Los Angeles Preps: Kaylee Carlson

For those in Orange County looking for the best game on Tuesday in the second round of the playoffs—in baseball or softball—might we suggest filling the gas tank and heading to Simi Valley? Garden Grove Pacifica, ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN in softball, will play Simi Valley Royal, which is ranked No. 25.

Statewide, It's No. 2 vs. No. 8.

And, we remind you, this is a second-round game in the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

The Mariners, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing their Empire League finale to Cypress, got three home runs in a 7-0 victory over Fullerton Rosary in the first round. It was the first time this season that Rosary had been shut out, but the Royals were unable to score against the pitching combo of Kaley Winegarner and Kaylee Carlson.

But unlike Rosary, Royal counters with one of the Southland's outstanding pitchers, Nancy Bowling, who has committed to Arizona. Bowling (25-2) has 240 strikeouts in 156 innings, and her 0.36 earned-run average is lower than both Winegarner's and Carlson's.

Not that Bowling is going to have an easy time of it. In Pacifica, Bowling is facing a team that bats a collective .348 and has 30 home runs, led by Nicole DeWitt's eight.

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When the Southern Section released its softball playoff pairings on Monday, only one Orange County softball team was seeded No. 1. It was Mission Viejo, which earned the prime location atop the Division 2 playoffs. The Diablos will open the playoffs in the first round on Thursday with a game against West Covina, which won a wild-card game to get into the bracket.

(At the bottom of the blog is a look at all seeded teams in softball)

Yet most of the Orange County representation was in Division 1, where Garden Grove Pacifica (26-2) was seeded No. 2, Orange Lutheran (25-4) was No. 3, and Los Alamitos (22-6) was No. 4. The top-seeded team was Norco (26-2), which has a victory over Pacifica but a loss to OLu.

Orange County teams went 3-1 in wild-card games on Tuesday, including Fullerton Rosary's 2-1 victory over Fountain Valley in nine innings. That moves Rosary (18-11) into the first round against Pacifica (26-2), and we can't help but think that it will make the Mariners grimace a little; Rosary has a tendency to play David to other teams' Goliath. It has three victories in the last dozen years over a team ranked No. 1 in the nation. The last time it happened was 2010 when the Royals took out top-seeded Corona Santiago in the first round. Pacifica, by the way, was No. 1 nationally as late as a week ago (more about that later) but are currently No. 2 -- behind Norco in the ESPNHS rankings.

Led by junior third baseman and St. John's commit Kaitlin Fitzgerald (.475, 4 HR), whose 32 RBIs is one shy of the school record set by Katie Chifcian in 2005, Rosary has not been shut out this season, and it has scored at least two runs in 23 games. As for Pacifica, it has won 14 games by shutout, but is coming off a season-ending 1-0 loss to Cypress. The Mariners, who also flex plenty of offense (25 games in which they have scored at least two runs) are led by young pitchers, sophomore Kaylee Carlson (who had perfect game through 19 batters against Cypress) and freshman Kaley Winegarner (who had a no-hitter in her last outing).

Make no mistake, Pacifica didn't draw the second-worst team in the playoffs as a first-round opponent.

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There hasn't been anything dull about the 25th Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim Hills. The final four teams are set, and they are not only explosive, but they have provided some major fireworks in the early rounds.

Orange Lutheran defeated Norco on the tournament's opening day. Norco was ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and in the nation by ESPNHS. The Lancers, who scored a 2-1 victory on Heather Hall's two-out bad-hop single in the bottom of the seventh inning, had been ranked No. 4 by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 15 in the nation but went into the tournament with a two-game losing streak.

Garden Grove Pacifica, ranked No. 2 in the state and 5 in the nation, reached the semifinals by slapping a mercy rule on perennial power Valencia, 9-1, behind Kaylee Carlson's pitching and two RBIs apiece from Rebecca Lee, Kelsey Choate, Kristina Akiona and Ruby Rivera.

Los Alamitos defeated Sacramento Sheldon, which is ranked No. 9 in the state. Los Al is ranked No. 20 in the state and scored a 3-0 victory behind Mattie Scheele's three-run homer and Halle Humphrey's three-hitter.

Anaheim Canyon is in the semifinals despite coming into the tournament with five losses.

The semifinals are set for Peralta Park. Los Alamitos (13-4) plays OLu (19-3) at 12:45 p.m., and Canyon (10-5) plays Pacifica (17-1) at 1 p.m. The title game is at 7:30 p.m.

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