It may be down to the last weekend in the race to see which school will be No. 1 in the nation in softball, but then again, maybe it isn't.
On Saturday night, in the CIF Southern Section Division I championship, which is the toughest title in the nation to win, given the single-elimination format and the All-American nature of many of the top players from the top teams, the mythical Rivals.com FAB 50 national title can be achieved if Simi Valley High wins it and wraps up a 31-0 season record.
The Pioneers put themselves into that position by winning twice earlier this week, including 1-0 on Tuesday in the semifinals over Norco, and have been helped from losses suffered by three teams ranked higher than them in the last FAB 50.
Previous No. 1 Sheldon of Sacramento did win the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title, but the Huskies also lost a game in that double-elimination format playoffs and have to drop behind four teams in this week's FAB 50. Previous No. 2 Klein Oak was ousted in the Class 5A state regional semifinals in Texas by two-time defending champ Garland, while previous No. 3 Escondido was upset in the CIF San Diego Section Division I playoffs by Helix of La Mesa.
Since Simi Valley is the only unbeaten team in power-packed California, that makes the Pioneers an obvious choice to finish No. 1 in that state's final rankings should they win on Saturday.
It's not going to be an easy task for head coach Russ Michael's squad to win that last game, either. The Pioneers will be facing defending FAB 50 national champion Valencia, which advanced to the final with a 3-2 win over Santiago of Corona. They will have to find a way to limit the damage that Valencia All-American Jessica Spigner unleashed against Santiago. The University of Tennessee-bound standout ripped a pair of homers and pitched a six-hitter in that game.
If Simi Valley loses, Sheldon would move back up to No. 1 for California but to get back to No. 1 in the nation would need a lot of help, beginning this weekend in the Class 4A state championships in North Carolina and Texas where No. 3 Butler and No. 4 Aledo are favored.
Also regarded as a strong favorite is Broad Run of Virginia. The Spartans won their 53rd straight game on Thursday with a 7-0 state playoff win over Fluvanna. They've also now gone 79-1 over the last three years and have five players headed to Division I colleges, led by pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba (Villanova).
A Simi Valley loss on Saturday would likely move up Broad Run to No. 1 in the FAB 50. And since the Spartans still have games to play after this weekend in their state playoffs, a Simi Valley loss also would extend the suspense over the final No. 1 ranking.
Another team that could be considered a national No. 1 contender is unbeaten Butler of Matthews, N.C. The Bulldogs ran their win streak to 56 games by blanking West Forsyth, 11-0 in the fourth round of the state Class 4A playoffs. University of North Carolina-bound Constance Orr hurled a two-hitter and drove in six runs with a 3-for-4 effort including two doubles. Butler will bid for its third straight state title this weekend in the Final Four. The Bulldogs haven't allowed an earned run all season.
Read below for the new Rivals.com FAB 50 national rankings for softball:
(Listed with most currently reported win-loss record as of May 28) (Previous FAB 50 ranking in parentheses) (Contributing: Doug Huff, Paul Muyskens)
1. Simi Valley (Simi Valley, Calif.) 30-0 (5)
2. Broad Run (Ashburn, Va.) 25-0 (4)
3. Butler (Charlotte, N.C.) 25-0 (9)
4. Aledo (Aledo, Texas) 36-1-1 (7)
5. Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) 32-2 (1)
6. Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.) 34-2 (8)
7. Naples (Naples, Fla.) 28-3 (11)
8. Pembroke Pines Charter (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) 30-1 (12)
9. Canyon del Oro (Tucson, Ariz.) 32-4 (15)
10. Garland (Garland, Texas) 31-5-2 (20)
11. Klein Oak (Klein, Texas) 24-2 (2)
12. Central Davidson (Lexington, N.C.) 29-0 (16)
13. Ooltewah (Chattanooga, Tenn.) 46-3-1 (13)
14. Valencia (Valencia, Calif.) 28-5 (40)
15. Bowie (Austin, Texas) 31-4 (32)
16. Basha (Chandler, Ariz.) 32-4 (17)
17. Santiago (Corona, Calif.) 26-4 (13)
18. Palmetto (Miami, Fla.) 26-3 (19)
19. Elyria (Elyria, Ohio) 22-1 (21)
20. Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.) 61-5-2 (23)
21. Bartram Trail (Jacksonville, Fla.) 30-3 (27)
22. Venice (Venice, Fla.) 31-1 (28)
23. Burlington Central (Burlington, Ill.) 32-1 (25)
24. Norco (Norco, Calif.) 29-6 (24)
25. Cibola (Albuquerque, N.M.) 31-1 (33)
26. San Benito (Hollister, Calif.) 28-4 (41)
27. Mt. Carmel (San Diego, Calif.) 27-4 (30)
28. Smithson Valley (Spring Branch, Texas) 32-4 (10)
29. Hoover (North Canton, Ohio) 25-2 (31)
30. Eastlake (Sammamish, Wash.) 26-4 (nr)
31. Shadle Park (Spokane, Wash.) 28-1 (6)
32. Hickory (Chesapeake, Va.) 24-1 (29)
33. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 23-3-1 (nr)
34. Palm Beach Gardens (Palm Beach, Fla.) 30-5 (34)
35. South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) 30-4 (35)
36. Ryle (Union, Ky.) 28-3 (39)
37. Elk Grove (Elk Grove, Calif.) 27-4 (nr)
38. Mandarin (Jacksonville, Fla.) 26-3 (18)
39. Odessa (Odessa, Texas) 33-4-3 (nr)
40. Eau Gallie (Melbourne, Fla.) 28-2 (42)
41. Mt. Carmel Academy (New Orleans, La.) 29-5-2 (43)
42. Byrd (Shreveport, La.) 31-2-1 (44)
43. Escondido (Escondido, Calif.) 27-1-1 (3)
44. Kennedy (La Palma, Calif.) 29-4 (14)
45. Spanish Springs (Sparks, Nev.) 31-5 (47)
46. Sandra Day O'Connor (Glendale, Ariz.) 27-5-1 (48)
47. St. Joseph (Hammonton, N.J.) 25-1 (49)
48. Alvin (Alvin, Texas) 33-9 (nr)
49. Bingham (Salt Lake City, Utah) 28-3 (nr)
50. Plainfield Central (Plainfield, Ill.) 28-2 (nr)
Dropped Out: Previous No. 22 Brazoswood (Clute, Texas); No. 26 Jesuit (Portland, Ore.); No. 35 El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.); No. 36 Carl Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.); No. 45 Hart (Newhall, Calif.); No. 46 Center Grove (Greenwood, Ind.); No. 50 Hatboro-Horsham (Horsham, Pa.).
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