The Race for No. 1

Bishop Amat and La Quinta of Westminster stay on track for baseball showdown, and a school from the same Orange County league as La Quinta is now in the driver's seat for softball.

There's a chance the No. 1 baseball team in California this season and the No. 1 softball team will come from the same league.

In baseball, La Quinta of Westminster stayed on course for a possible showdown against No. 1 Bishop Amat in the CIF Southern Section Div. IV championship game by winning a tense game last Friday, 7-4, over Lompoc.

The Aztecs, ranked No. 2 last week, were tied 3-3 in the sixth inning when Mike McKernan broke it with a two-out RBI single. Ian Stewart then hit his 15th home run of the season to give La Quinta a more comfortable lead. Stewart also homered for the fourth straight game. McKernan then went on to pick up the pitching win and improved to 13-0.

The win moved La Quinta to 28-2 for the year and advanced it to this week's semifinals. Bishop Amat, 26-2, is in the other semifinal. The Lancers kept up their hopes for being the State Team of the Year for a second straight season with a 2-1 triumph over Servite of Anaheim.

Adam Simon led Bishop Amat by pitching a four-hitter and upping his own record to 12-0. Mark Esparza and Anthony Hidalgo stroked RBI singles to give the Lancers a 2-0 lead, which was sliced to 2-1 in the seventh before the game ended on a double play.

Bishop Amat or La Quinta also have a chance to finish No. 1 in the nation in the Student Sports FAB 50 due to upsets in the Florida state finals.

If neither Bishop Amat or La Quinta wins the CIFSS Div. IV title, the final No. 1 baseball ranking would probably boil down to whoever wins in the CIF San Diego Section Div. I playoffs-- especially if it's a team that doesn't lose in the section's new double-elimination format -- or to perhaps CIF Central Coast Section Div. I champ Wilcox of Santa Clara or to perhaps Camarillo if it turns out to be the CIFSS Div. I champion.

Both Rancho Buena Vista of Vista and Rancho Bernardo of San Diego had begun 2-0 in the CIFSD Div. I playoffs and RBV was No. 4 in last week's overall state top 20. Wilcox captured the CCS Div. I crown with wins of 4-3 over Mitty of San Jose in the semis and 9-2 over Serra of San Mateo in the final. The Chargers completed a 34-3 season and every team they lost to they also beat.

In softball, Pacifica of Garden Grove, like La Quinta of Westminster a member of the Garden Grove League, will become the state's new No. 1 team heading into the final week of the season by winning twice in the CIFSS Div. III playoffs while the two teams ranked in front of the Mariners last week -- both No. 1 Clovis and No. 2 Bonita Vista of Chula Vista -- were upset in their section playoffs.

For Pacifica in last Thursday's quarterfinals, freshman sensation Brittany Weil was outpitched in one sense by Hacienda Heights Wilson's Jamee Juarez as Weil allowed five hits and Juarez only two, but the Mariners got both of their hits in the same inning and were able to win by a 1-0 score. Jessica Marical scored the game's only run on a RBI single by Jennifer Orpitelli.

Previous No. 1 Clovis was stunned in the CIF Central Section Yosemite Division Large finals by Clovis West two days earlier. Bonita Vista then followed with a 2-0 loss to Poway in the San Diego Div. I semifinals. The Barons fell two games short of their goal of going 33-0 and becoming the first team in state history to finish with such a mark.

Another potential State Team of the Year contender in softball, Foothill of Tustin, was hit by the upset bug, too. The Knights lost to El Dorado of Placentia, 2-1 in 11 innings, and finished with a 29-4 record. Foothill was No. 4 in last week's top 20.

If Pacifica (29-2-1) were to lose this week, who becomes No. 1 is not clear cut. A strong case could be made for 35-1 Mira Mesa of San Diego, which won the CIFSD Div. II title with a 3-0 win over West Hills and is the only team that beat 32-1 Brookside Christian of Stockton. But the Marauders did not play in the more difficult Div. I playoffs in San Diego and their loss was to Bonita Vista.

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