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SBLive's California Softball Top 20: Oaks Christian and Clovis North are ahead of the pack

Oaks Christian and Clovis North, both unbeaten, are head and shoulders above the rest of the state right now.

Here is SBLive California's first-ever statewide softball ranking. The rankings will be posted weekly throughout the remainder of the regular season, and before and after the CIF Regional playoffs. For now, they go out to 20 teams, and will eventually extend to 25.

1. Oaks Christian (20-0)

It would've been nice to debut our softball power rankings with some hot takes. But having unbeaten titans Oaks Christian and Clovis North at the top just seems undeniable right now. The Lions haven't played an unfathomably tough schedule, but they've been unwavering and unstoppable against a lot of great teams. While their whole lineup is stacked, they're led by a superstar pitcher who's also a dominant hitter – Notre Dame commit Micaela Kastor.

Not only has Oaks beaten its 20 foes by a combined 158-9. But in eight games against arguably the seven best teams its faced – Westlake (twice), El Camino Real, Clovis, Lehi and Mountain Ridge of Utah, and Nevada's Sparks and Arbor View – Oaks Christian has won by a combined 61-4. That's what gave them the nod over equally formidable Clovis North.

2. Clovis North (15-0)

While they aren't quite playing a "national" schedule, the Broncos could very well be at No. 1 right now for how they've been steamrolling good to great competition in the Central Section. For instance, they just beat fellow TRAC powerhouses Clovis and Buchanan by a combined 17-0.

Like Oaks Christian, Clovis North is led by one of the pitcher/hitters in the country, junior Ryan Maddox. She rarely leaves the circle, but with sophomore Emma Blea looking promising in a couple innings against Clovis, opponents should be even more scared looking ahead to the playoffs. And that says a lot for a team that's beaten its competition 111-3 so far on the year.

3. Granada Livermore (17-1)

So many teams have an argument to make for the third spot after the hectic last week. But we're giving the Matadors the edge for winning the Livermore Stampede in the field they did. 

The computer rankings don't love them because they've played some non-elite teams this season and didn't blow them out as much as perhaps they should've, plus they dropped a pool play game to Benicia for their first loss of the season on the first day of the tournament. Still, at the end of the day, Granada gets the wins that matter regardless of how good the competition is. Despite the setback against Benicia, which followed a 11-0 rout of Dublin, the Matadors would go on to beat Heritage (Brentwood), Whitney (Rocklin), and red-hot Sheldon. They also smoked Monte Vista and Carondelet this week.

4. Saint Francis Mountain View (15-2)

The Lancers win too many games against elite competition to knock them for every loss. Despite getting upset by Sheldon in Livermore, they cruised past Freedom, Castro Valley, and Carondelet in pool play, and beat Whitney (Rocklin) to finish third. Saint Francis' other loss came by one run to Canyon (Anaheim) not long before that, but it was bookended on the front by wins against Esperanza and Los Alamitos, and on the back with wins against Norco and Archbishop Mitty.

5. Del Oro (17-1)

With its only loss now over a month ago to Elk Grove, and continual dominance since then against the Sac-Joaquin Section's other powerhouses, Del Oro edges out a handful of other deserving candidates for No. 5. The Golden Eagles still have eight SFL conference games left and will need to win all of them to stay up this high.

6. Murrieta Mesa (20-5)

The Rams have only lost once in the last six weeks, and it was against Villa Park before injuries got in VP's way. Before that, their last loss was to Great Oak on March 3, which they've since avenged twice. Their other three losses were in February, and one came against Corona Centennial whom they've also beaten. As for marquee wins on the season, Murrieta Mesa has beaten the likes of Roosevelt (Eastvale), Mater Dei (twice), Esperanza, Orange Lutheran, and Los Alamitos.

7. Norco (15-6)

Things were a lot less complicated for our power rankings heading into Wednesday night. Norco was well into the teens, and Roosevelt (Eastvale) was the obvious pick at No. 3. Then the Cougars marched into Roosevelt's house and put 19 runs on them, so it's a crapshoot. Sure Norco lost just 11 days prior to both Orange Lutheran and Saint Francis (Mountain View), but we certainly won't fault them for losing to Saint Francis. And while OLu's stock is particularly low right now, it shouldn't need to be said that OLu can beat anyone on any given day. Three of Norco's other four losses came in its first three games in February, and the other was over a month ago to Canyon (Anaheim). Throw in a handful of other nice wins in the past month, and we think Norco has earned its high ranking here.

8. Roosevelt Eastvale (16-3)

The blurb above tells all. The Mustangs were not only the clear No. 3 in the state, but entering the discussion of nationally elite teams before getting pounded by Norco. Their only other losses came against Murrieta Mesa in February and a full-health Villa Park on March 11. Even with the rough loss against Norco, wins including Huntington Beach, Orange Lutheran, Chino Hills, Canyon (Anaheim), Mission Viejo, and Corona Centennial suggest that Roosevelt could still credibly be ranked higher than this.

9. Sheldon (12-4)

Power rankings certainly have to look at the season as a whole, but at the end of the day, it comes down to "what have you done for me lately?" And Sheldon, runner-up of the Livermore Stampede, has done a lot lately. The Huskies handed Elk Grove its first loss of the season and also beat Monte Vista, Liberty (Brentwood), and Livermore before making waves by upsetting Saint Francis. Then, after falling to Granada in the finals, they beat formidable St. Francis (Sacramento) in league play.

Additionally, the Huskies' three losses from early in the season really aren't that bad. They lost to Lincoln (Stockton) by one run in game two, Del Oro in game four, and Vanden in game seven. Those turned out to be some quite good teams.

