Sheldon falls, Klein Oak captures top spot

Editor's note: The ESPN RISE FAB 50 softball rankings are compiled by Garland Cooper, Doug Huff, Mark Tennis and Paul Muyskens. They will be released each Wednesday throughout the season.

Despite not appearing in a major invitational tournament outside of the Houston area, the Klein Oak High softball team still has a championship to shoot for that might be the toughest to get in all of the land: the Texas Class 5A state title.

The Panthers are one of the favorites to win that crown this year and if they do it they also might do it with an unbeaten record. And if that happens, Klein Oak also will be able to add an additional honor to the trophy case and that will be mythical ESPN RISE FAB 50 national champion.

Last Saturday's 5-2 win by Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, Calif., over previous FAB 50 No. 1 Sheldon of Sacramento, Calif., caused there to be a change at the top of this week's rankings. At 22-0 and with perhaps the best pitcher-hitter in the nation, Keilani Ricketts, leading the way, the Monarchs also were considered to be the new No. 1 team.

While Klein Oak, which was No. 2 last week, has that Texas state title as a possibility, the best Mitty can do is win another CIF Central Coast Section Division II title. In other words, it's not so much the strength of schedule so far that favors Klein Oak but the strength of schedule for what's potentially down the road.

After a 10-0 win on Monday of this week over Klein Forest, the Panthers should end their regular season at 26-0 with two more wins later this week. The Class 5A state playoffs then begin the following week.

There is the double-elimination format to consider in the Texas playoffs as well. Klein Oak could lose a game in a best-of-three series format and still advance. Once the Panthers get to the Class 5A Final Four, however, it is one loss and you're done.

The scenario we wouldn't want to see at the end of the season is Klein Oak losing a game but still winning the title compared to Mitty wrapping up an unbeaten season. That would be a very tough choice.

This week's FAB 50 also is highlighted by the rapid ascent of newcomer Dunnellon High of Florida. After winning the Navy Division of the Bill Longshore Memorial tournament last weekend, the Tigers improved to 24-1.

Junior Kasey Fagan has led Dunnellon at the plate and in the circle. She and two younger sisters also on the team are the daughters of head coach Kevin Fagan, a former offensive lineman in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

And how's this for wrapping all this together? Kevin Fagan is a graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco, which is in the same West Catholic Athletic League as Archbishop Mitty.

Check out the full FAB 50 here.