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.
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.
Final score: La Serna 6, St. Paul 4