As is often the case during the several weeks between when the preseason national high school softball rankings are done and when the first regular season rankings get finished, there is plenty of upheaval for this week’s Extra Inning Softball's "Extra Elite 80" National Rankings.
Not for the No. 1 position, however.
Norco went to the prestigious Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., and earned the championship with a 7-0 win in the title game over Los Alamitos (Calif.). Many of the best teams from Arizona, Nevada and other states were in the field, but the Southern California squads dominated. In the third-place game, Orange Lutheran (Calif.) topped Marina (Huntington Beach, Calif.).
Ole Miss-bound Paige Smith pounded a pair of homers to lead the Norco attack against Los Al. Head coach Rick Robinson’s team, however, did have to survive an extra-innings battle with Marina in the semifinals. The Cougars won 4-2 in nine innings. Norco also had a 1-0 win on Tuesday of this week in a Big VIII League contest against Santiago (Corona, Calif.) so it’s not as if the team is winning every game 7-0.
Other than Arizona teams that suffered bad losses at the Tournament of Champions to California teams, most of the teams that were toward the top of the preseason rankings have just fallen behind other teams in their states and haven’t fallen that far off for this week’s rankings. Lakewood Ranch has ascended to the top of Florida’s pecking order while Cedar Ridge has done the same in Texas.
Perhaps the most significant performance of any preseason ranked team was the one by previous No. 25 Neshoba Central of Mississippi at the Jubilee Shootout in Alabama.
The Rockets have rolled up impressive totals in recent year against Mississippi competition, but haven’t faced any out-of-state foes that could more prove their worth in a national ranking.
They went to Alabama last weekend, though, and topped preseason No. 27 Fairhope 2-0 as well as a Daphne team 5-0 that often is among the best in that state. If they keep winning and Fairhope does as well, that will help immensely down the road.
Extra Inning Softball readers that may have never seen any previous top 50 national rankings should know that all teams that haven’t played yet from cold weather states -- and may still not get games in for another week or two -- are usually left in the same preseason position until games begin.
There may be a flip of one position here and there, but the preseason ranking is often locked in place for those teams.
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
(Through games of Tuesday, March 12)
1. (1) Norco (Norco, Calif.) 14-0
2. (11) Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton, Fla.) 6-0
3. (22) Cedar Ridge (Round Rock, Texas) 10-0
4. (23) Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, Calif.) 5-0
5. (26) Pinnacle (Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-0