Esperanza was the only team from Orange County to be tabbed as a top-seeded team in the Southern Section softball playoff pairings that were released on Monday.
For good reason, too. The Aztecs, despite losing their Century League finale to Anaheim Canyon, have been ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 4 in the nation by ESPN Rise. They have seven Division I college players in the lineup, including pitcher A.C. Borden (Penn) and first baseman Kelsea Roth (Missouri).
Century League champion Esperanza (22-2) was No. 1 in Division 1, and will be on the same side of the bracket as another county team, fourth-seeded Los Alamitos (24-3-1) from the Sunset League.
The alignment pits teams ranked No. 1 and 9 in the nation on the same side of the bracket while teams ranked 11 and 29 are on the other.
The No. 11 team nationally is second-seeded Etiwanda (22-3) of the Baseline League. Third-seeded Corona Santiago (23-5) of the Big VIII Conference is ranked No. 29.
When the first round gets under way on Thursday, Esperanza will play the winner of a wild card game pitting Thousand Oaks at La Palma Kennedy; Etiwanda will play the winner of Yorba Linda at Royal; Santiago will play the winner of Glendora at Placentia Valencia; and Los Alamitos will play the winner of Foothill at Redlands East Valley. Wild card games are Tuesday.
Defending champion Santa Margarita, which defeated Corona 12-9 in last year's final, will play at El Modena in the first round. Corona will play a wild card game at Great Oak.
Only four other programs from Orange County were among the top four seeded teams across six other divisions.
La Habra (21-6) and Ocean View (18-6) were seeded third and fourth in Division 4; Savanna (21-6) was seeded No. 3 in Division 5; Oxford Academy (17-2) was seeded No. 4 in Division 6.