Prep Softball Power Rankings: Vol. IV

The top of The Record’s coverage area’s high school softball crop is playing at an unreal level. On Tuesday, it was as if multiple players were vying to become our All-Area MVP… a month early.

Sierra sophomore Lindsey Walljasper fired a perfect game against Valley Oak League and intra-city rival Manteca, an excellent hitting team, mind you, in a 2-0 win. And East Union senior Michelle Castro ripped not one, not two, but three home runs in a VOL rout of Modesto-Central Catholic.

Castro and East Union, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions, are still unbeaten and an obvious No. 1 in my latest power rankings for large and small schools in the area.

Large schools

1. East Union (1) 18-0, 10-0 VOL

The explanation: East Union, which has already swept its VOL series from rival Sierra, will be up against it in its regular-season finale on May 10 at Oakdale. But for now, the Lancers are on a 21-game winning streak overall and a 25-game winning streak in VOL play. Castro is now batting over .600 with eight home runs. Those eight HRs are tied for 13th best in the state, tied for seventh-best in NorCal and she’s surpassed Millennium’s Mila Rodriguez (six HRs) as the San Joaquin County leader, as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.

2. Sierra (2) 11-3, 8-3 VOL

The explanation: Walljasper’s perfect game would’ve been impressive no matter what, but to come against a rival, once which often mercy-rules lesser teams with a deep and potent offense, is just incredible. Sierra has knocked on the door against East Union both times they’ve played, but have just missed. Last time, Sierra took East Union eight innings before losing 4-3.

3. Tracy (3) 15-4, 9-2 TCAL

The explanation: The Bulldogs are tied with St. Mary’s in the Tri-City Athletic League loss column, but won the three-game set two games to one, and own the tiebreaker with the Rams. Tracy has another All-Area Player of the Year candidate in sophomore shortstop Rachel Cid. Cid, who was the first-team third baseman last year, is batting .444 with 15 extra-base hits and 21 RBI.

4. St. Mary’s (4) 10-7, 8-2 TCAL

The explanation: The Rams, who boast wins over Tracy, West, Lodi and, most importantly, highly-ranked San Jose-Archbishop Mitty, are keeping on the Bulldogs’ heels and have a great chance to still win the TCAL title shared or outright. Especially because Tracy must face rival West this week, a dangerous, deep team.

5. Lodi (5) 9-8, 6-6 TCAL

The explanation: Though Tokay upset rival Lodi tonight, the Flames still won their series with West and upset Tracy in one of their matchups. The pitching duo of Danielle Pfennig and Shelby Featherston is pivotal to Lodi’s playoff hopes.

On the Bubble: West, Bear Creek, Manteca

Small schools

1. Ripon (1) 11-3, 3-0 TVL

2. Calaveras (2) 15-3, 12-1 MLL

3. Linden (3) 16-4, 11-2 MLL

4. Escalon (4) 15-5, 3-1 TVL

5. Millennium (5) 16-1, 6-0 CCAA

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Prep Baseball Power Rankings: Vol. IV

Tracy baseball's Brett Mansell slides into second base safely against St. Mary's second baseman Tyler Lozano during their Tri-CIty Athletic League baseball game Monday at St. Mary's High in Stockton. St. Mary's won the game 5-2 and the series 2-1. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

The Lincoln baseball team, though it may not want to hear it, is having a similar season to rival St. Mary’s.

After the Class of 2014-15, both of their rosters were supposed to be ravaged. It was Tracy’s time to reign over the Tri-City Athletic League, returning the vast majority of a squad that was Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South runner-up. Tracy is still very much in the mix, but St. Mary’s is on top for now, and Lincoln is on the rise.

Lincoln beat Tracy 1-0 on Monday via a walk-off single from Joseph Chalco and a complete-game shutout from pitcher Keegan Wallen, and ascends in my latest Prep Baseball Power Rankings for large schools. The top five for small schools is identical to a week ago.

Large schools

1. ST. MARY’S (1) 12-10, 9-1 TCAL

The explanation: This team just does not get fazed. Tracy led St. Mary’s 11-2 in the fifth inning on Friday in Stockton, on the verge of forcing a first-place tie atop the TCAL and earning the tiebreaker with St. Mary’s should they end even in the standings. But the Rams rallied back furiously, capped with a bases-clearing, walk-off triple from Jarron Silva, who tore around third and scored on a throwing error. The all-around play of Silva, the bat of sophomore first baseman Christian Almanza and the pitching of senior righty Isaiah Bettencourt fuel these Rams.

