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High Schools | SOFTBALL REPORT

Getting Along Carries Camarillo a Long Way

June 03, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Jack Willard admits it's a cliche, but players on his team like each other. They even like the coaches -- this is confirmed by the players -- and vice versa. The one big happy family that is Camarillo softball is all smiles.

There is good reason to be smiling too.

Today, the Scorpions play host to Santa Ana Foothill in a Southern Section Division I semifinal, hopeful they will advance for a chance to win the school's first championship since 1991.

"We have great team chemistry, we're very consistent in all the things we do, we get solid pitching -- not overpowering, but solid -- and every time out we swing the bat pretty well," Willard said.

"We're not very complicated. I think people don't fully appreciate the talent of our players sometimes."

There is a lot to appreciate. The Scorpions have a team batting average of .339, an on-base average of .403 and have won 15 of their last 16 games. Their victory over Los Alamitos in a quarterfinal on Friday improved their record to 24-6.

Foothill (19-12) is on a similar roll, having won 13 of 14.

Stephanie Byrne, who is 13-4 with a 1.40 earned-run average, is likely to start against Foothill and admits that it's a nerve-racking time.

"All I've heard about Foothill is they've always had a good program," she said.

"I know we're not going to be able to just walk on the field and beat them, but our team is pretty good about respecting the other team. I'm sure it will be a very intense game."

Camarillo lost in the semifinals to second-seeded Dana Point Dana Hills last season. The Scorpions' last trip to the finals was 1996, when they lost to Santa Ana Mater Dei.

"We're really excited to make it as far as we did last year because [losing in the semifinals] was so upsetting," said leadoff batter Krystle Chamberlain, who won a Division IV title with Calabasas as a freshman.

Neither Camarillo nor Foothill was seeded in the section's toughest division, though Camarillo was ranked No. 16 in the Southland by The Times, and Foothill was No. 24 at the end of the regular season. On the other side of the bracket, No. 10-ranked Fullerton Rosary, seeded No. 3, plays at No. 18 Irvine Woodbridge.

If there's a reason for Byrne to rest easy, it's her team's offense:

* Center fielder Chamberlain, who has 150 stolen bases in her career, including 21 this season, is batting .440 and has scored 35 runs.

* Byrne is batting .400 with 33 runs and 23 runs batted in.

* Shortstop Cambria Miranda, who lists UCLA, Florida and Texas as college choices, is batting .527 with 28 runs and 36 RBIs. She is the best of Camarillo's clutch hitters.

In the quarterfinals against Los Alamitos, she had three chances to drive in runs and did so twice in a 4-0 victory.

* First baseman DeAnn Young, younger sister of Dmitri and Delmon Young, is batting .424 with 18 runs and 31 RBIs.

* Catcher Melanie Douglas is batting .354 with 16 runs and 25 RBIs.

* Designated hitter/right fielder Katelyn Miller is batting .345 with 15 runs and 18 RBIs.

The freshman has a team-high six home runs despite missing the first 10 games because she was on the junior varsity.

Chamberlain is one of only three seniors on the team, which bodes well for next season.

"It's nice to think about," Willard said of the future. "But the best part about them is being with them."

*

Rosary hasn't reached a section final since it played for the Division IV title in 1998. This year's seven seniors reached the quarterfinals as freshmen, missed the playoffs as sophomores and lost in the second round last season.

But this year, their first in Division I, the Royals (24-6) shared the Serra League title with Santa Ana Mater Dei. On Friday, they scored a 3-0 victory over Simi Valley Royal to advance to the semifinals against Woodbridge, a team it beat earlier this season, 3-0.

"We've done everything we set out to do," said pitcher Darcie McClelland, "but nothing matters more than this."

*

San Pedro won the City championship with its 1-0, nine-inning victory over Carson last week. It was the fourth time this season the schools played. It may have been one too many for Carson, which has now lost in the finals five consecutive years.

The Pirates won the first two meetings, and Carson won the last Marine League meeting before facing off for the section title.

"Losing to them helped us," said Ashley Esparza (23-1), who pitched a two-hitter and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. "We saw what our weaknesses were and worked on them."

It is San Pedro's fourth title in a row. For Esparza, a junior, it was better than the first two titles because of her close relationship with senior catcher Stephanie Spychaj, who will play next season at Indiana State.

"We got real close this season," Esparza said.

Without a catcher in the pipeline to suitably handle Esparza's considerable talent, Spychaj's graduation will be sorely felt next season, Coach Tony Dobra said.

"As valuable as Ashley is," he said, "Stephanie is just as valuable."

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