By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
An exciting regular season of Foothill League softball has finally concluded. The top four teams will now head into playoffs as they prepare to play their best softball. Valencia and Saugus will play for the Division 1 crown while West Ranch and Hart are in the Division 2 bracket.
Saugus swept everyone, including Valencia, while Hart swept West Ranch on the year, adding some extra motivation for their counterparts to want one more rematch in the postseason.
FOOTHILL LEAGUE FINAL STANDINGS
1.Saugus (21-7, 12-0)
T-2. Valencia (16-8-3, 9-3)
T-2. Hart (20-7, 9-3)
4. West Ranch (18-10, 6-6)
5. Canyon (10-14, 4-8)
6. Golden Valley (4-19-1, 2-10)
7. Castaic (0-14, 0-10)
Hart opens up against Glendora
The only SCV team hosting an opening round game will be the Indians. Hart has four girls hitting over .370 heading to the postseason, including power hitters Tenley Sweet and Kate Penberthy. The pair have a combined 23 home runs, individually some of the highest marks in the state.
Glendora (17-9-2, 10-5) will likely start junior Bridget Nemeth, who has allowed just three homers on the year. The junior ace has also struck out 131 batters on the year and will be a big test for Hart’s sluggers.
The Tartans also have a solid number of strong hitters but Indians’ ace Allison Howell has thrown some very impressive innings to end her final regular season.
Both teams will have had five days to prepare for one another come game day.
Glendora will travel to Hart for the opening round of CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
Saugus heads to Chino Hills
The undefeated champs got a less favorable draw in the Chino Hills Huskies (22-6, 9-1). However, the team should not hesitate to take care of business as they have countless times before this season.
The pitching duo of Marina Provencio and Alyssa Ramirez has been unhittable at times this season. Provencio will likely start the game and aim to cool off eight Chino Hills batters hitting over .300, three of whom are over .400.
Saugus has the hitting to get the better of most opposing pitchers. Maria Luna will likely get the start in the circle for Chino Hills. Both teams have faced some of the best in the state this season but the Huskies have multiple wins over solid Division 1 teams.
“The biggest thing for us heading into Thursday is to continue playing our game with focus and execution,” said Centurions head coach Amanda Clark.
Consistent hitting from Ramirez, Maddie Campeau and Shae Sabedra will be key to help Saugus start their playoff run strong.
The Centurions head to Chino Hills on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
Valencia gets road test at South Torrance
The Vikings finished their 2022 season co-runners up with Hart, just Valencia’s second finish outside of first place in six years. The Vikings’ road back to the CIF championship will start in Torrance with a matchup with the Spartans (22-6, 7-3).
The team will be a tough out for any team, with hitters throughout their order. On the other side, the Vikings’ defense has looked strong all season behind reigning Foothill League pitcher of the year Casey Edwards. Sophomore pitcher Maggie Mrowca has also thrown plenty of strong innings, giving head coach Donna Lee confidence sending her reliever in to pitch.
The usual hitting from Maia Paragas, Addie Snyder, Emma Seper and Cheyanne Marxer will be key to get ahead quickly. Edwards and the Vikings’ defense should be able to do the rest.
“We have to play above average to beat South Torrance,” said Lee. “I believe in these young ladies.”
Lee hopes to take everything one game at a time. Her team, led by nine seniors, is set to show poise and battle in every game they can.
West Ranch set for trip to South Hills
The Wildcats won the games they needed to at the end of the year to ensure their first playoff berth in three years.
West Ranch will open up on the road with a tough opening opponent in South Hills (23-3, 10-0). The Huskies have had a fantastic, high-scoring season showcased by all nine starters finishing the season over .400 at the plate.
The Wildcats have shown strong hitting as well but will need pitchers Emma Warford and Francesca Decesare to give their all. The consistent hitting of Krista Viereck, Savannah Gatewood, Lily Baggot and Brooke Petretti will be huge in getting in front of the Husky pitching.
Audrey Gallegos and Maddy Del Real have posted strong numbers in the circle for South Hills. Both have a near sub .200 batting average against and a lot of strong innings pitched in their perfect year in the Hacienda League.
West Ranch will take on South Hills Thursday at 3:15 p.m.