The Sac-Joaquin Section softball playoffs will be underway Wednesday with Division I through III competing at the Sacramento Softball Complex. One might think Elk Grove head coach Jeff Alexander would be glad his team got a bit of a break with its placement in the D-2 bracket after years of being a top-contender in Division I.
Well, not exactly.
“This is a major, major black eye for CIF as far as I’m concerned,” Alexander claimed.
|EGHS Softball coach Jeff Alexaander
As it has with football for six seasons now, the Section decided this spring it would set up softball post-season by school enrollment. The 16 largest high schools in the Section that qualified for the playoffs would be put into Division I, the next 16 into Division II and so forth.
In the past, each league was designated to one particular division and generally its top three schools would qualify for the post-season. This year, though, some leagues got four schools into the playoffs. The Delta League, where most of the Elk Grove Unified schools compete, and the Sierra Football League both got five into the post-season.
Thus, with quite a number of big schools qualifying for the playoffs the Thundering Herd was shoved down into Div-II for the first time. The other Delta qualifiers – Sheldon, St. Francis, Pleasant Grove and Franklin – are all in Division I. Elk Grove is seeded second despite winning the Delta with a perfect 14-0 mark and going 24-2 overall.
Defending D-2 champion Benicia was handed the top seed.
“Everybody is outraged,” Alexander continued. “The way CIF did it doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t necessarily the ones that moved down, it’s the ones that were moved up. Kennedy and McClatchy being in D-1. No disrespect, but they are going to get smoked.”
Traditionally the Metro League schools have been in Division II, but Thursday night in the D-1 the Cougars, seeded 15th, play Sheldon. McClatchy, a ten-seed, takes on St. Francis in the single-elimination opening round.
The rest of the playoff brackets will be double-elimination.
Elk Grove open the playoffs with a game against 15th seeded Napa on Wednesday night. The winner will take on the winner of No. 7 Tracy and No. 10 Bear Creek Friday at 7 p.m.
And, Alexander says there’s plenty of good softball clubs in Division II.
Vintage has a six seed and is on the same side of the D-2 bracket as the Herd. Alexander thinks the Crushers have the top pitcher in Emily Oestreich who struck out 147 batters in 96 2/3rds innings this season.
“Vintage is very, very good,” he said. “Benicia, the defending champ, is a bear. Del Campo, a very, very good team so there’s a lot of power in D-2. And then you go to D-3 and there’s (Ponderosa), Oakdale, you’ve got East Union and Pioneer. Those top four teams in each division can flat out play.”
Alexander knew this year’s Elk Grove squad would be good, but perhaps not this good.
“At the very beginning with the people we lost, there were some key positions we lost (to graduation), yes, maybe not this good,” he admitted. “But, boy, with the offense we had, the kids just swung some crazy bats. The defense has been spotty. We’ve been putting up three errors a game and that’s not typical Elk Grove team, but the offense has been smoking the ball.”
In the circle, Alexander used a pair of pitchers this season, a right-hander, Courtney Riley, and a left-hander, Miranda Miles.
“In the Sheldon game we went four strong innings with Courtney and they started to match up against her so we said, okay, let’s bring the lefty in,” he said. “They couldn’t solve the lefty in the last two innings. They’ve made a nice combination and we don’t hesitate to make a switch.”
Both girls pitched in 15 games this season. Riley was 10-1 with a 2.18 ERA. Miles was 11-1 with a 1.52 ERA.
Leading the way with the bat was Morgan Lamb.
“She’s always been an outstanding player but she hit over .600 the entire year,” Alexander said. “She’s my candidate for All-City player of the year. I don’t know who else had stats like her out there. She had so many game-winning RBI’s. Morgan is just flat out a little stud.”
Lamb’ stats are quite impressive – a .628 batting average with three homers, seven triples and 37 RBI’s.
Alexander knew this club was really good when in the NorCal Classic tournament in Tracy Elk Grove rebounded from a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning against Simi Valley on April 10 to win 6-5.
“That was a special game where I said, ‘Hey, these kids can really play hard,’” Alexander said.