10. Archbishop Mitty (17-2)

Up until last Wednesday, the Monarchs had started the season by winning 13 straight. A 5-2 loss to Saint Francis (Mountain View) didn't lower their stock much, but losing the next day to Whitney (Rocklin) by the same score – even though Whitney is far more dangerous than its record indicates – was a head-scratcher. Without many wins against elite foes in the books, the Monarchs could've fallen lower. However, Mitty is still in our top 10 for responding with a couple of its best wins of the season over Heritage (Brentwood) and Livermore.

11. Canyon Anaheim (20-4)

Canyon star pitcher Kylee Magee

Canyon star pitcher Kylee Magee

Like a lot of other teams in this part of the rankings, Canyon has just one uninspiring loss holding it back from being much higher – a 2-0 loss last week to league rival Esperanza. Before that it was one of the hottest teams in at least the state, with a 10-game winning streak that included a victory at the Michelle Carew Classic. That said, Esperanza is a dangerous team with serious pedigree, and it brought its A-game at Canyon in a close match that featured some extremely close calls. The Comanches bounced back to beat a Villa Park squad that, while missing arguably the best player in the country, is still excellent without her.

12. Villa Park (18-4)

We've already referenced Villa Park not being at 100% a couple times, and the Spartans' current ranking doesn't really matter in a sense. They were 16-0 and a legit candidate for the top ranking in the country to close out March before Arizona commit and reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year Sydney Somerndike sprained an ankle. VP has gone 2-4 since then, and even still, it routed South (Torrance) and Foothill (Santa Ana) while playing Orange Lutheran, Canyon, and Esperanza close in losses. Its only other loss came 10-5 against Nevada powerhouse Las Vegas Centennial at the Carew.

Assuming Somerndike returns at 100% by playoff time, Villa Park is as dangerous as it gets and will return to the very top tier in the rankings before long.

13. Pacifica Garden Grove (20-3)

The Mariners have won nine straight spanning over a month, with their last loss coming against Norco. Their only other losses came against La Mirada in February, which they later avenged, and against Arizona heavyweight O'Connor. Most of Pacifica's signature wins were awhile ago, but they include Esperanza (twice), Los Alamitos, and La Habra. Other than that, it's done a good job cleaning up against strong OC competition, and it has intriguing non-league tests against Roosevelt (Eastvale) and Whittier Christian before the playoffs start.

14. Vanden (12-0)

Unbeaten, but without as many big wins as the other unbeaten teams on this list, Vanden is hard to rank. While the Vikings haven't played a world-class schedule, there's nothing more one can ask than that they blow out nearly every team they face that isn't great, and get it done against a strong foe whenever the opportunity arises. That's exactly what they've done. And with Sheldon and Pleasant Grove upping their stock since Vanden beat them a couple weeks ago, plus Northern Section giant East Nicolaus remaining unbeaten except against Vanden, it's clear that the Vikings are more than just a product of an "easy" schedule – they're a powerhouse.

15. Camarillo (18-3)

Camarillo-softball-3

Of Camarillo's three losses, two of them have now been avenged (El Camino Real and Westlake), and the other came in extra innings against a Newbury Park squad with the offensive firepower to pull some upsets. Since that loss on March 30, the Scorpions have won five straight, including the Westlake victory. And throughout the season, they've mixed in numerous wins against programs that aren't huge names but are still tough to beat, such as Moorpark and Valencia (Valencia).

16. Elk Grove (12-2)

The Thundering Herd was unshakable for a dozen straight games to start the season, and has now gotten blanked twice in a row. First was in Livermore against Sheldon, and obviously a loss to Sheldon is far from an indictment the way the Huskies have been playing lately. But to follow it up with another shutout loss, this time against a very good but not great foe in Pleasant Grove, was not a good look. Fortunately for Elk Grove, it only allowed one run in both of those losses, and it still has wins over the likes of Del Oro, Whitney (Rocklin), and Vista Del Lago (Folsom). Let's see if the Herd can get back on track offensively with a lot of strong tests left before playoff time.

17. Westlake (18-4)

Much like Camarillo, with whom they've split meetings, the Warriors' only losses have come against Oaks Christian and Newbury Park. The only difference is, Westlake has had the displeasure of facing Oaks twice. On Thursday, Westlake can get revenge against Newbury Park, but if it fails, it will fall sharply out of the top 20.

Tie: 18. Los Alamitos (18-6) & Huntington Beach (14-6)

Los Alamitos softball1

These two teams are really pushing how much we can factor in the importance of head-to-head matchups. Take out a 0-2 record against Huntington Beach, and Los Al would be pushing the top-10 in the state, whereas the Oilers – while still one of SoCal's better teams – wouldn't sniff the top 20. But softball is unpredictable like that, and Huntington has clearly proved its mettle against the Griffins, in addition to Murrieta Mesa and Clovis, despite losses to San Benito, Chino Hills, Roosevelt (Eastvale), Cathedral Catholic, Santiago (Corona), and Canyon View (Arizona).

So, it muddies up our rankings a bit, but on the bright side, the teams will play for a third time next week. Get your popcorn!

20. Clovis (15-4)

With a nice handful of big wins, including over Mission Viejo, Central Fresno (twice), Stockdale, and Nevada powerhouses Bishop Gorman and Spanish Springs, Clovis isn't too far from being ranked quite a bit higher. Especially when two of its four losses came against Oaks Christian and Clovis North, and another came in extra innings against Huntington Beach. But the Cougars are dragged down a small but noticeable amount by a slight league upset loss against Buchanan last week. They still have two more cracks at Clovis North and another at Buchanan this season, so there's time for them to jolt up the rankings before playoff time.