If Orange County softball coaches are walking on eggshells, there's a good reason.
Everyone, it seems, can beat anyone.
Most matchups held to form Saturday at the 17th Woodbridge Classic as the 24-team field completed pool play.
Third-ranked El Toro defeated 10th-ranked Kennedy, 3-1, to open the tournament as Susan Churchwell pitched a three-hitter and drove in a run.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday April 5, 1999 Orange County Edition Sports Part D Page 13 Sports Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
High school softball--Joe Miller is softball coach at Aliso Niguel High School. He was misidentified in a story in Sunday's editions of the Times Orange County.
And second-ranked Pacifica held form with an 8-0 victory over eighth-ranked Santa Margarita behind 11 stolen bases and Toria Auelua's three RBIs.
But Aliso Niguel showed just how delicate the county rankings are this season. The Wolverines upset Santa Margarita, 1-0, as Danielle Heath pitched a two-hitter and Lisa Krueger drove home the only run with a single. It was Aliso Niguel's first softball victory over a ranked team in the school's history.
Aliso Niguel got its second victory over a ranked-team also Saturday by beating Pacific, 5-2.
"Any good team can get beat," Aliso Niguel Coach Joe Walters said. "You're seeing it a lot more this season."
Alan Dugard, Woodbridge's coach and the tournament director, agreed: "There's a lot more parity than I've seen in a long time. There are more good players spread out countywide."
With six of the county's top 10 teams participating at the Harvard Park tournament, there were plenty of reminders that the margin for error is much less than it has been in the past.
Woodbridge, ranked No. 5 in Orange County, ended a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over La Habra. The last time the Warriors lost five in a row was 1991.
Unranked Fountain Valley, which began the season 2-4, ran its winning streak to six games with a 2-0 victory over Irvine behind pitcher Colleen Burdick, and a 4-2 victory over Loara.
"We feel like we can beat anybody," said Fountain Valley Coach Cary Baker, whose team swept a doubleheader from Woodbridge last week and will play El Toro in the winners' bracket when the tournament continues Saturday. "There are probably seven or eight teams that feel the same way."
El Toro is one of them. The Chargers defeated No. 4 Foothill eight days ago when Foothill was ranked third, then promptly lost to unranked Marina.
"We were so pumped up [after] we beat Foothill," Churchwell said, "I think all of us felt we could win just by showing up."
That wasn't the case Saturday against Kennedy. El Toro was focused on offense and defense--the Chargers didn't commit an error (they had five in the loss to Marina) and got RBI doubles from Churchwell, Bryttani Lindheim and Nikki Everett.
Churchwell (6-2) gave up only one run, in the seventh, on a double by Michelle Turner and single by Lorraine Geiger.
"I like the idea that any of us can aspire to be No. 1," El Toro Coach Jim Daugherty said. "Before, we could give it lip service, but in the back of your mind you were thinking, 'When pigs fly.' But now, it's true.
"You don't look past anyone."
Kennedy pitcher Crystal Eubanks said teams can't afford to get overconfident, either: "Any team having a good day can pretty much compete with any other team."
In the Canyon tournament:
El Dorado 3, Villa Park 0--Caitlin Haworth drove in two runs with a single in the sixth inning for visiting El Dorado (9-2).
Esperanza 2, Valencia 1--Jennifer Coffey doubled to drive in Shawna Lumby and Molly Denkler in an international tiebreaker. Lauren Van Kurin had two hits for the Aztecs (8-5).
Ocean View 3, Norco 2 (9)--Leah Gulla doubled in the ninth, then stole third and scored on an error made by Norco's catcher to lead Ocean View.
Rosary 3, Rowland Heights Rowland 1--Mallory Anderson (3-2) struck out 10 and gave up only a solo home run to lead host Rosary (8-5). Natalie Golda had a two-run single for the Royals.
Villa Park 3, Temescal Canyon 2--Rachel Cintron led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple for host Villa Park (8-5-1). Pinch-runner Brittany Cuddy scored on a wild pitch. Cintron (3-0) struck out six.
Whittier Christian 2, Chino Ayala--Vanessa Calderon had the winning RBI for host Whittier Christian (5-5).
Ocean View 4, Whittier Christian 1--Leah Gulla had two RBIs in the second inning to lead Ocean View (6-8).