2. MANTECA (3) 15-4, 7-0 VOL

The explanation: In a season full of parity for the Valley Oak League, the Buffaloes have managed to stay unscathed thus far, and have swept key series against Oakdale and Sierra. Manteca has also beaten area teams like Lincoln and McNair, keeping them high in these power rankings. Ronaldo Tijero, a first-team All-Area football player, may be well on his way to a first-team All-Area baseball campaign.

3. LINCOLN (4) 12-10, 8-2 TCAL

The explanation: The Trojans don’t have the powerful bats of a year ago, or the experience but they have an exceptional defense — as they showed on Monday with catcher Zach Morgan throwing out two runners, Chalco gunning down a runner at home plate from center field and shortstop Dez Gaines tracking down a difficult pop-up. Wallen is a pensive, incredibly smart presence atop the rotation, and Jordan Olson has been raking and pitching quite well for the Trojans. No matter what, Lincoln will be competing for at least a share of a TCAL title next week in its three-game set with St. Mary’s.

4. TRACY (2) 16-6, 6-4 TCAL

The explanation: Tracy still has an excellent chance to win the section’s Division I South, and in fact, I’d say that’s more likely than winning the TCAL given their brutal past nine days or so. Reason to keep faith in the Bulldogs: they’re experienced, their lineup is balanced and the rotation of seniors Noah Denoyer and Thomas Greely and junior Cody Bolton is unrivaled in this area.

5. BEAR CREEK (5) 14-5-1, 8-0 SJAA

The explanation: Bruins coach Peter Pijl, the former longtime St. Mary’s coach, has done an excellent job in his return to high school baseball. Bear Creek has won eight consecutive games, and has outscored its San Joaquin Athletic Association opponents by a combined 86-18. That’s an average score of 11-2. Wow. Huge series: Bear Creek and second-place McNair square off in a three-game set next week. Bear Creek hosts McNair on Tuesday and Friday, and McNair entertains Bear Creek on Tuesday, all set for 4 p.m.

On the Bubble: East Union, McNair, Sierra

Small schools

1. LINDEN (1) 15-5, 10-2 MLL

2. RIPON (2) 16-3, 6-0 TVL

3. ARGONAUT (3) 11-8, 9-3 MLL

4. ESCALON (4) 9-10, 4-2 TVL

5. RIPON CHRISTIAN (5) 12-5, 5-1 SL

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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St. Mary’s Cayton looking outside of Nebraska

St. Mary's guard Mi'Cole Cayton, left, has de-committed from Nebraska women's basketball. RECORD FILE PHOTO

The bad news: St. Mary’s senior guard Mi’Cole Cayton was ecstatic to play for Nebraska women’s basketball and longtime coach Connie Yori. But Yori has resigned for what she called personal reasons, likely after being accused of mistreating her players and creating a negative culture, leaving Cayton devastated, according to ESPN.com. Cayton has been granted a partial release from the Cornhuskers as a result so she can weight her options.

The good news: Cayton is an excellent NCAA Division I college basketball player in waiting, and will have her choice of terrific programs. Cayton, a three-time first-team All-Area guard, is considered the No. 80 prospect in the class of 2016, according to ESPN. And, according to that same story, Cayton has drawn interest from Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Rutgers, San Diego State, UCLA and Utah.

Check back with The Record, stocktonpreps.com and recordnet.com/sportsblog for more on this story.

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All-Area Softball Player of the Year Watchlist

East Union softball's Samantha Owen (right) turns a double play in an extra-innings win on April 16, 2015 at Sierra. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/RECORD FILE 2015

Brian Goulart has seen a long string of exceptional softball players in his 15 years as East Union coach.

Michelle Castro, though, may be having the best season he’s seen.

Goulart declared that after a recent win at Manteca. And Castro, a commit to William Penn in Iowa, is certainly backing him up with phenomenal play.

Castro leads off my first All-Area Softball Player of the Year Watchlist for 2016. Castro’s teammate, senior shortstop Sam Owen, is The Record’s reigning MVP.

MICHELLE CASTRO (East Union 1B, Sr.)

Castro is up into the stratosphere now, batting .600 with four home runs, seven doubles, two triples and 14 RBI. Those 14 RBI are even more impressive because she’s the lead-off hitter, and has 12 stolen bases. Goulart said her defensive play is top-notch as well.

HANNAH RUSSELL (St. Mary’s C, Sr.)

