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SOFTBALL / MARTIN HENDERSON

County Teams Travel to Arizona to Face Nation's Best

March 14, 2000|MARTIN HENDERSON

Push comes to shove this weekend in Bullhead City, Ariz., as the best teams in the nation gather for the fourth Tournament of Champions.

Orange County teams have done well--the first two winners were Woodbridge and Pacifica--and this season should be no exception. The county's top four teams are participating, with Mater Dei being seeded No. 1 and Foothill No. 3, which is the reverse order of their Orange County rankings.

Mater Dei senior pitcher Tia Bollinger is already 5-0 for the Monarchs, having pitched each game.

Other participating teams are Fountain Valley, ranked No. 2 in Orange County, and Pacifica, ranked No. 4, along with Woodbridge, El Toro and Canyon.

SMALL BALL

Foothill Coach Joe Gonzalez would have preferred not to play any softball games until this weekend because he thought first baseman Kristen Mann would be unavailable.

Mann is also one of the county's best basketball players, and many felt Foothill would be playing last week in the regional tournament with a chance to play for a state title this weekend. Instead, the Knights were knocked out in a Southern Section semifinal.

"We played four games last season before Kristen joined us," Gonzalez said. "I wanted to schedule as few games as possible until she got back. I would have pushed Clovis back, if we could have."

Mann joined the softball team two days before Foothill played Clovis in a doubleheader. "She hadn't picked up a bat, ball or glove since we lost [in the playoffs to Moreno Valley] Valley View last year," Gonzalez said, "and she was hitting the ball further than anyone else on the team. A lot further."

Then in her first game, Mann homered.

AROUND THE BASES

Maybe the most impressive feat last week was Esperanza winning the Brea Olinda tournament title. The Aztecs haven't been a factor for years, but victories over Chino Don Lugo, Brea, and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa indicate that will probably change.

"They have a great freshman pitcher," Brea Coach Sharen Caperton said of Kristen Dedmon.

Similarly impressive has been the 4-0 start by El Modena, which defeated Rosary, 3-2, in the Fullerton tournament. The Vanguards won with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, propelling themselves into the county's top 10.

LOOKING AHEAD

The newly-named Saddleback Valley Tournament, which used to be the Laguna Hills tournament, continues this week with sixth-ranked Marina, Saugus, Orange Lutheran and Aliso Niguel joining the seventh-ranked host team at Alicia Park.

There are three outstanding nonleague matchups today: fourth-ranked Pacifica plays fifth-ranked Kennedy at Cypress Arnold Park; two undefeated teams meet as 10th-ranked Esperanza plays at Sonora; and last year's Southern Section Division V champion, Pomona Catholic, plays Division I finalist, Mater Dei, at Mile Square Park.

If you have an item or idea for the prep softball report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at martin.henderson@latimes.com

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