament in Bullhead City, Ariz., started the week No. 1 in the FAB 50. The Cougars advanced to Saturday’s final with a 4-0 win over Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.) in last Tuesday’s semifinals.

While Santiago entered Saturday’s game with nine losses, the Sharks did get a win over Norco during league play and had been averaging 9.7 runs per game since a change in the lineup nearly four weeks ago. Santiago also was the CIFSS Division I defending champion.

Amanda Sandoval gave Norco a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an RBI single. Pitcher Emily Lockman then helped her own cause with an RBI double in the third to make it 2-0, and later in the game she ripped a second RBI double.

Taylor Koenig also had two RBI singles, and the Cougars took a 6-0 lead into the fifth inning. That’s when Santiago came up with a four-run outburst that was helped by a two-run error.

Lockman, who is headed to Nebraska, then knuckled down and set down the Sharks in the sixth and seventh innings.

If Norco had lost, Porter Ridge (Indian Trail, N.C.) would have likely claimed the national title.

The Pirates were No. 3 in the most recent FAB 50 and on Saturday completed a two-game sweep against Holly Springs (N.C.) to win the North Carolina Class 4A state title. Their final record stands at 33-1. Auburn-bound Lexi Davis pitched shutouts in both of the team’s 2-0 victories.

Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) was No. 2 and entered the CIF North Coast Section Division I championship on Friday at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., with a 26-0 record. The Dons, however, fell out of No. 1 contention by losing 1-0 to James Logan (Union City, Calif.).

Amador Valley came within inches of scoring the tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning. With two outs and sophomore Ashley Lotoszynski at second base, Zoe Price singled to center. Lotoszynski did not score because of a strong throw by Logan center fielder Marissa Perez and a perfectly executed tag by catcher Caley Bonansea.

“We had to play flawless in the field, and we knew that just one mistake might be too much,” said Logan coach Teri Johnson, whose team avenged its only loss and is sure to move up from No. 16 in the FAB 50. “The way we bonded this year was just great. This couldn’t have happened to a better group of girls.”

Note: Norco also won the CIF Southern Section Division I title three years ago and finished No. 3 in the final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings with a 32-2 record. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) went 32-0 and was No. 1 in the nation. Mitty’s standout player at the time, Keilani Ricketts, is now starring in the College Softball World Series for Oklahoma.

Santiago pulls off upset, moves into FAB 50

May, 30, 2012
There isn't going to be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 FAB 50 matchup in this weekend's CIF Southern Section Division I championship, but the No. 1 ranking will be on the line when top-ranked Norco plays Santiago (Corona, Calif.).

Last week's No. 2 team, Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.), was upset in last Friday's quarterfinals 4-3 by Santiago. Norco won in its quarterfinal game 15-0 against Foothill (Tustin, Calif.) and also has won in this week's semifinals with a 4-0 win on Tuesday over Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.).

Santiago, which just went into this week's FAB 50 due to having nine losses, has been on a tear in recent weeks and seems determined to defend the title it won last season. On Tuesday, the Sharks gained their spot in the championship against their league rivals with a 6-4 triumph over Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.).

If Norco wins in the final, it will finish No. 1 in the nation. If Santiago wins, the next team in line is unbeaten Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.). The Dons are in the CIF North Coast Section and play in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Click here for the complete Week 13 rankings.

Florida, Arizona set to state FAB 50 cases

May, 9, 2012
By the time next week's POWERADE FAB 50 rankings are released, there could be as many as one-third of the slots for the final rankings of the season sewn up.

Florida's state championships will be decided this weekend, and then all the trophies in Arizona will be hoisted by Tuesday.

Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.) is the highest-ranked team from either state heading into this week, and if the Mountain Lions win a third straight state title, this time in Division I, they have an outside shot of finishing No. 1. For that to happen, though, at least three top teams in California, plus Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.), would have to lose.

Click here for the complete Week 10 rankings.

Alexander Central moves up to No. 3

April, 18, 2012
The most difficult choice in this week's POWERADE FAB 50 was which team to put in the No. 3 position after previous No. 3 Plano East (Plano, Texas) suffered its third loss of the season and fell to 26-3.

