Softball playoffs first-round matchups Division IV
Monday’s out-bracket game
• Liberty Ranch at Central Catholic, 4 p.m.
Wednesday at Arnaiz Field
• Sierra vs. CC/Liberty Ranch, 5 p.m.
• Los Banos vs. Vista del Lago, 5 p.m.
• Oakdale vs. Patterson, 5 p.m.
• Cosumnes Oaks vs. Kimball, 5 p.m.
Head coach Nick Olmo said the recent barrage of accolades and attention garnered by his Sierra High softball team has not affected the players.
Perhaps they’re just too young to know any better.
Led by freshman pitcher and Valley Oak League MVP Allison Walljasper, the Timberwolves (22-1-1) are the top-seeded team of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs after capturing the school’s first conference softball title, and they did so with only one senior in the everyday starting lineup.
Sierra also earned the ESPN Rise No. 1 ranking among the state’s Division-III schools, as its surprising run to the NorCal Classic’s prestigious Platinum Bracket title opened some eyes. MaxPreps.com tabs Sierra as the top overall team in the section in its rankings, and 11th in the state.
Bear River, which Sierra downed 8-1 in the NorCal Classic in Tracy, is the section’s four-time defending champion in Division IV but now competes in D-III.
For the first time they are the hunted, but Olmo insists the Timberwolves remain hungry for the ultimate prize.
“The team doesn’t seem any different mentally than they were midway through the season when we weren’t getting that kind of attention yet,” Olmo said. “As far as they are concerned, they just want to play ball and they want to win.
“Right now we are focused on Wednesday.”
The first round of the Division-V tournament is Wednesday at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton. Sierra awaits the winner of Monday’s out-bracket game that pits Central Catholic (15-8-1) of the Western Athletic Conference and first-year varsity Liberty Ranch (14-11-1) of the Sierra Valley Conference.
Both Central and Liberty Ranch finished third in their respective leagues.
It’s a double-elimination tournament after the first round, so getting the first one out of the way is key. The winner’s-bracket quarterfinals will also take place Wednesday, and the championship round is scheduled for Saturday.
Olmo guided Sierra to two playoff appearances in his previous four seasons as coach but never got out of the first round.
Don’t worry about Sierra getting complacent — the T’Wolves got that out of the way for a brief stretch in their 7-4 league-ending win over East Union. Five errors led to a 4-3 deficit that was erased by Walljasper’s three-run double in the bottom of the sixth.
“We had some defensive problems in one inning, but that’s a rarity with these girls,” Olmo said. “They weren’t 100 percent focused on the game initially, but it was a good kick in the butt they had to have to get their minds straight.
“They know that they’re going to be playing the best of the best that and that they have to bring their ‘A’ game.”
Also on Sierra’s end of the nine-team bracket are WAC champion Los Banos (18-9) and SVC runner-up Vista del Lago (20-5). Oakdale (21-6-1) faces WAC No. 2 Patterson (13-9), and SVC titlist Cosumnes Oaks (17-9) squares off with VOL No. 3 Kimball (19-8).
Liberty Ranch, Vista del Lago and Kimball are first-time postseason qualifiers.