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By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
With the Southwestern League voting after last season to go to 10 games instead of 15, there’s now a gap of over three weeks in the schedule of second-year head coach David Mercado and his girls from Great Oak of Temecula.
The idea was to give each team more tournament games, but with the top tournaments always filled a year in advance, it left only lower level tournaments available that Mercado felt would not challenge what is turning into a new power in the Inland Empire.
So with tournament action behind them, the girls are in the midst of a 24-day wait between suffering their first loss two weeks ago to Mission Viejo, and the April 10 league opener with Murrieta Valley of Murrieta.
“We tried to get into a few of the top tournaments but they were filled and the others that wanted us were weaker. So now for the next two weeks we can work on what we need to improve on,” said Mercado, who also coaches 14-under and 12-under softball teams for SoCal Athletics and runs a training facility in Temecula.
Great Oak had a good year in Mercado’s first at the helm, finishing 13-10-1 after losing 3-2 in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs to eventual champion and state and national No. 1 Norco.
The difference between this year and last is Mercado has the star pitcher of the SoCal Athletics Under-16 team, freshman Autumn Storms, in the circle doing a large share of the pitching.
Senior Hannah Dewey, who is one of the team’s top hitters with a .417 average, has pitched 24.1 innings with a 3-1 record and a 1.73 ERA. She took the loss against Mission Viejo.
The 5-foot-11 Storms has pitched 32.2 innings with a 6-0 record, a 1.50 ERA, she’s only given up 18 hits with one double and one triple, and although she’s only struck out 18 batters, she’s only walked one in 124 batters faced.
“Her velocity can get up to the mid-60s but her ball moves a ton,” Mercado remarked. “She has a rise, drop, change, curve and screw, and she keeps the ball down so she gets lots ground balls.”
While the Wolfpack are cooling their heels, several of the state’s top teams will be playing in two of the kind of tournaments Mercado wishes he could have gotten into.
Michelle Carew Classic and Livermore Stampede highlight softball’s biggest week in California
The field 32 at the Michelle Carew Classic will include six of the top 20 ranked teams in the state and several others on the bubble competing this week at Anaheim Canyon, while the Livermore Stampede hosted by the Livermore Cowboys has two ranked teams and several bubble teams in its 16-team field that like the Carew Classic begins play on Thursday.
Look for coverage from the Stampede as the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan plans on making its annual trek to the Alameda County wine country at least on Saturday and possibly on Friday.
Here are this week’s rankings:
(After games of Monday, April 1; previous ranking in parentheses)
1. (1) Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 7-0
The big news is that Amador Valley gave up a run in a 7-1 win on the road in Livermore. What isn’t big news is it wasn’t earned. The Dons followed that up with a 6-0 win over visiting Concord Carondelet and a 12-0 mercy-shortened win over visiting Antioch Deer Valley to give them a 33-1 scoring advantage over opponents so far this season. Junior pitcher Johanna Grauer still has a 0.00 ERA and a 7-0 record. She’s only given up nine hits and three walks with 80 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched and 142 batters faced. Although Grauer hasn’t done well at the plate, the girls as a team are beginning to get their hitting in stride going into the Michelle Carew Classic. The top hitter is junior shortstop Ashley Lotozynski. She’s batting .526 with two home runs, five doubles, two triples, 12 RBIs and a 1.105 slugging percentage.
2. (2) Mission Viejo 17-1
The Diablos continued their winning ways with a 6-1 win over Lake Forest El Toro and an 8-4 win over Dan Point Dana Hills. They won’t be in the Carew Classic but with the girls already having 18 games under their belt with wins over four currently ranked teams, three more against teams on the bubble, and a lone loss to Norco, Mission Viejo will be more than qualified to assume the top spot should Amador Valley falter this week.
