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CIF Sac-Joaquin Section softball championships: Finals previews, brackets, players to watch for Divisions 1-4

Hilmar, Woodland Christian, and Big Valley Christian have already won CIFSJS titles, but four more will be decided on Saturday.

Three divisions in the Sac-Joaquin Section have crowned 2022 softball champions, but Divisions 1, 2, 3, and 4 are still up for grabs. Heading into championships on Saturday, May 28, SBLive has you covered with finals previews and playoff brackets for each division below.

Note that all remaining games are to be played at Sacramento City College except the Division 3 game, which will take place at Delta College.


CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: No. 1 Sheldon (26-5) vs. No. 3 Lincoln Stockton (24-4-1) – 1:30 p.m.

Like we said going into the semifinals, top-seeded Sheldon is the favorite to win Division 1, but the margin is so small that it hardly exists. In fact, Lincoln is one of the few teams to beat the Huskies this season, coming by a score of 2-1 in their second game of the year. So to call either team winning an upset would be a stretch, although Lincoln's March 3 win did come at home whereas Lincoln will be on the road on Saturday.

Sheldon has a scary lineup featuring Reina Zermeno, Dakota Kennedy, Imani Black, and D'Auna Johnson, in addition to two-way star Jaylee Ojo. With primary starter Breanna Romero followed up by Ojo when needed, Sheldon has the pitching to navigate a Trojans squad that has a scary lineup in its own right.

That includes Jordan Hays and two-way stars Danielle Hunter and Peja Goold. Goold pitched a gem when the Trojans beat Sheldon in March – and just about every other time she's been in the circle this season for that matter. She's tossed dominant shutouts in all three playoff games so far, against Stagg, Whitney, and Folsom, and she's now 16-3 with a 0.85 ERA in 131 innings of work.

Goold can almost singlehandedly win Lincoln a game against just about any team in the section, with only Central Catholic having substantial success against her this season. Only once has she allowed more than two earned runs this season, but with the good pitching Lincoln will be facing in turn and Sheldon's offensive dominance as of late, two runs might not be good enough to win the Trojans this game. Either way, if you take out home field advantage, it's a tossup.


CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: No. 1 Del Oro (25-4) vs. No. 2 St. Francis (26-3) – 4 p.m.

Although there were plenty of legitimate contenders in the Division 2 bracket, it comes as no surprise that the two top seeds and top-ranked teams in the division, Del Oro and St. Francis (Sacramento), will meet in the finals.

While St. Francis is the lower seed and will be the away team, it comes in with arguably a bit more momentum. Since getting beaten soundly by Sheldon to get knocked out of Delta League title contention, the Troubadours have put together an impressive six-game winning streak. They shut out Vintage and Pleasant Grove, allowed only one run each in wins against Elk Grove and Cordova, and have now shut out River Valley and again Elk Grove. The same stars leading the charge in terms of pitching – UConn committed twins P Hope Jenkins and C Grace Jenkins – are also their top hitters.

St. Francis has been lights-out lately and has a solid chance of bringing home a championship on Saturday. But Del Oro has a slight edge here. Not only did the Golden Eagles defeat St. Francis 4-0 when they met in the regular season, but they even beat Delta League champion and top seed in Division 1, Sheldon, by a score of 7-3. For the record, the head-to-head matchup was a Del Oro home game instead of a neutral one, plus both of those games were well over two months ago. And, in between them, Del Oro fell to Elk Grove which St. Francis is 3-0 against this season. But it's fair to call top-seeded Del Oro a narrow favorite here.

The Golden Eagles, like St. Francis, have a two-way star in ace pitcher and key hitter Caroline Grimes, a UC Davis commit. Put her together with Haylee Engelbrecht, Olivia Robison, and Kendal Manley, and Del Oro has one of the best batting cores around. When the two teams met in March, Grimes not only tossed a shutout but hit a home run to boot. And while H. Jenkins did allow three earned runs, which she almost never does, she also only allowed three hits and one walk while striking out 14.


CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: No. 2 Central Catholic (26-3-1) vs. No. 4 Vista Del Lago (23-4-1) – 11 a.m.

Even though it's Division 3, this division final could actually be the section's highest-level matchup. Vanden and Central Catholic entered the week as the two top-ranked Sac-Joaquin Section teams in our statewide top 25, and even though the Eagles haven't quite been at that level this season, they haven't been far behind. Plus, after knocking off the unbeaten top-seeded Vikings, some might actually have them as the favorite in this game.

While we give VDL a very likable chance on Saturday, we have Central Catholic as the clear favorite. For the Raiders, giving up 26 runs on the entire season is comically impressive. They've played 30 games. That's an average of fewer than 0.9 runs allowed per game. And while they've played a lot of non-elite teams, they've played more than enough against big-time competition for that statistic to be as, well, comical as it sounds. In addition to great team-wide defense, you can primarily thank ace Randi Roelling for that, as she's only allowed 13 earned runs in 161 innings this season for a fantastic ERA of 0.57. Oh, and the Cal commit is also first in the state and sixth in the country in strikeouts with 376 of them. She's also been the team's top hitter behind freshman star Jazmarie Roberts.

That said, the Eagles are right there in this matchup, as Charlize Cai has emerged as a star pitcher in her own right, and Annabella Hess gives them a serious bullpen option. Cai is coming off a three-hitter against Vanden and has barely had a bad day in the circle all season. Where VDL has a major advantage is in both the top-end talent and the depth of its lineup at bat. Arizona commit Tayler Biehl is one of the best hitters in California with team-highs of .582 BA, .660 OBP, 1.812 OPS, eight homers, 13 doubles, four triples, and 25 total extra-base hits. To make it even scarier, she's lethal on the base paths, with 18 steals on the year helping her amass a whopping 46 runs scored. And that's all in only 24 games. Cai, Hess, Olivia Manchester (another good pitcher), Sammy Smith, and Morgan Sweet round out VDL's stacked offense.

Expect a pitchers' duel. If either pitcher/defense doesn't bring their A-game, both offenses will make them pay. But otherwise, first team to three runs – maybe even two runs – almost certainly wins.


CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: No. 1 Dixon (21-1-1) vs. No. 2 Marysville (20-4) – 11 a.m.

While it is Division 4, don't be fooled – even outside of the section's top three divisions, great softball is played, and both of these teams are formidable. After scoring six runs in both of its prior playoff games, top-seeded Dixon is the clear favorite for its outstanding record and 6-3 win against Marysville in March. 

Brianna Humphrees, who's committed to San Diego Christian College, has a surreal hitting line including 11 homers, 45 RBIs, and a 1.786 OPS on her way to scoring 40 runs. And Felesha LePenske and Lexi Coyle are also putting up astronomical numbers on a team with an OPS well above 1.100 and numerous other big-time bats. LePenske and Coyle are also the team's pitchers, and either one could be starting on Saturday. The Rams got blown out by Northern Section heavyweight East Nicolaus early in the season and had a tie against Pinole Valley in a five-inning tournament game, but other than that, they're unbeaten, with victims including Benicia, Ripon, and of course, Marysville.

The Indians are also led by a superstar hitter, Michigan commit Jenissa Conway, who has similar splits as Humphrees, and a host of other threats such as Maya Larsen, Sophia Tyler, Mikayla Haggard, and Liberty Quillin. Marysville pitcher Andi Duff hasn't been as statistically overwhelming as Dixon's pitching duo, but she's still very good and gives her squad a chance to win nearly every single time she toes the rubber. She's also an important bat in the lineup.





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