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Realignment Comes and Goes, but Mater Dei Stays on Top


The softball teams at Anaheim Canyon and Garden Grove Pacifica have to be smiling, while those at Upland High and throughout Riverside County are probably a bit glum.

That's because the Southern Section realigned its softball playoff divisions this year.

Everything is organized by enrollment now. Upland, a Division III finalist a year ago, and seven of the eight quarterfinalists from Inland Empire-dominated Division IV find themselves moving up in division to play against schools of similar size. At the same time, Pacifica and Canyon, veterans of Division I, are favorites in Division III, moved down because of their smaller enrollments.

Teams used to be grouped by their leagues into divisions, based loosely on enrollment and program strength.

One thing remains the same. Mater Dei is the team to beat. Coach Doug Myers has seven starters back from one of the best high school teams in state history.

A look at The Times' top 20 teams in the Southland:

1. Santa Ana Mater Dei, Southern Section, Division I, 30-1 in 1996--Myers has 12 players back from a Monarch squad that was named state team of the year by Cal-Hi Sports. Two of them were All-Southern Section picks: freshman pitcher Marissa Young and junior second baseman Kelsey Kollen.

2. Garden Grove Pacifica, Southern Section, Division III, 26-4--Pacifica has 74 wins in the last three years, but the Mariners have lost in the quarterfinals the past two years in extra-inning games. Coach Rob Weil can turn to the best one-two pitching punch in the section in senior Toni Mascarenas and junior Amanda Freed.

3. Camarillo, Southern Section, Division I, 24-3-1--The Scorpions advanced to the Division I final last season before losing to Mater Dei, but new Coach Miki Mangan hopes to take her alma mater to the next level. Mangan played on Camarillo's only section championship team, in 1991, and hopes to return to the title game behind the arm of All-Southern Section junior pitcher Cindy Ball (12-2).

4. Santa Ana Foothill, Southern Section, Division I, 29-3--Foothill was the only school to defeat Mater Dei last year and was top-seeded in Division I, losing to Camarillo in the semifinals. Coach Joe Gonzalez has six starters back, including All-Southern Section selections in sophomore shortstop Jaime Clark and senior outfielder Lauren Bauer.

5. Irvine Woodbridge, Southern Section, Division II, 24-3-1--Woodbridge won the Division II title in 1994, but fell a step short last season when it dropped a 1-0 decision to Saugus in the division championship game. Three All-Southern Section players return for Coach Alan Dugard: junior pitcher Christy Robitaille (21-5, 0.34 earned-run average, 192 strikeouts), third baseman Lizzy Lemire (.364, 23 runs batted in) and senior first baseman Ashley Boone (.349).

6. Thousand Oaks, Southern Section, Division I, 21-9--Thousand Oaks finished third in the Marmonte League last spring, but playoff wins over league champions San Marcos and Gahr opened some eyes, as did a narrow 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Mater Dei. The entire team returns, including three All-Southern Section performers in catcher Justine Rachlin, first baseman Erika Hansen and pitcher Jennifer Sharron (0.34 ERA).

7. La Mirada, Southern Section, Division II, 24-3-1--Like Pacifica, La Mirada has two standout pitchers in senior Kristi Martin and junior Jennie Finch. Last year the Matadores lost to Saugus in a Division II semifinal.

8. Upland, Southern Section, Division I, 26-5--Upland fell just short of repeating as Division III champions, going 12 innings in the final before losing, 1-0, to La Serna. The entire infield was lost to NCAA Division I schools, but Upland should be strong again behind senior pitcher Sarah Farnworth and her cousin, Stacey Farnworth, a senior catcher.

9. Fountain Valley, Southern Section, Division I, 17-10--Fountain Valley has been bounced from the playoffs in the first round in three of the last four seasons, but freshman pitcher Colleen Burdick might change that. She is considered the top freshman in Orange County.

10. Righetti, Southern Section, Division II, 25-7--Righetti advanced to the Division II semifinals before falling to Woodbridge, 1-0, in 11 innings. An All-Southern Section battery in junior pitcher Jocelyn Forest and catcher Debralee Troesh returns.

11. Westminster, Southern Section, Division I, 20-7--Without a senior on the team, Westminster surprised some with a 20-win season and a three-way tie for the Golden West League championship. Second-year Coach Conway DeSha now has 10 seniors, including second baseman/outfielder Kelly Hauxhurst (.500, 27 RBIs) and shortstop Krissy Keene (.433, 26 RBIs).

12. Anaheim Canyon, Southern Section, Division III, 22-11--Canyon went unrecognized most of the season, but got hot with three playoff wins before a Division I semifinal loss to Mater Dei. Canyon's hopes rest with All-Southern Section pitcher Veronica Lopez, who won 16 games and batted .411.

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