With Hart High softball’s comeback win Tuesday in the wild-card round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs, the Foothill League enters today’s first round with three teams in play.
How many will advance?
Here’ a look at each matchup:
Great Oak of Temecula at Valencia, 3:15 p.m., today
Last year, both Great Oak and Valencia lost in the quarterfinals of the Division 1 playoffs.
Then Great Oak graduated its best hitter and its best pitcher.
Valencia’s top duo, on the other hand, is a year older.
Viking junior pitcher Shea O’Leary enters her third postseason, this one after the most dominant Foothill League season of her career.
She tossed five straight complete-game shutouts to open league.
“Shea has grown mentally,” said Valencia coach Donna Lee. “She’s a smarter pitcher now. She really is. She worked through different things against tough teams and came out on top. That’s always a plus.”
Valencia (22-7), winner of back-to-back Foothill League titles, also boasts junior catcher Ally Shipman, one of the Southern Section’s leading hitters.
The Vikings will need the rest of their lineup to continue to mature, though, if they are going to make another deep playoff run.
Great Oak (15-7) finished second in the Southwestern League after graduating pitcher Autumn Storms (University of Arkansas) and batter Dylinn Stancil (University of Mississippi).
Saugus at Pacifica of Garden Grove, 3:15 p.m., today
Saugus (16-12) has established a go-to pitcher just in time to shatter a playoff losing streak.
The Centurions haven’t won a playoff game since 2012, losing by one in the first round in three of the last four years.
Saugus didn’t qualify for the postseason in 2015.
However, on its way to a second-place finish in the Foothill League this year, Leslie Reynaga has stepped forward as the team’s main hurler.
Coach Julie Archer loves the sophomore’s mental mettle.
“I love her attitude,” the coach said. “She is a competitor who is always trying to get better and thinking of ways to improve her game. She really has the mental game down.”
Pacifica went 10-0 to claim the Empire League crown. It has gone 20-7 overall, with one of the losses coming to Valencia, 2-0, on March 11.
If Saugus wins, it would play the winner of Huntington Beach and South Hills in the second round of the Division 1 playoffs.
If it’s Huntington Beach, Saugus would be at home. If it’s South Hills, the Cents would be on the road.
Hart at Redlands, 3:15 p.m., today
What was Hart’s reward for winning its first playoff game since 2011 on Tuesday? A matchup with No. 2 seed Redlands on the road.
Indians coach Steve Calendo, however, didn’t sound disappointed at the prospect after his team’s 13-9 Division 3 wild-card win over Royal of Simi Valley at home on Tuesday.
“Now, we go to Redlands and that’s what we want,” said Calendo, whose team is 16-12. “The No. 2 seed, let’s steal it from them. I don’t think they are going to be used to our hitting.”
The Indians’ hitting has averaged more than seven runs a game, led by Kylie Norwood and her .561 average.
Six Hart regulars are batting at least .414.
So, then, it hardly surprised Calendo that his team responded Tuesday after falling behind by five runs in the first inning.
“With our hitters, I said, ‘Hey, it’s your turn,’” Calendo said.
Redlands (24-4), though, has scored nine more runs than Hart (217) through the same number of games.
The Terriers haven’t lost since April 4 – a 3-2 loss to Yucaipa.