Russell, a senior bound for Santa Clara softball, a West Coast Conference opponent of Pacific, is still plenty driven. The reigning All-Area first-team catcher is batting .375 with two homers, two triples and four doubles, and is an excellent backstop for the Rams. She’s also quite patient at the plate, and boasts a .483 on-base percentage.

SAM OWEN (East Union SS, Sr.)

Though Owen isn’t posting the same power numbers as she did in her award-winning 2015, probably partially because other sluggers in that lineup in Cherish Burks (Oregon softball) and Alexis Erich (injured) aren’t next to her. But Owen is still batting .523 with three homers, seven doubles and a co-team-high 17 RBI (with catcher Alejandra Rascon). She’s heading to Pacific softball and longtime coach Brian Kolze next year.

HAIGHLEY KISSEE (Manteca P, Jr.)

Kissee is absolutely pivotal to the Buffaloes, and is smashing her way to a .556 batting average with 13 doubles, a triple and 19 RBI. In the circle, Kissee is 13-6 with a 1.77 ERA, with 19 complete games, 142 strikeouts and 30 walks.

SAIGE PYE (Bear Creek IF, Jr.)

Pye is slugging her way to what could be a third consecutive first-team All-Area season. The Georgia Tech verbal commit, who played for St. Mary’s as a freshman before transferring to Bear Creek as a sophomore, is batting .582 with seven home runs, six doubles, four triples and 23 RBI. Her OPS is an unearthly 1.889. Pye has 22 home runs through parts of three varsity seasons, which is tied for 26th all-time in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports record book, which is a couple years old. Crazily enough, an area player is tied for the all-time record. That’s Elliot Christian’s Kaila Shull, who blasted 45 homers from 2003-2006, tied with San Pedro’s Perelini Koria, who did it from 2005-2008. If Pye hits a few more this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if she pushed the mid 30s.

KAYLA KAPPMEYER (Calaveras P/1B, Jr.)

Kappmeyer kick-starts the Redskins lineup, dominating her way to a .508 average, three triples, eight doubles and a team-high 29 RBI. While her ERA isn’t flashy, at 4.39, she’s a solid pitcher in the circle and is 10-2 with four complete games.

LINDSEY WALLJASPER (Sierra P, So.)

Walljasper is the ace of the Timberwolves, sure, at 8-2 in the circle with eight completes games and a 0.79. But Walljasper, younger sister of LSU pitcher Allie Walljasper, can rake: batting .471 with one triple, two homers and three doubles for the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champions.

HAILEY MARTIN (West IF, Sr.)

Martin, a returning first-team All-Area selection, has team-highs with eight doubles and 24 RBI, and has a .433 batting average. The Wolf Pack is a dangerous team, especially offensively, and though it is fourth in the TCAL race, it is far from out of earning an automatic playoff bid (top three TCAL teams do).

MIKAYLA COELHO (Tracy P, Jr.)

Coelho is the Bulldogs cleanup hitter, and justifies that spot by batting .457 with six extra-base hits and nine RBI, and in the circle, is 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA and five complete games.

CARLEY MORFEY (St. Mary’s P, So.)

Morfey is often the only pitcher St. Mary’s uses, except for when Kiana Parrish threw a six-inning complete game against Lodi on Tuesday, and is 7-7 with a 3.88 ERA, but with 13 complete games. Those numbers don’t reflect her skill, as she’s faced some incredible competition, and also, has been battling a bad back. But she’s on her because she also hits the ball quite well, at .362 with five doubles and 12 RBI.

RACHEL CID (Tracy SS, So.)

Cid is such a feared hitter, that St. Mary’s walked her three times in their most recent meeting. Cid, the defending All-Area first-team third baseman, is batting .438 with two triples, three home runs and eight doubles with a team-high 20 RBI. Her 1.423 OPS (on-base plus slugging) is jaw-droppingly high.

MARISA PETERS (Linden P, Sr.)

Peters is the ace for the Lions, they of MLL and Sac-Joaquin Section championship dreams, and is 15-3 with a 2.32 ERA, nine complete games and 123 strikeouts. She’s also wielding the bat quite well, hitting .477 with seven extra-base hits and 13 RBI.

DEVI COGLIO (Sierra 3B, Sr.)

Coglio, a key member of last year’s section championship run, is pummeling the softball. She’s batting .405 with two homers, three doubles and three triples and has six stolen bases and a phenomenal OPS of 1.287.

