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:
Softball
Finals
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.

Baseball
Quarterfinals
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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La Mirada, Cal baseball on the road for second round

THIS WEEK’S CIF SCHEDULE
Tuesday
Baseball
All games 3:15 p.m.
Division 2
Second round

La Mirada at Glendora
Division 4
Second round

Cal at Don Lugo
Division 5
Second round

Lompoc Cabrillo at Whittier Christian
Paraclete at Cantwell-Sacred Heart

Softball
All games 3:15 p.m.
Division 3
Semifinals

St. Paul at Palos Verdes
Righetti at La Serna
Division 6
Cantwell-Sacred Heart at Bell-Jeff

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Cantwell, Whittier Christian to host second-round baseball games

After CIF-SS Division 5 first-round victories Friday, the baseball teams from Cantwell-Sacred Heart and Whittier Christian each won coin flips Saturday and will host second-round games next week.
Cantwell will host Paraclete at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday following Friday’s 12-4 victory over Jurupa Hills, its first postseason triumph since 2007. Paraclete edged Maranatha 2-1 in its first-round game. Whittier Christian will host Lompoc Cabrillo on Tuesday. The Heralds went on the road Friday and edged Mary Star 4-3 on Friday while Cabrillo beat Woodcrest Christian 3-2, also on the road.

Tuesday’s CIF schedule
Baseball
All games 3:15 p.m.
Division 2

La Mirada at Glendora
Division 4
Cal at Don Lugo
Division 5
Lompoc Cabrillo at Whittier Christian
Paraclete at Cantwell-Sacred Heart

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Condor bats have come to life in softball playoffs

The long-slumbering bats of Cal High’s softball team have awoken for the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs.
Cal advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round with a pair of offensive outbursts, first a 9-2 drubbing of Atascadero – after a four hour-plus bus ride to Northern San Luis Obispo County – followed by its 7-6 victory over Warren on Thursday.
Condor coach Jim Kruse said the team’s approach at the plate has been more patient in the postseason, which has resulted in deeper counts and more pitches seen.
“It’s been amazing,” Kruse said Friday morning. “The (offensive) potential has always been there but we never really had a plan at the plate. Now, we have a plan.”
Kruse warned the team before Thursday’s game Warren pitcher Courtney Sheldon liked to get hitters to swing at low pitches just out of the strike zone. Cal’s batters laid off the low pitches, forced Sheldon to get the ball in the strike zone and had a big day.
“Before we would always go for (low pitches),” Kruse said, “and (Thursday) we didn’t.”
Senior third baseman Brigid Ruiz hit a home run Thursday and senior outfielder Rachel Shumaker knocked in the go-ahead run in the seventh.
“The seniors really performed well,” Kruse said.
Of the Condors’ 11 losses this season, they were held to two or fewer runs nine times, and they earned a pair of 1-0 victories as well.
On Saturday, Cal will visit Palos Verdes in a quarterfinal match-up. The Sea Kings knocked off No. 1 seed Burbank 5-2 on Thursday. Game time is 1 p.m.

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La Serna, Cal, St. Paul all reach Div. 3 quarterfinals in softball

Whittier-area softball teams make up nearly half of the quarterfinal field in the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, with La Serna, Cal and St. Paul still alive after victories Thursday.
La Serna ended Bishop Amat’s season for the second year in a row with a 6-0 victory, and will host North Torrance in quarterfinal action Saturday. The Lancers have played once at home and once on the road in the playoffs, and they drew the home game because North played two home games. St. Paul will host Grand Terrace after Thursday’s 14-5 rout of Alemany. Grand Terrace has played two home games so far, meaning it had to go on the road in the third round. Cal lost a coin flip Friday morning and will travel to face Palos Verdes in the quarters Saturday. Cal edged Warren 7-6 Thursday while Palos Verdes upset top-seeded Burbank 5-2.
In Division 6, Cantwell-Sacred Heart will host Shadow Hills on Saturday following its 10-0 rout of Vasquez on Thursday. Each team opened the playoffs with two home games, meaning a coin flip was necessary.
Schurr and Montebello were both eliminated from the Division 5 playoffs after road losses Thursday, with Schurr losing to Silverado 11-3 and Montebello falling 10-6 to Ontario Christian.

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Cal, La Mirada baseball teams will hit the road for second-round playoff games

Only Cal and La Mirada survived the first round of the CIF-SS baseball playoffs among Whittier area teams Thursday, and both will hit the road for the second round after coin flips Friday morning.
Cal was a 12-0 winner over Anaheim in its Division 4 opener, and will visit Don Lugo in the second round Tuesday. Both had home games Thursday, so a coin flip was needed to determine the site. La Mirada beat visiting Pasadena 4-2 on Thursday in Division 2 and will visit Glendora, which also won at home, Tuesday.
The season came to an end for Del Rio League teams La Serna and El Rancho, both of whom won Division 4 wild-card games earlier in the week. The Lancers were beaten on the road by La Sierra 7-0 and the Dons fell 4-1 at South Torrance.
First-round action continues today with Cantwell-Sacred Heart hosting Jurupa Hills and Whittier Christian visiting Mary Star, both in Division 5.

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