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Ill Fortune Followed Simi Valley, Los Alamitos to Final


Each has traveled a tumultuous path.

One will end the journey with a measure of peacefulness.

The story concludes in the Southern Section Division I softball final when Simi Valley High will take on Los Alamitos tonight at 7:30 at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.

Tragedy struck Simi Valley before the start of the season when junior infielder Julie Clark died suddenly from a rare viral infection of the heart.

The Pioneers dedicated the season to Clark and have forged a 25-1-1 record and are the top-seeded team in the playoffs.

The Griffins (24-3), on the other hand, have experienced a bizarre postseason.

Standout pitcher Carri Dolan missed the Griffins' opening-round win over Garden Grove because she suffered a back injury in a car accident the day before the game.

Dolan returned for the quarterfinals and led the Griffins to a 1-0 win over Santa Maria St. Joseph in 22 innings, going the distance with a two-hitter. However, outfielder Shelby Olmstead suffered an injury to her right leg during the win.

The team was coached for that game by assistant Al Gragnano because doctors would not allow pregnant Coach Jamie Shannon to take the four-hour bus ride. Shannon was in labor during the team's semifinal against Camarillo.

As it turns out, Shannon's baby boy was delivered about the time the winning run scored in the Griffins' 1-0 victory.

Simi Valley defeated Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals last season, 7-0. The Pioneers later suffered an emotional loss in the title game to Cypress, 1-0.

The Pioneers are led by pitcher Sara Griffin (20-1). Griffin also leads the team in batting with a .404 average and in runs batted in with 15. Shortstop Tracy Hansen (.370, 14 RBIs) and center fielder Jessica Cunningham (.333) provide help.

Los Alamitos relies on Dolan (8-1) and defense. First baseman Debbie Wilson has played well in the playoffs, driving in the winning run in each of the past two games.

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