MORE NAMES TO WATCH

Taylor Ward, East Union

Taylor Mamola, St. Mary’s

Alanda Cardon, Calaveras

Danielle Pfennig, Lodi

Janae Sims, West

Bradi Kooyman, Elliot Christian

Jenna Nauta, Franklin

Danielle Sperry, Ripon*

Christina Martinez, Stagg

Julianna DeAnda, Sierra

Alejandra Rascon, East Union

Shelby Featherston, Lodi

Cierra Hylton, Tracy

Delaney Pamplin, East Union

Jenna Schneider, Tokay

Alex Preston, St. Mary’s

Taya Escalante, Linden

Kendelle Messersmith, Sierra

Korina Krueg, Tokay

*No statistics on MaxPreps.com so I had nothing to use to consider her for the main list.

Note: Linden’s Carly Lucchetti is batting a hand injury currently, and wouldn’t been mentioned on here if not for that injury. She has been phenomenal, batting .638 with five extra-base hits, 23 stolen bases and 11 RBI.

COACH OF THE YEAR WATCHLIST

Vic DeAnda, Sierra

Brian Goulart, East Union

John Fuhrman, St. Mary’s

Michelle Guardado, Lodi

Paulette Keeney, Tracy

Mark Miller, Linden

Mike Koepp, Calaveras

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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All-Area Baseball Player of the Year Watchlist

High school baseball home runs were already hard enough to come by.

As boys, not yet men physically, learn to hit with power, they don’t start parking the ball over the fence overnight. Especially now that the bats are weaker than they used to be.

In May of 2009, the NCAA sought to take away the unbelievable power of the old aluminum bats. Now, new bats that fit the BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution) are used. (No, I have no idea how to calculate BBCOR or what it really means. All we know, is that aluminum bats in high school and college are weaker, and the “ping” sound has been replaced with something akin to a high-pitched “thud”).

So, it’s absolutely amazing what Tracy junior Lee Brewer is doing. Brewer, the Bulldogs’ everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter, is tied for second in the state and tied for first in Northern California with seven home runs this season. Couple that with his four homers from an injury-shortened sophomore campaign, and Brewer’s 11 career long bombs are three behind the Tracy High record of 14.

Brewer is one of several players who have put together excellent campaigns, and are on the radar for The Record’s All-Area Baseball Player of the Year award. Here’s a brief look at each, with some more names to watch.

LEE BREWER (Tracy 3B, Jr.)

Brewer is not only hitting for power, but contact. The kid who might have the best baseball name I’ve heard in a long time, is batting .440 with seven doubles and 22 RBI, with a .613 on-base percentage and a more-than-Ruthian 1.000 slugging percentage.

JARRON SILVA (St. Mary’s OF, Sr.)

Silva was never worried. Not when the senior, UCLA baseball commit and first-team All-Area center fielder was hitting below .250 earlier in the year. Silva has been scalding of late, up to .333 with seven extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases. He’s lightning fast and has a rocket arm in center field.

RONALDO TIJERO (Manteca OF, Sr.)

As I wrote in my weekly column, Tijero has the chance to be the first player in my time at The Record to be first-team football and baseball. Last year, former teammate Dom Pisano was first-team football and second-team baseball. Tijero has the most pop of any Buffalo, on the team that leads the Valley Oak League by three games, batting .385 with four triples, six doubles and 23 RBI, and is showing off that wide receiver speed with 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

ZACK MATHIS (Bear Creek SS, Sr.)

When first-year Pacific baseball coach Mike Neu came to town, he and his staff had to analyze former coach Ed Sprague’s incoming recruiting class for 2016, and decide which recruits to keep. Mathis, who can truly hit, has speed and can field, was a player they were happy to keep. He was an honorable mention All-Area baseball pick last season, and is a key reason why Bear Creek sits atop the San Joaquin Athletic Association.

THOMAS GREELY (Tracy 2B/P, Sr.)

Greely was a spot starter as a junior pitcher, but has dazzled for the Bulldogs of late. He’s thrown two consecutive complete-game victories, including a 5-0 win against St. Mary’s on Wednesday, and is 6-0 with a 1.17 ERA. Not to mention, Greely is batting .333 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBI. Not many of the top pitchers in the region can rake, too, and Greely certainly can, which is why he’s a contender here.

NICK CHAPMAN (McNair, Sr.)

McNair is a game behind Bear Creek, thanks in large part to the contact hitting and speed of Chapman. He’s batting .481 with five doubles and 14 RBI, with a disgusting (in a good way) OPS of 1.205. Chapman also has five stolen bases.

ANTHONY LUCCHETTI (Linden IF, Sr.)

