Sometimes, a regional powerhouse looms over the rest of the high school softball scene, casting a considerable shadow of greatness.
Sheldon roared to five Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships since 2011 under coach Mary Jo Truesdale and bounded into this season as the area’s top-ranked team with a wealth of returning talent. But the Huskies are human, having fallen to Whitney 4-3 in an opener, then to Lincoln of Placer County 4-1 and at rival Elk Grove last week 5-1 in a Delta League game.
Sheldon (2-3) might be the best No. 8-ranked Bee team in memory, and Truesdale isn’t the least bit concerned long term about her team.
Del Oro is ranked No. 1 by The Bee — for now — at 7-1 with a team built to last. Three freshmen, two juniors and a sophomore are batting .390 or better for coach Sean Erickson, in his seventh season with the program. The Golden Eagles were a section power in the 1990s under famed coach Mike Takayama, who also won more than 600 games as the school’s basketball coach.
Del Oro went 12-10-1 last season. It’s a young team anchored by senior pitcher Amanda DuPriest, who has signed with the University of Texas at El Paso.
Del Oro wins include 4-1 over No. 2 Rocklin in Sierra Foothill League play. The loss was 4-1 last week to Folsom, which went from being unranked by The Bee to No. 10.
And hello Emma Falen. The Folsom freshman ace allowed one hit against Del Oro, walked one and struck out 11 for the Bulldogs, whose leading hitter that day was another freshman, Dakota Kennedy, who hammered two home runs.
Coach Paige Braithwaite has Folsom in the SFL race at 4-2 overall after the Bulldogs went 5-16-1 two years ago and 6-14 last season. The program last fielded a winning season in 2010, at 14-6, and bottomed out at 2-25 in 2013.
An impact pitcher and slugger can transform teams in a hurry. Kennedy is batting .650 with 12 RBIs, three doubles and four homers in 20 at-bats. Falen has 35 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
The SFL is so strong all six teams is ranked by The Bee, including Whitney, Granite Bay and Oak Ridge.
Rocklin is led by pitchers Nichole Sarra, Taylor Fitzgerald and Brooke Thompson and faces Folsom and Whitney this week.
The Thunder have surged under first-year coach Mallory Asaro. The program went 24-3 in 2016 and dipped to 8-11 last season.
Power and depth
Led by its own 1-2 freshman punch of hitters Malaya Johnson (.438 average) and Makayla Newsom (.515), Roseville is ranked third by The Bee at 8-2.
Roseville is coached by one of the region’s greatest softball winners in Art Banks, who led the program in the 1990s and then led Woodcreek to championship success in the 2000s.
Cosumnes Oaks, ranked fifth, started the season with a 7-4 loss at Roseville and has won 10 consecutive games since. Kennedy Thomas, a senior, is batting .562 with 15 RBIs for the Wolfpack.
There has been discussion within the CIF and its 10 member sections across the state of adding regional championship play in Northern and Southern California for baseball and softball, perhaps as early as 2021.
In baseball, Bay Area powers often take on heavies from this region, including this season.
Valley Christian of San Jose is top ranked in Northern California by Cal-Hi Sports and NorCalPreps, beating No. 2 Saint Francis of Mountain View 6-0 last week. Valley Christian also owns a 5-4 win over Bee No. 5 Jesuit and an 8-6 win over Bee No. 4 Elk Grove.
De La Salle of Concord is ranked No. 3 in NorCal by Cal-Hi and NorCal Preps, and the Spartans have wins over Elk Grove and Jesuit. Elk Grove and Jesuit remain highly ranked by The Bee due to strength of schedule.
Bee No. 1 Franklin is ranked fourth by NorCal Preps and No. 5 by Cal-Hi in Northern California.
Pioneer is 7-0 under longtime coach Craig Marquez and looms as the favorite in the Golden Empire League.
Easton Rodgers is batting .400 with 10 RBIs and 12 runs for the Patriots of Woodland. Hunter Timothy is 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 13 innings. William Ditler is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10 innings. Austin McKinney is 1-0 with 17 strikeouts in 10 innings.
Young Guy, old rivals
Guy Anderson lost his appendix but not his sense of humor, or his zest to coach.
A 900-game winner during his decorated baseball coaching career at Cordova, Anderson now delights in being an assistant to Nelson Randolph at Capital Christian. And having his appendix removed this month hasn’t slowed Anderson a bit.
He expects to be in full vocal and leader mode this week with a three-game set against Christian Brothers in the Capital Athletic League. Christian Brothers (6-0) is ranked seventh by The Bee and Capital Christian (4-1) is 10th.
CB was a chief rival of Cordova in the 1980s, and few coaching rivalries in area history for any sport were as spirited or fun as when Anderson took on Ron Limeberger, who died in 2004.
Xavier Carter leads Capital, the senior first baseman batting .583. Jordan Gonzales and Lars Jensen and lead CB with averages of .667 and .636.