Saturday softball: No. 1 Norco wins

After building 6-0 lead, the Cougars hold on to beat Santiago of Corona 6-4 in CIF Southern Section Division I final. Cal-Hi Sports state divisional No. 1 teams Chino Hills and La Canada also win CIFSS titles.

Three years ago, Norco High’s softball team won the CIF Southern Section Division I title with a 32-2 record. That team was No. 3 in the final ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

On Saturday night at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine, the Cougars won the same title by topping Santiago of Corona 6-4 and posted an almost-exact 31-2 record. This team, however, is going to be No. 1 in all the rankings.

The difference in the rankings is easy to explain. When Norco won three years ago, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose went 32-0 and was No. 1 in the state and nation. Mitty’s standout player at the time, Keilani Ricketts, is now the national college player of the year at Oklahoma.

Norco started the week No. 1 in the state and No. 1 in the FAB 50. The Cougars advanced to Saturday’s final with a 4-0 win in Tuesday’s semifinals over Vista Murrieta of Murrieta.

While Santiago entered Saturday’s game with nine losses on its record, the Sharks did get a win over Norco during league play and had been scoring runs in bushels since a change in the lineup nearly four weeks ago. Santiago also was the CIFSS Division I defending champion.

Amanda Sandoval gave Norco a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an RBI single. Pitcher Emily Lockman then helped her own cause with an RBI double in the third to make it 2-0 and later in the game ripped a second RBI double.

Taylor Koenig also had two RBI singles as the lead for the Cougars grew to 6-0 by the fifth inning. That’s when Santiago came up with four-run outburst that was helped by a two-run error.

Lockman, who is headed to Nebraska, then knuckled down and set down the Sharks in the sixth and seventh innings.

If Norco had lost, the No. 1 team in the state would have opened up to a two-team debate between James Logan of Union City (24-1) and Chino Hills (32-3).

Logan knocked off previous No. 2 Amador Valley of Pleasanton – and also avenged its only loss – with a 1-0 win on Friday in the CIF North Coast Section Division I final.

Chino Hills started the day at Deanna Manning Stadium by blanking South of Torrance 3-0 in the CIFSS Division III championship. Getting the shutout on a two-hitter for the Huskies was senior Nikki Innamorato.

With the victory, Chino Hills also ended the season with a 26-game win streak and assured itself of the mythical Division III state crown based on the Cal-Hi Sports divisional state rankings.

Another team on Saturday wrapping up a mythical divisional state title was La Canada. The Spartans won the CIFSS Division V title by defeating Beaumont 7-3. They were led by Kelsey Drange with three hits and three RBIs and pitcher Lauren Cox. La Canada (26-4) won its second straight section title and has been No. 1 in the Division IV state rankings for four weeks. If the Spartans had lost, an outstanding team from Hughson (26-1) was ready to move up.