Lucchetti is a centerpiece of a resurgent Lions team, one which leads the Mother Lode League by one game over Argonaut. The Linden infielder is batting .421 with two triples, six doubles and 23 RBI, with a team-high 17 stolen bases, and is 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in seven pitching appearances.

MARCO GONZALES (East Union IF/P, Sr.)

Gonzales has been one of the VOL’s and the area’s most underrated players since he was a junior. The Lancers’ ace is 5-1 with a 1.79 ERA and five complete games, averaging one strikeout per inning. Oh, and he’s an excellent hitter, too, batting .391 with five doubles.

CHRISTIAN ALMANZA (St. Mary’s 1B, So.)

While Silva’s dominance was expected, the lefty Almanza burst onto the varsity scene quickly. The Rams’ cleanup hitter is batting a team-high .353, with eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI. His maturity as an underclassman batter is very, very high, and he’s mastered the lost art of driving the ball to the opposite field. Especially for a young hitter, the ability to watch a pitch well into the strike zone and tag it the other way is key.

JORDAN OLSON (Lincoln OF/P, Sr.)

Olson is a critical reasons why the Trojans are 6-2 in Tri-City Athletic League play, and along with Tracy, one game behind St. Mary’s (7-1 TCAL) in the standings. The Lincoln senior is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts on the mound, and is batting .304 with a homer, a triple and five doubles.

MORE NAMES TO WATCH

Kevin Saenz (Tracy C, Sr.)

Steven Rios (Sierra IF/P, Sr.)

Cody Bolton (Tracy P, Jr.)

Peyton Padilla (McNair IF, Sr.)

Owen McGrattan (Linden P/OF, Sr.)

Wyatt Mims (Lodi OF/IF, Sr.)

Josh Alvarado (Tracy OF, So.)

Nick Dentoni (Tokay SS/P, Sr.)

Mitch Balmut (Manteca OF/P, Sr.)

Brennon Berninger (Tokay IF/P, Sr.)

Coach of the Year Watchlist

Vic Alkire, Tracy

Neil MacDannald, Manteca

Rob Selna, St. Mary’s

Peter Pijl, Bear Creek

Chris Herrera, Linden

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Phone: 209-546-8272

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Updated Softball Power Rankings

Junior pitcher Delaney Pamplin is a big reason why the East Union softball team is 16-0. RECORD FILE 2015

Nothing seems to faze the East Union softball team.

The Lancers (16-0, 8-0 Valley Oak League), the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions, are ranked 11th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, 48th in the nation via MaxPreps’ computer rankings and are on a 19-game winning streak dating to last May.

East Union stunned Oakdale with a walk-off, three-run home run from Alejandra Rascon last week, and Tuesday at Sierra, won in eight innings via a three-run top of the eighth.

In short, East Union is an obvious No. 1 in my latest Prep Softball Power Rankings, with a top five for large and small schools in The Record’s coverage area.

Large schools

1. EAST UNION (1) 16-0, 8-0 VOL

The explanation: Though Oakdale and Sierra are very close to East Union, the Lancers are ultra-confident in pressure-filled situations. Michelle Castro, the senior first baseman and leadoff hitter, is having what coach Brian Goulart called one of the best seasons ever for an East Union position player: batting .596 with four homers, six doubles, two triples, 14 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Dates to watch: Oakdale hosts East Union at 4 p.m. on May 10 in their regular-season finale.

2. SIERRA (2) 10-3, 7-3 VOL

The explanation: Sierra has been right on East Union’s heels both times they’ve played, and is one of the most underrated teams in The Record’s coverage area given what their crosstown rival has done. Sophomore Lindsey Walljasper has had an excellent follow-up to being first-team All-Area as a freshman, batting .471 with six extra-base hits and 11 RBI, and in the circle, she’s 8-3 with nine complete games. Before the East Union loss, her ERA was a miniscule 0.79.

3. TRACY (4) 14-4, 8-2 TCAL

The explanation: The Bulldogs have already won their TCAL series against St. Mary’s, and thus own the tiebreaker despite being even in the loss column in the league standings. Rachel Cid, the Bulldogs’ No. 3 hitter, is another returning first-team All-Area selection, and is so feared that St. Mary’s walked her three times in their most recent game. Cid is batting .438 with 13 extra-base hits and 20 RBI.

4. ST. MARY’S (3) 9-7, 7-2 TCAL

The explanation: St. Mary’s got back on track by routing Lodi by 10 runs in six innings Tuesday on the road, impressive given Lodi has handled West and beat Tracy earlier this season. Even more impressive, St. Mary’s won without usual pitcher Carley Morfey on the mound, showing some versatility even against quality competition. Six of St. Mary’s usual starters are batting above .300.