3. (3) James Logan (Union City) 7-0
As expected, the Colts had two league blowouts and are looking more and more like once again this year there will be no one in the Mission Valley Athletic League to challenge them, meaning that unless they get a loss pinned on them in Nevada in two weeks, something that didn’t happen last year in the five games they’ll play in the Reno area, veteran head coach Teri Johnson and her girls could be undefeated entering the CIF North Coast Section playoffs.
4. (4) Great Oak (Temecula) 9-1
The girls will have had plenty of time to think about the loss to Mission Viejo and work on the things to make them tougher for upcoming league play and matchups soon with current No. 19 Vista Murrieta. We’ll have to see if the layoff has them rusty.
5. (5) Norco 11-2
The Cougars took a double-header last week from Santa Ana Foothill, 7-2 and 12-1. Prior to beginning play on Thursday in the Carew Classic, they meet Moreno Valley Valley View in a non-league doubleheader on Tuesday. Should Norco win the Carew Classic and with a head-to-head win over Mission Viejo, there will be those that believe 2012 State Coach of the Year Rick Robinson and his girls should move to the catbird seat.
6. (6) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 11-0
The Monarchs only had one game last week and it was a 10-2 win over a Salinas Notre Dame team that has some solid wins. They now head into the Livermore Stampede where with Amador Valley not there to defend its title the girls from San Jose are looking like the favorites. Thursday they meet Castro Valley and Pleasanton Foothill. “No disrespect to the rest of the field but the girls and I were a little bummed when we heard that Amador Valley isn’t in the field this year,” Mitty head coach Brian Yocke told Cal-Hi Sports. Last year, Amador Valley beat Mitty 8-1 in the semifinals. Since then Yocke’s girls have won 24 straight games.
7. (8) Esperanza (Anaheim) 12-1
Madison Graham hit a three-run home run as the Aztecs extended their winning streak to eight games with an 8-1 win at Brea Olinda of Brea to end the week that included a 6-0 win over No. 16 Canyon of Anaheim. With their pitching staff led by Colette Riggs, who is now 5-0, they have not allowed a run in seven of their wins as they have outscored the opposition 71-11 this season. Esperanza faced El Dorado of Placentia on Tuesday morning before heading to play Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo on Thursday at the MCC Tournament.
8. (7) Santiago (Corona) 14-2
A 5-3 loss at La Puente Bishop Amat last week after a 10-0 blanking of Rialto is not looking that bad with Amat now entering the rankings with a solid resume at No. 14. The question of how far to drop the Sharks was overshadowed by the knowledge that they’ll be playing Norco next week.
9. (9) Vintage (Napa) 16-0
As stated last week. It will be hard for the Crushers to move up due to strength of schedule, and that was part of the reason Santiago only dropped a spot. Next up is Napa on Tuesday and the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan is trying to get over there.
10. (10) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 11-3
The Monarch girls only had one game last week and it was a 7-0 blanking of San Juan Capistrano JSerra. Since the back-to-back losses to Moorpark and Los Alamitos three weeks ago, Mater Dei has outscored its last four losing opponents 28-1.
11. (11) Marina (Huntington Beach) 11-1
When you have a standout pitcher like the Vikings do in Michigan-bound Tera Blanco, you are going to be tough to beat. Blanco didn’t allow a run while striking out 14 in wins over Rosary of Fullerton and El Toro of Lake Forest. Since a 2-1 loss to Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo, the Vikings have won seven straight games and have not allowed a run in any of them.
12. (12) California (San Ramon) 5-1
The Cal girls squeaked out a 7-6 win at Danville Monte Vista to hold their spot. Next up is Danville San Ramon Valley on Tuesday before the Grizzlies open the Livermore Stampede with Pleasanton Foothill. California would seem to be the team that could give Archbishop Mitty the most trouble at the Stampede. They meet Friday afternoon in a game the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan is hoping to attend.
13. (13) El Diamante (Visalia) 17-1-1
Sophomore Rylee Pierce has been putting on a power display all season long at the plate and started this week with 39 runs batted in and 12 home runs. Senior Sierra Hyland also has been unbeatable in the circle with a 13-0 record and 1.26 ERA. The Miners won five games in dominating fashion last week to capture the Clovis Easter Classic championship.
