At times, Michele Granger's life as one of the premier softball pitchers in the country, high school or otherwise, just doesn't seem fair.
It certainly isn't fair to the opposition, whether that be in the Southern Section, club teams around the country or national teams around the world. Few have been able to handle the Lone Granger.
And, at times, things don't seem fair for the star herself because through all the strikeouts and no-hitters and, most recently, perfect games, all too often there aren't many runs being scored by her Placentia Valencia teammates for support.
Last season, for example, she threw a no-hitter and lost. Later, she had 22 strikeouts in a game and lost that one, too. A month after that, she left the mound with 21 strikeouts . . . and a 1-0 defeat.
"Every team she's played on, if she didn't get everybody out, she'd lose," her father, Michael Granger, said at the time.
These days, Michele Granger, though just a junior, has been winning. And getting everybody out. Everybody.
She has pitched eight no-hitters this season and, up to Monday night, had gone 44 innings without giving up a hit or a run--and, yes, has won four of her last five games. April 7--In a 14-inning, 5-0 victory over Anaheim Savanna, Granger struck out 31 and didn't allow a hit. Valencia got 10 hits, but couldn't score until the 14th inning, when Savanna committed three errors. That gave Granger an 8-4 record despite an earned-run average of 0.20 and an average of more than two strikeouts an inning.
April 9--Another 5-0 victory in Orange League play, this time against Anaheim Western. Granger struck out 18 of 21 batters in the fifth perfect game and 22nd no-hitter of her career, breaking the old Southern Section career mark of 21 by Monica Messmer of West Covina. At one point, she had 13 consecutive strikeouts. April 10--Twenty-four hours after beating Western, Granger defeated Fullerton with another perfect game, 1-0, striking out 18 along the way, including the final 15. Valencia scored the only run in the fifth inning, Amanda Chadwick coming in from third when the Fullerton catcher couldn't handle a third strike.
April 13--A fourth straight no-hitter, this time an 11-1 win over Glendale in the first round of the Glendora Tournament. She walked the leadoff batter and proceeded to strike out 11 of the next 14 batters before the game was called on the 10-run rule.
In her second game of the day, the second round of the Glendora Tournament, Granger had a perfect game through nine innings--and then lost to Garden Grove, 1-0, in 11 innings with a one-hitter. She struck out 26, but lost when Garden Grove's Elaine Allen was put on second base for the tie-breaker, was sacrificed to third and scored on a throwing error.
The 26 strikeouts in Monday's second game gave Granger 968 strikeouts in 451 innings, an average of 2.1 an inning, and put her second on the all-time Southern Section list behind Samantha Ford. Now starring for UCLA, Ford had 1,124 strikeouts for Newhall Hart from 1982-85.
Granger also is closing in on the record for no-hitters. The eight in a season put her in fourth place, three behind Diane Lewis of Long Beach Millikan, who had 11 in 1983.
Granger, who already holds the mark for consecutive strikeouts in a game at 21, was named the top softball player in the country for 1986 by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The year before that, her freshman year, she had two no-hitters and a save to help the United States sweep the World Championships in New Zealand. She was the youngest player in the tournament.
How tough can the Southern Section be after taking on--and beating--the world?
Lakewood leads the state 4-A baseball rankings by Cal-Hi Sports, with Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley leading the 2-A and Van Nuys Montclair Prep the 1-A. No. 3 Redondo is the highest-rated team in the 3-A.
Sean Higgins of Fairfax has been named second-team All-American by Basketball Weekly, with LeRon Ellis of Santa Ana Mater Dei on the third team. Brian Williams of Santa Monica St. Monica and junior Chris Mills of Fairfax received special mention.
Jason Matthews of St. Monica got honorable mention, placing him also among the top 50 players in the country.