And the edge goes to …

Today’s CIF-SS Division 3 softball final pits a pair of Whittier-area teams – La Serna and St. Paul – against one another at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between them, with La Serna holding a slight 2-1 advantage before the 4:45 p.m. contest. La Serna left-hander Jamie Wren has allowed just one run during the playoffs while St. Paul’s Krystal Gutierrez blasted a pair of home runs in the Swordsmen’s semifinal victory over Palos Verdes. Like two of the first three meetings, it should be a terrific game.
Here’s a look at my Tale of the Tape and my prediction:
Pitching: La Serna’s Wren is 24-2 this season with a 0.47 ERA, and hadn’t allowed a run in the playoffs until the seventh inning of Tuesday’s semifinal against Righetti. Like St. Paul senior Koreen Orozco, Wren relies on location and movement instead of pure velocity, and she’s a master at inducing ground balls.
Advantage: La Serna

Offense: St. Paul has scored 41 runs in the playoffs, including 10 or more three times, and it closed the regular season with 10 or more runs in its last four games. The Swordsmen averaged 8.33 runs during Del Rey League play. La Serna was no slouch in the Del Rio League, averaging 7.2 runs per game, but 10 of its games were decided by three runs or less.
Advantage: St. Paul

Defense: The left side of La Serna’s infield is as strong as any in the Southern Section, with junior Taylor Becerra at shortstop and senior Molly Bourne at third, and they combined for two errors in 33 chances in the playoffs. In the outfield, senior Dani Garcielita positions herself and her teammates in left and right correctly with a coach’s precision. St. Paul’s best defender is senior center fielder Lovie Lopez, whose speed and reaction off the bat is remarkable.
Advantage: La Serna

Base running: Both teams are aggressive on the bases without taking unnecessary chances, and both have terrific leadoff hitters – Becerra and Lopez. St. Paul’s superior power means it can play more of a station-to-station game, while La Serna plays a little more small ball.
Advantage: Draw

Intangibles: La Serna holds the advantage in the season series, and has made deeper playoff runs in recent years. The teams have only one common opponent this season – Bishop Amat – and both went unbeaten against the Lancers (La Serna 2-0, St. Paul 3-0). La Serna is on a seven-game winning streak, but the Swordsmen’s streak is at 14. La Serna is in its first CIF final since 2008; St. Paul hasn’t played in a CIF final since 1997.
Advantage: Draw

Final score: La Serna 6, St. Paul 4

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Heralds join the quarterfinal party

With its victory Wednesday over visiting Lompoc Cabrillo, Whittier Christian’s baseball team joined La Mirada, Cal and Cantwell-Sacred Heart in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-SS playoffs.
The Heralds scored four times in the bottom of the first inning and held on for a 4-3 victory, improving their record to 17-12. They’ll host Big Bear (23-2) in the Division 5 quarterfinals Friday.
Here’s a look at Friday’s softball and baseball schedule:
At Deanna Manning Stadium, Irvine
Division 6

Cantwell-Sacred Heart (21-7) vs. St. Bonaventure (23-4), 2 p.m.
Division 3
La Serna (28-3) vs. St. Paul (27-4-1), 4:45 p.m.

Division 2

Chino Hills (23-5) at La Mirada (22-10), 3:15 p.m.
Division 4
Cal (22-5) at Northview (18-11), 3:15 p.m.
Division 5
Cantwell-Sacred Heart (20-11) at Oak Hills (25-3), 11 a.m.
Big Bear (23-2) at Whittier Christian (17-12), 3:15 p.m.

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Late rallies lead area baseball teams to playoff victories

The baseball teams from La Mirada, Cal and Cantwell-Sacred Heart advanced to Friday’s CIF-SS quarterfinal round with victories Tuesday.
La Mirada rallied in the seventh inning for a 4-2 victory over Glendora in Division 2, improving its record to 22-10. The Matadores will host Chino Hills on Friday.
Cal also needed a late rally to defeat Don Lugo 7-6 in eight innings in Division 4. The Condors trailed 5-2 going to the seventh, but came back to improve their record to 22-5. They’ll play Northview, which knocked off top-seeded Kaiser, in the quarterfinals Friday, with the site to be determined by a coin flip Wednesday morning.
In Division 5, Cantwell needed 10 innings to beat Paraclete at home 5-4. The Cardinals (20-11) will play Oak Hills in Friday’s quarterfinals, with a coin flip to determine the host. The Division 5 game between Whittier Christian and Lompoc Cabrillo originally scheduled for Tuesday will instead be played Wednesday at Whittier Christian. The winner will face Big Bear on Friday.

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La Serna, St. Paul to meet one more time

Because three meetings this season weren’t enough …
The softball teams from La Serna and St. Paul will meet this weekend in the championship game of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs. La Serna (28-3) advanced with a 4-1 victory over defending champion Righetti, while St. Paul (27-4-1) routed Palos Verdes 10-0.
They’ll meet either Friday or Saturday at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine – CIF hasn’t released the weekend schedule yet – and renew a budding rivalry. The Swordsmen took the first game 2-1 at the Brea Olinda Tournament, but the Lancers have claimed the last two, 8-0 in the semifinals of the Charter Oak Tournament and 2-0 in a nonleague game at York Field.
The title game will be La Serna’s first since 2008, and St. Paul’s last final was in 1997.
In Division 6, Cantwell-Sacred Heart also reached the final with its 5-3 triumph Tuesday over Bell-Jeff. The Cardinals, who won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, will face St. Bonaventure in the title game.

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Busy Swordsmen to get even busier today

It’s been a busy week at St. Paul High.
Last Friday was prom, followed Saturday by a CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinal playoff softball game against Grand Terrace and Grad Night later that evening. On Tuesday, final exams began.
This afternoon, the Swordsmen continue their crazy schedule with a semifinal visit to Palos Verdes at 3:15 p.m.
“It’s been pretty hectic,” admitted St. Paul coach Jim Maier. “There’s so much going on right now.”
Maier’s senior class – led by Lovie Lopez, Koreen Orozco, Dani Munoz, Krystal Gutierrez and Bryanna Campos – has been terrific at keeping the younger players focused and ready to play.
“They’re doing a great job,” Maier said. “They’ve waited four years for this opportunity, they’re ready for it.”
St. Paul is 26-4-1 this season and riding a 13-game winning streak. Palos Verdes is 23-6 and has already knocked off top-seeded Burbank.
“It seems like they have some good pitching numbers,” said Maier, referring to sophomore Steffi Best, who has struck out 141 batters in 171 2/3 innings with a 1.82 ERA. “It’s pretty similar to what we’ve been able to do. It seems like they’re hot and ready to go. It will be a great challenge for us.”

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