14. (NR) Bishop Amat (La Puente) 11-2
The Lancers lost their first two games of the season, first to Mission Viejo (5-1), and then a 6-5 heartbreaker to new No. 18 Vista Murrieta, both at the Best of the West. Since then they’ve won 11 straight, including a 5-3 win over Santiago last week. They also have a win over a La Palma Kennedy that has played everyone tough. The result is they burst onto the scene in a pretty decent spot.
15. (15) Chino 12-2
It was a pretty quiet week for the Cowgirls as they had just one game but made the most of it as they defeated Garey of Pomona 14-0. If a few balls had gone their way, they could be in the top five as their two losses this season have been by just 1-0 against No. 10 Mater Dei of Santa Ana and 7-6 against No. 2 Mission Viejo at the Arizona Tournament of Champions. They will have the week off before facing Colony of Ontario next week.
16. (16) Canyon (Anaheim) 9-4
Despite being shutout in a 6-0 loss, the Comanches don’t move a spot as that loss came on the road against No. 7 Esperanza of Anaheim. They also have losses this season to No. 4 Great Oak of Temecula and No. 5 Norco, which is why they are ranked so high despite four losses. Before hosting the Michelle Carew Classic, they faced Brea Olinda of Brea on Tuesday afternoon.
17. (18) Rocklin 12-1
The No. 2 team from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section had no games last week but still move up a spot with teams above them dropping out. This week, Rocklin plays Granite Bay at home and then hits the road for a matchup at Grass Valley Nevada Union.
18. (19) Saugus 9-4
With just one chance to get a win last week, the Centurions broke open a 1-1 tie with five runs in the top of the third inning on the way to an 8-3 win over Chatsworth. They have several wins over teams on the bubble, including preseason No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove.
19. (NR) Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 5-3
Despite playing two games last week, a doubleheader sweep of Moreno Valley Valley View, the Broncos have played a very light schedule so far this season compared to other teams from the CIF Southern Section. However, they have some solid wins, including one over Bishop Amat, and all three losses are to solid teams. As a result, head coach Daniel Torres and his girls are this week’s second newcomer heading into the Carew Classic where they open with Oxnard.
20. (20) Woodcreek (Roseville) 8-2
The Timberwolves had no games last week. This week they play Grass Valley Nevada Union on Tuesday before heading south to the Carew Classic where the second team from Northern California (Amador Valley is the other) competing in Anaheim opens with Simi Valley.
Teams That Dropped Out:
Previous No. 14 Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga), No. 17 San Benito (Hollister).
Teams On the Bubble:
Aliso Niguel (Aliso Viejo) 13-4; Bonita Vista (Chula Vista) 6-3-1; Carlmont (Belmont) 9-2; Carondelet (Concord) 9-2; Chino Hills 12-6; Cypress 14-2-1 ; El Modena (Orange) 7-7; Elk Grove 8-4; Foothill (Santa Ana) 8-5; Frontier (Bakersfield) 16-2; Gilroy 10-3; Heritage (Brentwood) 5-1; Kennedy (La Palma) 5-5; Lakewood 11-3; Leigh (San Jose) 10-3; Livermore 4-3; Los Alamitos 9-5; Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) 10-2; Lutheran (Orange) 12-4; Notre Dame (Salinas) 10-4; Pacifica (Garden Grove) 10-5; Poly (Riverside) 13-4; Petaluma 5-1; Pinole Valley (Pinole) 8-1; Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 14-3; Roosevelt (Eastvale) 9-3; Rosary (Fullerton) 10-4; San Benito (Hollister) 11-2; Sierra (Manteca) 12-0; Soquel 13-1; Torrey Pines (San Diego) 8-4-2; Valencia 9-3; Wheatland 13-1-1.
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