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Sierra among VOL teams favored to reach section final
Sierra standout Allie Walljasper winds up toward an East Union batter during their regular season finale Tuesday at Northgate Softball Complex. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

SJS Division IV
First-round matchups
At Los Banos HS
(8) Los Banos vs. (9) Liberty Ranch , 4p.m.*

At Arnaiz Softball Complex, Stockton
(1) Manteca vs. L. Banos/L. Ranch, 5 p.m.
(4) Union Mine vs. (5) Ceres, 5 p.m.
(2) Central Catholic vs. (7) Kimball, 5 p.m.
(3) Oakdale vs. (6) Cosumnes Oaks, 5 p.m.

*Out-bracket game
• • •
SJS Division V
First-round matchups
At Dixon HS
Dixon vs. Arognaut, 4 p.m.*

At Arnaiz Softball Complex, Stockton
(1) Hughson vs. Dixon/Argonaut, 5 p.m.
(4) Linden vs. (5) Lindhurst, 5 p.m.
(3) Marysville vs. (6) Ripon. 5 p.m.
(2) Calaveras vs. (7) Escalon, 5 p.m.

*Out-bracket game

The road to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship appears to go through the Valley Oak League once again.

Conference champion Sierra (21-2) leads the way behind NCAA Division I recruits Iyana Hughes, Allie Walljasper and Sommer Wilson. The state’s third-ranked medium-schools team, according to, eyes a third straight trip to the section’s Division IV finale after capturing the school’s first blue banner for softball in 2011 and falling in the “if necessary” final-round contest to VOL rival Oakdale a season ago.

Meanwhile, Ripon (19-7) is preparing to compete in its first postseason contest since 1997 in Division V. With the exception of two out-bracket games, all Division IV and V contests will take place at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton next week.

Sierra awaits the winner of Monday’s Los Banos-Liberty Ranch out-bracket battle. The four first-round games begin simultaneously at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Los Banos (14-14) and Galt-based Liberty Ranch (13-12) are the third-place teams out of the Western Athletic and Sierra Valley conferences, respectively.

First-round winners advance to the double-elimination stage, which follows at 7. A win would set up Sierra up with SVC champion Union Mine (16-7) of El Dorado or WAC runner-up Ceres (18-10).

Central Catholic (16-6-1), checking in as the WAC’s No. 1 club, gets a tough first-round draw with VOL No. 3 seed Kimball (21-6). Reigning section champ Oakdale (19-7-1) encounters Elk Groves’ Cosumnes Oaks (14-11).

The VOL has been represented in a Division III or IV final in nine of the last 10 years, with member schools winning five of them. Oakdale won Division III crowns in 2005 and 06. Last year, all three of the league’s qualifiers were the final three teams standing in Division IV, as Sierra squeaked past Kimball 4-3 in the consolation semifinal.

In Division V action, Ripon will have to be on its game to get past next Thursday’s do-or-die opening round. The Indians tangle with three-time defending Golden Empire League champion Marysville (21-4-1), which shares the same mascot.

Senior Tressa Arostegui anchors Marysville’s Indians as their top pitcher (13-2, 0.89, 120 strikeouts), and junior center fielder Morgan Welch has put up staggering offensive numbers (.482, 7 HRs, 42 RBIs, 32 runs). Two of Marysville’s losses came against Northern Section powerhouses Pleasant Valley and Wheatland. Pleasant Valley is 30-2 and rated No. 1 in the NS by Wheatland is the second-ranked Division IV team by CalHiSports.