Local teams earn state rankings

Casa Grande's Eric Parnow pitches against Campolindo during the NCS Championship game on June 1.  Credit: Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Casa Grande’s Eric Parnow pitches against Campolindo during the NCS Championship game on June 1.
Credit: Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Empire baseball and softball is well represented in the final statewide polls.

Leading the pack is Casa Grande, with a No. 16 ranking in the Cal-Hi Sports State Baseball poll and Petaluma at No. 34 in softball.

Making statewide division level rankings are Analy, honorable mention for Division 3 baseball, and St. Vincent, rising to seventh in the Division 5 softball poll from Cal-Hi Sports.

“It’s a good showing for us. We can play some baseball up here,” said Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena.

One of Petaluma finest softball seasons was highlighted by big wins against some of the North Coast Section’s top teams.

“When you’re ranked among the best in the state, that’s a great season,” Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow said.

To be measured against the best, Empire teams must play the North Coast Section’s top squads. There are no California Interscholastic Federation state baseball or softball championship playoffs.

Gaining favorable seeds — along with improving Empire league schedule strength to help qualify teams for the playoffs — means matching up with perennial powers out of the East Bay in nonleague play.

Five of the six NCS baseball titles went to East Bay schools this season along with four of the six softball champions.

“You prepare. That’s why we like to play the East Bay,” Maytorena said. “With these showings we can make a case for our league.”

Both the Casa Grande baseball and the Petaluma softball teams earned top seeds in the section playoffs. The Gauchos and Trojans took league titles coming off strong nonleague play featuring a large dose of East Bay squads.

“We knew we had the talent, but we didn’t know how good we were,” Jastrow said. “You’ve got to show those people that you can play. Sooner or later you’re going to have to face them in the playoffs.”

Highlights for state ranked teams out of the Empire:

— Casa Grande (27-3): After falling in the season opener, Casa Grande won 21 games in a row including a victory over three time defending NCS Division 2 champion Campolindo. The teams met again, this time for the section title, with Campolindo winning behind a fourth consecutive playoff shutout for the state’s mythical top spot. Casa Grande finished third statewide in Division 2.

— Analy (23-6): Analy’s first section playoff appearance since 2009 was a memorable return. Following a dominant run to the Sonoma County League title, Analy took a pair of one-run games in three wins to reach the NCS Division 3 championship. One was an 11-inning victory over second seed Sir Francis Drake. Analy, the third seed, fell by a run to Acalanes, which won a third consecutive section crown.

— Petaluma (26-2): The Empire’s longest winning streak this season belonged to Petaluma’s stellar softball squad. After falling in the season opener, Petaluma ran off 26 consecutive victories to rise up the state rankings. Standing in the way of the NCS Division 2 title was Concord. The same team that defeated Petaluma in the 2012 championship contest ended the Trojans run with a 1-0 semifinal win.

— St. Vincent (17-8): Following a tough nonleague schedule featuring all the Empire large school teams St. Vincent could schedule, the Mustangs marched through the NCS Division 5 playoffs. St. Vincent posted an impressive 32-7 advantage in runs scored in three decisive playoff wins to capture a second consecutive section championship.

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