High-SchoolSoftball: Pacifica

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.

Porter Ridge looking up in FAB 50

May, 23, 2012
While the order for this week's POWERADE FAB 50 was finalized earlier on Tuesday, it was hard to ignore that the top three teams in the nation were all playing later in the evening and that all three could have lost.

Those results won't be reflected in the rankings until next week, but the big news was that No. 3 Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) lost 1-0 in its showdown with unbeaten No. 7 Porter Ridge (Indian Trail, N.C.) in the fourth round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Auburn-bound Lexi Davis of Porter Ridge outdueled Georgia-bound Chelsea Wilkinson of Alexander Central, although Wilkinson had a perfect game going with 17 strikeouts until the seventh inning. Porter Ridge got two hits in that inning, including a two-out RBI single by Kayleigh Jones. Davis then set down Alexander Central in the bottom of the inning.

The top two teams in the FAB 50 -- No. 1 Norco (Calif.) and No. 2 Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) -- both won in CIF Southern Section Division I playoff games. Norco topped Etiwanda (Calif.) 2-0 while Pacifica blanked No. 23 Royal (Simi Valley, Calif.) 2-0. The two could meet in the title game on either June 1 or June 2.

Click here for the complete Week 12 rankings.

Arizona, Florida upsets shake up FAB 50

May, 16, 2012
If the upcoming CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs and the North Carolina Class 4A state playoffs turn out like the state playoffs in Arizona and Florida, then it's anybody's guess which team will end up No. 1 in the final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

In Arizona on Monday night, while FAB 50-ranked Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.) held form and won its third straight state title in Division I, FAB 50-ranked Sunrise Mountain (Peoria) and Ironwood Ridge (Tucson) were beaten by longtime nemesis Canyon del Oro (Tucson) in Division II. Previously unbeaten Estrella Foothills (Goodyear) did not even win in Division III.

In Florida, which at one time had the No. 1 team, Palm Beach Gardens, state titles were won last Saturday by numerous teams that avenged losses and beat higher-ranked opponents. After analyzing all the game-by-game results of all the champions, Chamberlain (Tampa, Fla.) has the strongest resume and went from unranked to No. 17 in this week's rankings.

If either FAB 50 No. 1 Norco (Calif.) or No. 2 Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) wins the CIF Southern Section Division I title, then that team will end up No. 1 in the FAB 50. This scenario still holds even though Pacifica was handed its second loss of the season last week. Both teams have played schedules that are hard to beat and either one could still finish 31-2 with the nation's toughest championship in its pocket.

Click here for the complete Week 11 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.

Two top-10 teams tumble in FAB 50

May, 2, 2012
Losing games is all about timing when it comes to the rankings.

A great case in point is what happened to two top-five teams from last week's POWERADE FAB 50.

No. 2 Norco lost 3-2 to Santiago (Corona, Calif.) and didn't drop at all in this week's rankings. No. 5 Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) lost 4-0 to Jupiter (Fla.) and was sent tumbling down to No. 31 and arguably could have dropped all the way out.

The difference, of course, is that Palm Beach Gardens lost in the state playoffs and its season is over. Norco lost in a league game to a team it beat earlier in the season. Plus, the Cougars still have just two losses on the season overall, still own a win over No. 1 Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) and still have an opportunity to end the season winning the prestigious CIF Southern Section Division I title with just two losses.

In addition to Palm Beach Gardens, which was No. 1 just two weeks ago, previous No. 10 Poland Seminary (Poland, Ohio) also lost last week. That enabled two new teams -- Niceville (Fla.) and The Woodlands (Texas) -- to join this week's top 10.

Click here for the complete Week 9 rankings.

Pacifica takes over top spot in FAB 50

April, 25, 2012
It might not have been due to a strange gravitational pull of the planets, but it can be blamed on Jupiter that there is a new No. 1 team in this week's POWERADE FAB 50.

Due to a loss last week by previous No. 1 Palm Beach Gardens (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) to Jupiter (Fla.) in a Class 8A district final, the Gators had to fall from their perch. They can still come back to win the Class 8A state title (result from Tuesday night game not included), but to finish No. 1 in the nation will probably require help from teams in Southern California.

New No. 1 Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) and new No. 2 Norco (Calif.) have both played strong schedules and both project to get seeded in the top two spots for the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. Pacifica is ranked higher because it hasn't lost since early March and won a tournament that Norco played in as well. Norco, however, will probably get the No. 1 seed because it has a win over Pacifica in the title game of the Arizona Tournament of Champions.

Either way, whether it's Pacifica or Norco, if one of those two teams can run the table in the section playoffs and finish the season with just one loss, then it looks like that's the team that will be No. 1 for the final rankings. Of course, the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs is the toughest in the nation and it's single-elimination, too. One bad bounce is often the difference.

Click here for the complete Week 8 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.

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.