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CIF North Coast Section Division 1 softball championship preview: No. 2 Heritage (Brentwood) seeks revenge against No. 1 Granada (Livermore)

Granada defeated Heritage 6-4 in April, and would be the CIFNCS D1 champion with a repeat performance on Friday.

Here's a complete preview of the North Coast Section Division 1 softball finals:

No. 1 Granada Livermore (26-3) vs. No. 2 Heritage Brentwood (23-3-1) – Friday, May 27 at 5 p.m. @ Granada

Unlike most of the other NCS divisions, the top two seeds looked on paper to be heavy favorites to make the finals in Division 1, and both teams outlasted some good competition to do so.

The Matadors have been a clear top-10 team in the state for much of the season, and spent a lot of it ranked inside the top five. Two of their three losses came to league rival Livermore, the top seed in Division 2 before getting upset by No. 5 Marin Catholic in the semifinals. Their other loss, which was their first, came against Benicia during pool play at the Livermore Stampede in early April. But they followed it up by beating Heritage (which had just clocked Benicia a game prior), Whitney (Rocklin), and Sheldon – the top overall seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs – to win the prestigious tournament. After that, they were ranked as high as No. 2 in the state before Livermore cooled them off in May for an EBAL title.

Those aforementioned wins constitute a few of the biggest of the season for Granada, and the 6-4 victory against Heritage of course helps cement them as a favorite in this matchup. Granada beat league foes Amador Valley and San Ramon Valley for the third time this season to make the finals, with a win over College Park in the middle.

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Like almost everyone, the Matadors are prone to occasional underwhelming nights at the plate, but their offense has still been a strong point this season, and pitching might even be a stronger one. Led by the junior tandem of Alex Mello and Sierra Black, the Matadors have one of the top pitching tag teams in the Bay Area. Granada has tended to be a bit more effective hitting for contact than power this season, particularly in regards to their biggest matchups, but by all means they hit for both. Notre Dame-committed outfielder and 49ers Cal-Hi Sports NCS co-Player of the Year Makayla "Mickey" Winchell is outstanding at both, leading the team in hitting (.505), on-base percentage (0.533), slugging (0.876), RBIs (30), and OPS (1.409) to go with seven home runs. Star freshman Delaney Aumua leads Granada with nine homers and is also hitting above .400. Mariah Ayala and Saskia Raab are both hitting close .500 as well with the ability to hit for power, and Lauren Deplitch (.449 BA) is one of multiple other standout contact hitters on the team.

So, while Heritage comes in as the clear underdog here, it's only as a slight underdog. Heritage has a similar record facing similar competition, and while it did lose to Granada in their only regular season matchup, it was a close game with a score of 6-4. In fact, the Patriots have a fairly similar roster construct as their upcoming foe as well.

Kasey Aguinaga and Alyssa Soares constitute the section's other top one-two pitching punch, possessing very similar cumulative splits as Mello and Black. Offensively, the two teams have nearly identical OPS marks, with Heritage coming in at 1.009 and Granada at 1.006. Like the Matadors, the Patriots have plenty of power, but are slightly more adept at hitting for contact. They're led by the other 49ers Cal-Hi Sports NCS Player of the Year, third baseman and Cal commit Tianna Bell, who led the team with a 0.577 batting average, 0.642 OBP, 1.025 slugging percentage, 1.668 OPS, nine homers, and 39 runs. Heritage's lineup features another one of the best hitters in the section in Alexandra Cutonilli, who's second in BA (0.520), homers (five), and OPS (1.513) among other things, and leads the team with 35 RBIs. Skylar Stroh is one of multiple other strong hitters on Heritage.

The Matadors had to face a slightly harder road so far in the playoffs, beating Monte Vista in a high-scoring affair before narrowly taking down championship contenders in Clayton Valley Charter and Vintage, the latter of which was a 1-0 pitchers' duel. They also entered the playoffs with a head full of steam, unlike Granada, as their three postseason wins give them a current 15-game winning streak – after losing to Granada on April 8 and Archbishop Mitty the next day, they haven't lost since.

Black and Soares both struggled to find the strike zone and got roughed up a bit when the teams met previously, and Mello relieved Black with 1.2 strong innings to got the win for Granada. Ella Jenkins and Jessica Im, a couple other top bats for Heritage, had strong games, and Lauren Melton, who hits well over .300, scored a run for the Matadors.

All in all, there's not much to make between these teams, but Granada has the slight edge on paper. Since both parties have already proven they can score on each other's aces, there's no telling if this will be another offense-oriented battle, a tense pitchers' duel, or maybe a blowout in either direction. Granada hasn't lost a home game, but Heritage hasn't lost a road game if you don't include tournament settings. With so much in common between them, it'll simply come down to who brings their A-game with everything on the line.