CIF North Coast Section Division 2 Softball Championship Preview: Marin Catholic has small advantage over Benicia after upsetting Livermore

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Here’s a complete rundown of the North Coast Section Division 2 Softball Finals:

No. 1 Granada Livermore (26-3) vs. No. 2 Heritage Brentwood (23-3-1) – 5 p.m. at Granada

In Division 2, the top-seeded Livermore entered as the heavy favorite with a few other legitimate contenders also in the mix. Benicia and Marin Catholic were some of those teams “also in the mix”, and after MC upset Livermore, there is reason to argue that the fifth-seeded Wildcats are the lightweight favorites going into the final.

Knocking out the top seed and a top-10 team in the state alone is by far the best win of the year for the Wildcats, and it instantly gives them a case as a favorite, in addition to having just three losses over the season. Two of them came 2-1 in extra innings (10 innings and nine innings, respectively) at league foes Redwood, and those were avenged in the quarter-finals when they went even further in the extras to eliminate No. 4 Redwood. MC was also beaten soundly in a shutout by Amador Valley on March 17.

Benicia also picked up a victory over a top 10 team in the state, after beating Granada (Livermore) 3-2 in early April. The Panthers’ losses are all down to quality opponents, Vintage (twice), Heritage (Brentwood), Foothill (Pleasanton) and Dixon. On paper, these teams are tied.

What separates them is that Benicia has a good throw but relies on a deep and consistent formation that scores almost nine points per game, Marin Catholic is a pitching/defensive juggernaut who struggles to take on the best enemies . Senior linked to Chapman Rose Malen is about as good as it gets at 15-3 with a .43 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 129 innings. She’s also a good contact hitter on a team with a few of them, especially Samy Horn (0.566BA) and Lauren Osheroff (0.554 OBP, team high 1.256 OPS).

Starter Benicia Braxton Brown and key lifter Sinead Maas both have very good ERAs of 2.43. Brown is also a top hitter with a team-best five home runs on .357 hits and a 1.111 OPS. This OPS is fourth on the team among starters, and the four Panthers with the best all reach over .430: Kyra Mason (0.525 BA), Lorenzza Marcacci, Robynn Balmedianoand Emma Frenchwhich has a record OPS of 1,290.

Along with the personnel contrast, perhaps the most important storyline is this: Does Marin Catholic still have anything after going in extra innings in four of his last five games? Not to mention, that’s 48 innings of work for Falen over five games, which could encroach on some kind of record. If the Wildcats can take this experience to Benicia with sharpness instead of fatigue, we give them a slight edge. Against Livermore, even scoring two earned runs against ace Taylor Rodriguez to send the game to extras was a solid offensive performance, and although it took 11 innings, they hit it for a total of eight. But if Benicia can build a lead of even a point or two in the early innings, the Panthers will have a great shot at winning a title.

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