5. LODI (5) 9-6, 6-4 TCAL

The explanation: Lodi has still earned its spot with the big dogs, despite a rough outing against St. Mary’s. The Flames are powered by sophomore pitcher Shelby Featherston, who’s 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA. Coach Michelle Guardado has overseen quite an improvement in one year, after Lodi went 1-14 in TCAL play last spring.

Small schools

1. RIPON (4) 10-3, 2-0 TVL

2. CALAVERAS (2) 13-3, 10-1 MLL

3. LINDEN (1) 15-4, 10-2 MLL

4. ESCALON (3) 15-5, 3-1 TVL

5. MILLENNIUM (NR) 14-1, 4-0 CCAA

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Updated Prep Baseball Power Rankings

The Tracy baseball team kept pounding on the door, but St. Mary’s wouldn’t relent.

Yes, the Bulldogs loaded the bases in three consecutive innings, before the Rams eventually sealed their 5-2 win on Monday at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, taking a two-game lead in the Tri-City Athletic League standings. Tracy, though, got its revenge today with a 5-0 victory at Monte Vista Middle School. The finale is at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Mary’s.

For now, here are my updated prep baseball large- and small-school power rankings, with an explanation for my large-school choices. To read my earlier rankings and my latest Prep Notebook, click here.

Large schools

1. ST. MARY’S (2) 10-10, 7-1 TCAL

The explanation: Facing juggernauts like Serra, Jesuit and Elk Grove has paid off again for St. Mary’s, which is thriving behind the electric bat of sophomore Christian Almanza: a left-handed hitting first baseman and cleanup batter. St. Mary’s has earned a split against Tracy’s top two starters, Noah Denoyer (win) and Cody Bolton (loss), and must take advantage of home field on Friday.

2. TRACY (1) 16-4, 6-2 TCAL

The explanation: Tracy has outscored St. Mary’s 7-5 in this series, and has a better overall resume this season, but that earlier loss to Lodi sticks out. Game 3 on Friday will decide which of these teams will own the No. 1 Record ranking heading into next week.

3. MANTECA (3) 15-4, 7-0 VOL

The explanation: Even after a brutal start on Wednesday against Modesto-Central Catholic, and losing perhaps its top hitter to an ejection, Manteca rallied to prevail 11-8 after losing 4-0 after two innings. Manteca has at least a three-game lead over the rest of the field, with half of the Valley Oak League schedule done.

4. LINCOLN (4) 10-10, 6-2 TCAL

The explanation: The Trojans, though they’ve suffered frustrating losses to Lodi and West, have already clinched a series win against Tokay entering next week’s pivotal three-game set with Tracy. Dezmond Gaines is batting a team-high .351 for Lincoln. Starting pitchers Jordan Olson and Keegan Wallen both boast ERAs under 2.00.

5. BEAR CREEK (NR) 13-5-1, 7-0 SJAA

The explanation: The Bruins absolutely deserve this spot in the top five. Bear Creek, which leads the San Joaquin Athletic Association by a game over McNair, has won seven consecutive games. Its last loss? Not a bad one. How about 9-8 at Davis: ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.

On the Bubble: McNair, Sierra, East Union

Small schools

1. LINDEN (1) 15-5, 10-2 MLL

2. RIPON (4) 15-3, 5-0 TVL

3. ARGONAUT (3) 10-8, 8-3 MLL

4. ESCALON (2) 8-10, 3-2 TVL

5. RIPON CHRISTIAN (5) 12-5, 5-1 SL

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Prep Softball Power Rankings: Vol. II

East Union junior Mikayla Bongi pitches against Manteca in a Valley Oak League softball game on Thursday at Manteca High. East Union won 11-6. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

The East Union softball team faces one heck of a test tomorrow.

East Union hosts co-Valley Oak League leader Oakdale at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Northgate in Manteca. The Mustangs and Lancers have a combined nine VOL titles. Read about that and more from the VOL rivalry series, in this piece by The Modesto Bee’s James Burns (who also has East Union ranked No. 1).

