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Division I Finally Becomes Top Draw

May 20, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

For the first time in years, Division I finally means Division No. 1.

With league affiliation determining which teams are in each division -- instead of enrollment, as has been the case the last four years -- the bulk of the best softball teams in the Southern Section are once again in its marquee division.

In recent years, Division II has stolen the spotlight when it comes to the top teams. Not this season, as the section office released its playoff pairings Monday.

Thirteen Division I teams with 20 or more victories will be among 32 playing first-round games on Friday.

By comparison, Division II has eight teams with at least 20 victories, and no other division has more than four teams.

Three Division I first-round games feature league co-champions squaring off: Etiwanda (19-6) at Riverside Poly (20-6), Orange Lutheran (10-14) at Fullerton Rosary (21-6) and Irvine Woodbridge (22-8) at Rancho Cucamonga (17-7).

"The goal is to make sure competitive equity is protected," said Rob Wigod, a Southern Section assistant commissioner. "The leagues placed in Division I are supposed to be the best."

For the first time since 1998, they are.

A look at the upcoming playoffs:


Defending champion: Etiwanda.

Seeded teams: 1. Santa Ana Mater Dei (23-4), 2. Valencia (26-3), 3. Fullerton Rosary (21-6), 4. Simi Valley (18-6).

Others to watch: Two dark horses could go all the way. Santa Ana Foothill (16-12) is finally injury-free and doesn't have the pressure of being a top-seeded team, as it has in the past. Anaheim Esperanza (15-9) has more talent and deeper pitching than most but has underachieved. Their problem: They face each other in the first round and would eventually draw Mater Dei.

Outlook: Valencia has deep pitching with Tori Rocco and Christina Ross, but hasn't played as tough a schedule as some of the other top teams. The Vikings will probably face dangerous wild-card Westlake Village Westlake (16-10) in the first round and have the most difficult path to the semifinals. Simi Valley, behind pitcher Chanel Roehner and center fielder Lisa Modglin, seems to be a team of destiny, but in the second round could face Los Alamitos (21-10), which beat Mater Dei twice. The Esperanza-Foothill and Etiwanda (19-6)-Riverside Poly (20-6) winners meet in the second round, and are lined up to play Mater Dei in the quarterfinals. Any of them, on a good day, could take out the Monarchs. Irvine Woodbridge (22-8), Moreno Valley (23-5) and Simi Valley Royal (20-5) are also serious threats.


Defending champion: Placentia El Dorado.

Seeded teams: 1. Corona Santiago (23-3), 2. Chino Don Lugo (24-1), 3. Anaheim Canyon (22-8), 4. Orange El Modena (24-4).

Others to watch: California pitcher Jennifer Davis gives the Condors (21-5) a chance to win the division, and Corona (22-5) has a victory this season over Santiago.

Outlook: The two best pitchers in the division are Davis and Santiago's Taryne Mowatt, but neither of their teams has much offense. Two-time section finalist El Modena, with Norrelle Dickson and Tara Henry, can score runs but lacks the dominating pitcher and could have its hands full in the first round with Amanda Klimczak of Diamond Ranch (18-5-1). Don Lugo has the best record of any team in the playoffs but remains largely unproven.


Defending champion: Riverside King.

Seeded teams: 1. Garden Grove Pacifica (26-2), 2. Hacienda Heights Wilson (22-3), 3. King (16-8), 4. Anaheim Western (18-6).

Others to watch: Covina Charter Oak (14-8-1) could beat Western in the quarterfinals. La Habra Sonora (15-10) has a chance against Lakewood Mayfair (16-6) and Fontana Kaiser (21-4) before it would face Pacifica.

Outlook: It would be a surprise if any team besides one of the four seeded ones reached the finals. Pacifica is the best team in the division, but that didn't help the Mariners last year, when they lost in the semifinals. On paper, King shouldn't win, but the Wolves have overcome the death of a coach and the loss of three starters to injuries to win 12 in a row. Western's Jennifer McElroy is one of the best pitchers in the division, but the Pioneers haven't shown much offense against competitive pitchers.


Defending champion: Orange Lutheran (now in Division I).

Seeded teams: 1. Westlake Village Oaks Christian (27-2), 2. San Dimas (22-3), 3. Ventura Buena (19-8-1), 4. Goleta Dos Pueblos (22-6).

Others to watch: Lompoc (21-6) and Lompoc Cabrillo (19-6) are both quality teams and, because of their location, could hold a significant home-field advantage in key games.

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