Beech Softball
Courtesy of Beech SoftballBeech (Hendersonville, Tenn.) joins the top 10 in this week's rankings.
It's always with reluctance to move up a team that isn't from one of softball's four power states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Texas -- but this was a week that No. 5 Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) was idle.

That left No. 4 Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) to be considered. The Cougars have shown more enthusiasm for playing teams from other states and they are led by a pitcher, Chelsea Wilkinson, who is headed to the Southeastern Conference to play at Georgia. Since Alexander Central improved to 17-1 (Wilkinson didn't play in the only loss), it gained the No. 3 ranking.

Another team on an even more rapid rise is new No. 9 Beech (Henderson, Tenn.). It was just two weeks ago when that team was sitting at No. 45, but since then the Buccaneers have won two tournaments and their record has snowballed to 38-1.

Click here for the complete Week 7 rankings.

Palm Beach Gardens returns to the top

April, 11, 2012
Posting an unbeaten record is second to none in softball, but it's not far behind when a team hasn't lost with its ace pitcher in the circle.

Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) is a great example of that and this week has returned to the No. 1 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50. Counting a 2-0 win on Tuesday night in a showdown against FAB 50 No. 10 Poland Seminary (Ohio), the Gators are 23-1 with their only loss coming when ace pitcher Shelby Turnier wasn't in the circle.

With previous No. 1 Norco (Calif.) suffering its first loss of the season at the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim Hills, Calif., Palm Beach Gardens was an easy choice to move up from No. 2.

The Gators not only got the win over Poland Seminary -- although Poland's ace, Erin Gabriel, didn't pitch -- but they also are coming off a 4-0 showing at the prestigious Kissimmee Klassic. They routed Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.) 16-0 in the championship game.

Norco dropped to No. 6 this week and fell to No. 3 in California. One team to watch from California is unbeaten Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.), which won the Livermore Stampede tournament and beat previous No. 6 Archbishop Mitty en route to the title game.

Click here for the complete Week 6 rankings.

Stars shine on Florida, California diamonds

April, 10, 2012
A slew of high-profile tournaments graced softball diamonds nationwide last weekend, providing teams an opportunity to make a move in Wednesday’s POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings and separate themselves as strong contenders for deep runs in their state tournaments.

Amador Valley softball
Harold Abend/ESPNHSAmador Valley's Johanna Grauer was the MVP of the 2012 Livermore Stampede.
In sun-drenched Kissimmee, Fla., senior pitcher Shelby Turnier of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) caught fire and uncorked easily the best individual performance of the Kissimmee Klassic, hurling four consecutive shutouts, including one no-hitter, en route to tournament MVP as she led the Lady Gators to the Klassic championship. Joining her on the Blue Bracket's All-Tournament Team was junior teammate Ta'Coia Williams, who garnered the Defense Award in addition to hitting .643 on the weekend. Junior Megin Eskew of Sickles (Tampa, Fla.) won the Hitting Award after going 9 for 13 at the plate (.692 BA). In the Gold Bracket, senior pitcher Cristina Sacramento of Pembroke Pines (Fla.) didn't give up an earned run all tournament, either, and pitched Pembroke Pines to a 4-1 win over Clay (Green Cove Springs, Fla.) in that bracket's championship game.

On the other side of the country, Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) enjoyed a plethora of offensive output as it steamrolled through the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim Hills, one of the more competitive high school tournaments in California, defeating Canyon (Anaheim, Calif.) 7-2 in the semifinals before a 13-4 win over Los Alamitos (Calif.) in the championship game. Cinderella also made an appearance in Southern California over the weekend, as Orange Lutheran (Calif.) scored a massive 2-1 second-round upset over Norco (Calif.), which entered the Carew Classic as the undefeated No. 1 ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

Farther north in California, Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) made a huge statement at the Livermore Stampede. Amador ace Johanna Grauer and company handled both Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) in a colossal semifinal tilt before disposing of host Livermore in an 11-0 run-rule victory for the championship. Grauer was named MVP of the tournament.