The Faster to First Tournament, hosted by Canyon High School of Anaheim, begins today and figures to be one of the toughest softball tournaments in the country; however, Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.)
coach James Fabianski already has his strategy figured out.
"Pray a lot," said the Sandburg coach, whose team is 2-0 on the season and ranked No. 4 in the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings
. "We have never played softball in California so I don't know much about the teams there. So we'll see."
Sandburg is one of five teams from the latest Xcellent 25 rankings competing in the tournament, which has a 30-team bracket. Other nationally ranked teams include Valencia (No. 2 overall), Stockdale of Bakersfield (No. 11), Elk Grove (No. 23) and Piedra Vista of Farmington, N.M. (No. 24). Pairings for the first round are at the end of the story.
The event also includes a number of teams ranked in the Southern Section rankings. They include Etiwanda (ranked No. 3 in Division I), Simi Valley (No. 4), and Oxnard (No. 3 in Division II). Defending Southern Section Division 3 champion Ayala is also competing while perennial Sac-Joaquin Section powerhouses Sheldon (Elk Grove) and Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove) will also be in attendance. Host Canyon, with All-American candidate
, will also be in the mix.
For Valencia (Calif.)
coach Donna Lee, the tournament will give her team the chance to see some of the best teams in the country.
"It is one of the most competitive high school softball tournaments in California," said Lee, whose team won the Dave Kopps Tournament in Bullhead City last week. "There are many great teams entered this year, Pleasant Grove, Elk Grove, Piedra Vista, Etiwanda, Stockdale."
Lee adds that pitching will be the difference for her team, but don't underestimate her team's hitting prowess.
"Our strength has been our junior pitcher, Carly Mortensen
. She is a year older and is throwing with more confidence. Our power has been a surprise. We have scored a lot of runs in our first 11 games so we have to keep taking care of business with runners in scoring position."
For Piedra Vista (Farmington, N.M.)
coach Kevin Werth, it will give his team a chance to show that it can compete with the best California has to offer.
"We have the kids to compete against anyone in the country if we play to our ability," said Werth. "This will be our third year making the trip so our kids know what to expect when we get there."
Werth notes that Piedra Vista plays the top competition in New Mexico throughout the year and feels that competition will help his team this week.
"Obviously we are a rural state, so the number of quality teams is not near what it is in California," he said. "However, we do have some very good softball teams in New Mexico that could very well compete with the best in the country. We just don't have as many."
One thing that Werth has going for him is senior Karysta Donisthorpe
, a New Mexico University commit who is one of the top pitchers in the country. She has led Piedra Vista to 77 straight wins over New Mexico schools prior to last week's two losses to Las Cruces and Onate.
"Her composure is amazing, when you look out in the circle you would never know if we were up by 10 or down by 10," said Werth. "She has worked at this for a long time and I think any coach will tell you that being mentally tough and staying composed is a huge strength in a pitcher."
Fabianski also brings one of the nation's best players to the Faster to First Tournament. His catcher, Lexi Bryant
, was a MaxPreps All-American last year and figures to be the top non-pitcher in Illinois this year.
"She is just an awesome person and a true team player," said Fabianski.
Last year, Bryant hit .504 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. She will play at Kansas University next season.
Bryant and Donisthorpe are just two of the many potential All-Americans who are set to play in the tournament this weekend. Others to watch include:* Shelby Wisdom, Elk Grove -
Sacramento Bee Metro Player of the Year in 2010, went 16-2 last year with 12 shutouts and 269 strikeouts in 143 innings pitched.* Ally Carda, Pleasant Grove -
All-Metro pick by the Sacramento Bee, Carda had a 0.54 ERA with 331 strikeouts last season and batted .512.* Cheyanne Tarango, Canyon -
Posted a 21-5 record and earned All-Southern Section honors last season. She had 13 shutouts and struck out 219 batters in 179 innings pitched.* Lauren Chamberlain, El Toro -
Batted .533 last season with six home runs and was the Orange County Register Player of the Year.
The Faster to First Tournament, sponsored by Demarini & Wilson Sports, will begin with first round games on today at the Huntington Beach Sports Complex. The championship game is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.Following are the first round matchups:Elk Grove (Calif.)
vs. Carson (Calif.)
, 1:30 p.m.Freedom (Oakley, Calif.)
vs. Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.)
, 1:30 p.m.Etiwanda (Calif.)
vs. Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.)
, 2:30 p.m.Norco (Calif.)
vs. Hanford West (Calif.)
, 2:30 p.m.Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.)
vs. Sunnyslope (Phoenix)
, 7:30 p.m.Marina (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
vs. Oxnard (Calif.)
, 2:30 p.m.Canyon (Anaheim, Calif.)
vs. Piedra Vista (Farmington, N.M.)
, 1:30 p.m.Ursuline (New Rochelle, N.Y.)
has a byeElmwood Park (Ill.)
has a byePleasant Grove (Elk Grove, Calif.)
vs. Clackamas (Ore.)
, 1:30 p.m.Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
vs. Stockdale (Bakersfield, Calif.)
, 4:30 p.m.Ayala (Chino Hills, Calif.)
vs. Simi Valley (Calif.)
, 4:30 p.m.Cienega (Vail, Ariz.)
vs. Poly (Riverside, Calif.)
, 3:30 p.m.Alvin (Texas)
vs. El Modena (Orange, Calif.)
, 3:30 p.m.Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.)
vs. El Toro (Lake Forest, Calif.)
, 3:30 p.m.Valencia (Calif.)
vs. El Camino Real (Woodland Hills, Calif.)
, 3:30 p.m.