My Prep Softball Power Rankings return, and you can bet the Lancers are top dogs:

Large schools

1. EAST UNION (1) 13-0, 5-0 VOL

The explanation: The Lancers are without senior slugger Alexis Erich, who has an injured knee and is out for the season, but seniors Michelle Castro and Taylor Ward are bashing the ball around the yard without a care. Plus, juniors Mikayla Bongi and Delaney Pamplin are a formidable pitching duo in the circle. Lancers coach Brian Goulart says Castro is having quite possibly the best season for a position player in program history. Castro is batting .609 with four homers, six doubles, a triple, 14 RBI, an on-base percentage of .625 and a slugging percentage of 1.043. Her 1.668 OPS (on-base plus slugging) is astounding.

2. SIERRA (3) 8-2, 5-2 VOL

The explanation: Sierra has lost to two of the best teams in the section in Oakdale and East Union, but is perfect besides that. Sophomore pitcher Lindsey Walljasper is almost always a guaranteed good start, and the Timberwolves have excellent hitters like Walljasper (.483), Devi Coglio (.438, seven extra-base hits) and Julianna DeAnda (three HRs, 17 RBI). Sierra has held strong, and moves up after former No. 2 Tracy lost to Lodi 3-0.

3. ST. MARY’S (5) 7-6, 5-1 TCAL

The explanation: While Tracy owns the head-to-head, beating St. Mary’s 10-3 by breaking a late 3-all tie with a big inning, St. Mary’s is the one picking up steam. Plus, losing to Tracy is a better loss (on paper, this is not an insult) than losing to Lodi. Most importantly, St. Mary’s showed its potential last week by beating San Jose-Archbishop Mitty, one of the top teams in Northern California, at the Livermore Softball Stampede Tournament.

4. TRACY (2) 12-3, 6-1 TCAL

The explanation: Tracy might be frustrated to be fourth, since it leads the TCAL by  half a game and owns the current head-to-head over St.  Mary’s, and this week is the place to prove it. St. Mary’s hosts Tracy at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Arnaiz Stadium, and Tracy entertains St. Mary’s at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Tracy Sports Complex.

5. LODI (NR) 7-5, 3-3 TCAL

The explanation: West and Lodi both have arguments for this spot, as does Manteca, but the Flames have had a better run in the TCAL so far: Lodi has beaten Tracy, and its losses are two to Tracy, and one to St. Mary’s. West has one more TCAL win, but does not have a signature victory like Lodi’s 3-0 win over Tracy. Again, West can reverse this, this week, as it goes to Lodi at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and hosts Lodi at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

On the Bubble: Manteca, West, Tokay, Bear Creek, Franklin

Small schools

1. LINDEN (13-2, 8-0 MLL)

2. CALAVERAS (10-3, 7-1 MLL)

3. ESCALON (13-4, 1-0 TVL)

4. RIPON (8-3, 0-0 TVL)

5. ELLIOT CHRISTIAN (9-4, 2-1 CCAA)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Prep Baseball Power Rankings: Vol. II

Tracy catcher Kevin Saenz, center, throws out a base runner during his team's 7-2 Tri-City Athletic League loss to Lodi on Monday at Monte Vista Middle School in Tracy. PHOTO BY STU JOSSEY

Welcome back to The Record’s prep baseball power rankings. There was a shake-up in the Tri-City Athletic League today, but my No. 1 large-schools team remains.

Remember, the large schools are taken from the TCAL, San Joaquin Athletic Association and Valley Oak League. The new small-school rankings are taken from the Mother Lode League, Trans-Valley League, Southern League and Central California Athletic Alliance.

Enjoy!

Large schools

1. TRACY (1) 13-3, 3-1 TCAL

The explanation: Lodi shocked the Tri-City Athletic League by beating Tracy 7-2 on Monday at Monte Vista Middle School, yet the Bulldogs’ cumulative resume is still best in the area. Yes, even though St. Mary’s leads the TCAL by a game now. Their common opponent is Elk Grove. Tracy played Elk Grove once, and won 8-7 in extra innings. Elk Grove beat St. Mary’s 7-1 and 7-6. Tracy is ranked No.5  in Northern California by NorCalPreps, though will almost certainly slide backward after the Lodi loss.

2. ST. MARY’S (2) 7-9, 4-0 TCAL

The explanation: The Rams, a very young, still-learning team, have won the game they should’ve, and now own a one-game lead in the TCAL. That’s a wonderful thing for St. Mary’s, which could now lose its upcoming series against Tracy and leave with a (potential) first-place tie. Keep an eye on Lincoln, which you’ll see below, which won two close games over Lodi last week and pounded West today.

