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Fountain Valley Wins With a Young Team

April 21, 1998|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe the most impressive thing about Fountain Valley's performance over the weekend, in which it ran its softball winning streak to seven games with victories over La Habra, La Mirada and Pacifica, is that there are seven sophomores on the team and only two seniors.

Even if they had lost their Woodbridge Easter Classic semifinal against third-ranked Pacifica, the Barons would have taken what they wanted out of the tournament.

"What I told them before the game was that they were in the semis against one of the top teams in the nation, against maybe the top pitcher in the nation--what have you got to lose? Relax and have a good time," Baron Coach Cary Baker said. "We expected to lose this tournament."

Sophomore pitcher Natalie King, who allowed only two infield hits in the seventh to beat Pacifica and King's acknowledged idol, Amanda Freed, was especially happy.

After the game, UCLA-bound Freed told King, "Good pitching."

"That meant a lot to me," said King, who has thrown only one no-hitter in high school, and that came last year.

Not nearly as giddy was Pacifica Coach Rob Weil, whose team, which was ranked No. 1 in the county at the beginning of the season, lost for the third time, 9-1, and was almost the victim of the tournament's mercy rule in the process.

"If you don't come out focused, it bites you," Weil said. "Our mental game has to improve--hitting, fielding, camaraderie, [picking] someone up when they're down.

"Hopefully getting our [rear ends] beat, we'll pick it up. A lot of people are happy we got beat."

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Cypress softball also raised eyebrows as it defeated fourth-ranked Woodbridge, 4-3, in 11 innings in the quarterfinals, showing that a sub-.500 team, on any given day, really can overcome long odds.

"Definitely, it's the best win of my whole high school career," said senior Sasha Campbell, a four-year varsity player who had a two-run double in the 11th.

Junior Amanda Meixel followed with a towering double for a 4-1 lead. They needed every run.

"We were thinking, if we just get a run against them, that will be good--or not to lose by too much," Meixel said. "We'll remember this game forever."

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As the baseball season enters its second half, it appears nearly every league championship is up for grabs.

Well, every one except the South Coast, where Mater Dei has a three-game lead over second-place Dana Hills. No other league leader has more than a one-game advantage. That includes St. Margaret's (Academy), Foothill (Century), La Quinta (Garden Grove) and Aliso Niguel (Pacific Coast), which are unbeaten in league play.

The tightest race is in the Orange League, where Brea Olinda (6-0-1) and Western (5-0-1) are unbeaten in league play.

Those teams play Wednesday at Western, but are not the only 1-2 teams facing each other. St. Margaret's and Capistrano Valley Christian duel for the Academy lead on Wednesday. Freeway rivals La Habra and Sunny Hills play Wednesday and Friday.

The most competitive race is in the Sunset League, where all six teams are separated by 1 1/2 games. In the Golden West, four teams are separated by two games, and in the Garden Grove, five teams are within 2 1/2 games of one another.

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Natalie Nakase's signature on a letter of intent to attend UCLA meant the world to the Marina senior, who has long desired to play basketball for the Bruins.

Nakase, a 5-foot-1 point guard and the Times Orange County player of the year, had been heavily recruited by UC Irvine, and probably would have played much more there than she will at UCLA, which Nakase acknowledged.

"People have wondered how I can pass up UCI with a lot of playing time, but UCLA is a chance I have to take right now," Nakase said. "I'm going to have to experience it on my own to see if I can handle not playing as much as I did in high school. But I think I can handle it.

"It would be dumb to pass up a chance to go to such a big school. They're giving me a chance at my dream, so I might as well take it."

Nakase signed on April 13 and told Irvine of her decision about a week earlier.

"[Irvine] asked if I was interested in them and I had to tell them, actually, no," said Nakase, who is leaning toward physical therapy as an area of study.

Nakase's father, Gary, spoke to Jamie Oenning before his daughter decided. Oenning, a star at Woodbridge, didn't play as much for the Bruins as she thought she would.

"She told us, even though she had to go through the tough times, it was worth it going to that school because you experience going with some of the top athletes from around the world," Natalie Nakase said. "She said it's worth all the stuff you have to go through. Attending that school is a good experience to have."

Nakase, who led Marina to its first Southern Section title by averaging 13.8 points and 8.5 assists, got the only scholarship UCLA had to give. She will join other Orange County players Marie Philman (Edison) and Melanie Pearson (Woodbridge) on the Bruin roster.

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