The Southern Section softball championships will open tonight with the 2-A and 3-A divisional title games at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.
The 3-A game between Irvine Woodbridge and Crescenta Valley is set for 8 p.m., following the 2-A matchup of El Monte Arroyo and El Toro at 6 p.m.
Top-seeded Woodbridge (21-3) will start senior left-hander Patti Russell, who pitched a perfect game against Arcadia in the quarterfinals and had a two-hitter Tuesday against Valencia. Russell, a junkball pitcher, will face a Crescenta Valley team that is similar in several ways to Woodbridge.
The Falcons (23-4) are built around defense, speed and pitching, much like Woodbridge. Sophomore Heather Lindstrom has 187 strikeouts and only 20 walks this season, and has a record of 21-4.
Lindstrom will get help from Lisa Erickson, the Pacific League MVP, who hit .434 as a switch-hitter and leadoff batter and scored 37 runs.
In all, Crescenta Valley boasts five .300-plus hitters, including first baseman Deneil Dover (.397), freshman shortstop Kris Janitor (.393) and all-league catcher Landa Temple.
The 2-A final matches No. 3-seeded El Monte Arroyo, a 2-1 winner over top-seeded Covina Charter Oak in the semifinals, against No. 2-seeded El Toro.
Saturday at Mayfair, top-seeded Fountain Valley, with standout pitcher Patti Taylor, will face Lisa Fernandez and Lakewood St. Joseph in the 4-A championship at 8 p.m.
The Small Schools and 1-A divisional finals, also Saturday, will begin at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.
Taylor, a senior, has thrown four no-hitters and eight one-hitters this season and has an ERA of 1.80. She hurled a one-hitter in Tuesday's 1-0 semifinal win over Cerritos.
Offensively, the Barons feature hard-hitting shortstop Shelly Mardon, who has two home runs this year.
St. Joseph, which outlasted Cerritos Gahr, 1-0, in a national record-tying, two-day, 29-inning game in the quarterfinals, relies on pitcher Lisa Fernandez.
Fernandez, who struck out 48 against Gahr, had 350 strikeouts and seven no-hitters in the regular season, three being perfect games. She is also an outstanding hitter, compiling a .362 average during the regular season.
The 1-A contest finds Miraleste of Rancho Palos Verdes, with 24-1 starter Jennifer Chew, against Lancaster Paraclete. In the Small Schools championship, Avalon (18-3) faces Temecula Linfield Christian (20-4).