3. MANTECA (3) 12-4, 4-0 VOL

The explanation: The Valley Oak League may be wide open this year, but the Buffaloes are starting to look like the best bet. Manteca has already swept Oakdale, and plays at Sierra on Wednesday and hosts Sierra on Friday. Sierra hammered Central Catholic, an early favorite in the VOL, with a two-game sweep last week. Look out for Ronaldo Tijero, a first-team All-Area football pick for The Record, who’s a lethal bat for the Buffs.

4. LINCOLN (NR) 7-9, 3-1 TCAL

The explanation: Lincoln surges into my top five after a gritty series win over Lodi — which, apparently, is very legit after today’s win — and handling business against West in that series opener. Funny irony: the Trojans and rival St. Mary’s Rams have identical records.

5. SIERRA (NR) 9-4, 3-1 VOL

The explanation: Sierra could be interchanged here with any of the five bubble teams listed below, especially because it did split its series with East Union. But the Timberwolves are playing some of their best baseball, including a 3-2 win over Atwater-Buhach Colony today, where Jacob Peterson hit a walk-off single. Jack Thomson has been coaching baseball for 39 years, and has been Sierra’s head coach since the school opened in 1994. Veteran coaches like that have their players peak in May, and the Timberwolves might do just that.

On the Bubble: Tokay, Lodi, Bear Creek, East Union, McNair

Small schools

1. LINDEN (12-4, 7-1 MLL)

2. ESCALON (7-8, 2-0 TVL)

3. ARGONAUT (7-7, 6-2 MLL)

4. RIPON (12-3, 2-0 TVL)

5. RIPON CHRISTIAN (10-3, 3-1 SL)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Prep Softball Power Rankings: Vol. I

Junior pitcher Delaney Pamplin is a big reason why the East Union softball team is 11-0. RECORD FILE 2015

The rest of the state’s Division III should be happy there’s not a CIF State softball championship system.

Because East Union would be an absolute terror to face.

The Lancers are unbeaten thus far, have excellent junior starting pitchers in Delaney Pamplin and Mikayla Bongi, and some devastatingly-good hitters like Sam Owen and Michelle Castro.

That’s why East Union, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion, is an easy No. 1 for my first Prep Softball power rankings of the season.

1) EAST UNION (11-0, 3-0 VOL)

The only game the Lancers didn’t earn a win in, is one they didn’t play: as East Union and Oakdale agreed they didn’t want to face off in the NorCal Classic quarterfinals, likely wanting to avoid competing before their Valley Oak League matchups.

East Union, which was considered the state’s Div. III champion last year by Cal-Hi Sports, is led by the senior Castro, who’s raking at .645 with a team-high four home runs thus far. Owen is hitting .583 with two homers, four doubles and eight RBI.

2) TRACY (11-2, 5-0 TCAL)

The Bulldogs, who are batting .316 as a team, are perfect in their first of three five-game runs through the Tri-City Athletic League. St. Mary’s will not be an easy out, though. Though Tracy won the first matchup 10-3, it broke a 3-all tie late with a huge inning. Rachel Cid, a returning All-Area first-team selection, is batting .486 with 12 extra-base hits and 17 RBI. It’s the first year for coach Paulette Keeney, who takes over for Greg Smith, the former coach of 23 seasons.

3) SIERRA (7-2, 4-2 VOL)

The Timberwolves’ two losses are 2-0 to rival East Union and 7-1 to Oakdale today, both Valley Oak League games. Sierra, though, is the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champion, has a great sophomore ace in Lindsey Walljasper, younger sister of LSU pitcher Allie Walljasper, and a great lineup. Julianna DeAnda is batting .421 with three homers and Walljasper is hitting .480.

4) LINDEN (12-2, 7-0 MLL)

The Lions, seeking their sixth Sac-Joaquin Section championship, have been terrorizing the Mother Lode League and have already beaten a very good team in rival Calaveras. Linden also beat St. Mary’s 5-3 at home in a nonleague game in March. Linden is batting .411 as a team, paced by sophomore Carly Lucchetti, who’s batting a whopping .625. Sophomore pitcher Marisa Peters is 12-1 with a 1.35 ERA and six complete games, with 94 strikeouts to 33 walks.

5) ST. MARY’S (6-4, 5-1 TCAL)

The Rams could easily rocket up this list, and are down in this spot only because of the losses to Linden and Tracy. St. Mary’s is fueled by sophomore Carley Morfey who, despite battling a bad back, is batting .394 with a homer and has five wins pitching. Sophomore Alex Preston has been delivering big time, leading the Rams’ starters with a .513 batting average, with seven doubles.

On the Bubble: Escalon, Manteca, West, Bear Creek, Calaveras

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment
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