Jessica Mendoza of Camarillo High was outnumbered--and she knew it.
During a Sunday practice for Gordon's Panthers 18-and-under Gold in Orange County, Mendoza held her tongue while four teammates--all Mater Dei players--talked about how the Monarchs were going to rout Camarillo (21-5) in a Southern Section Division I semifinal today at Foothill High in Santa Ana.
"And I heard it all day long," said Mendoza, whose Panthers practice from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. "They are just totally assuming they're going to win."
Top-seeded Mater Dei (28-3), the nation's top-ranked team by USA Today, is as confident as it is talented. The Monarchs have two of the best pitchers in the nation in junior Marissa Young (11-2) and sophomore Tia Bollinger (16-1), the section's all-time hit leader in Kelsey Kollen, and Stanford-bound Robin Walker at shortstop. All four are Mendoza's summer ball teammates.
The Monarchs' collective ego is bolstered by the fact that they beat Camarillo, 5-1, in a Fountain Valley tournament game April 15. The Scorpions managed only three hits.
"Last time we played them, I was kind of nervous," said Stanford-bound Mendoza, whose home run in the seventh represented Camarillo's only run. "We got intimidated by them."
This time Camarillo will be better prepared mentally, Mendoza said.
Pitchers Cindy Ball (12-1) and Kathryn Nevard (9-4) are on top of their games, having allowed only three hits in three playoffs games. Offensively, the Scorpions have pounded 23 hits and outscored playoff opponents, 13-1.
"These last few games with us, we've been up. I can see it in everyone's eyes," Mendoza said. "I'm really pumped . . . I just have this feeling."
In other Southern Section semifinals today:
Quartz Hill (22-3-2) vs. Jurupa Valley (25-4) at Lancaster City Park--Jurupa Valley pitcher Wendy Stephens (18-4) has thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs, but that shouldn't intimidate Quartz Hill, which upset all-state pitcher Jocelyn Forest and second-seeded Righetti, 2-0, in 14 innings on Saturday.
The unseeded Rebels have been riding the hot pitching of junior left-hander Jodie Cox (20-3), who has not allowed a run in 49 consecutive innings.
Cox also delivered the key hit, a two-run triple, in the Rebels' quarterfinal victory.
Quartz Hill is attempting to reach its second section final. It lost to La Mirada in the 3-A Division championship game in 1991.
Senior third baseman Christine Zepeda is the top offensive threat for Jurupa Valley, which has never reached a section final.
Harvard-Westlake (17-12) vs. Corona Santiago (27-3) at Norco High--Both teams are trying to advance to their first section final.
Harvard-Westlake had not won a playoff game before this season. Santiago is in its second year of existence.
The Wolverines upset top-seeded La Reina, 7-0, in the second round and Mission League rival Alemany, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.
Sandra Aken leads Harvard-Westlake with five home runs, and pitcher Anna Russell (14-11) has looked stronger as the season has progressed.
Right-hander Angie Melendrez (24-3) is the only senior on Santiago's roster and led the Sharks to their first Sunkist League title.
Chaminade (22-7-1) vs. Rosary (25-6) at Cal State Northridge--Second-seeded Chaminade is attempting to reach the Division IV final for the first time.
The second-seeded Eagles must play without Coach Steve Harrington, who will serve a one-game suspension for being ejected from the Eagles' 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Bishop.
Junior pitcher Maureen LeCocq (22-7) is seeking her 20th shutout and has hurled 157 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Chaminade is averaging 11 runs in the playoffs.
Rosary, winner of 13 consecutive games, hasn't advanced this far since winning a section title in 1984.
Left fielder Samantha Jennings (.485), first baseman Erin Hogan (.444, 29 RBIs), right fielder Theresa Cronin (.410, 21 RBIs) and center fielder Tymarie Novak (.406) are the Royals' top offensive threats.
Paraclete (21-5-2) vs. Orange Lutheran (19-10) at Concordia University, Irvine--The Spirits are attempting to reach a Southern Section final for the seventh time in 19 seasons under Coach Margaret Neill.
But unlike past seasons, Paraclete isn't supposed to be in the Division V semifinals. They advanced by upsetting top-seeded Pomona Catholic, 5-2, in the quarterfinals.
Sophomore right-hander Jessica Edwards has pitched four no-hitters, including two perfect games, for Orange Lutheran.
Cornerstone Christian (19-3) vs. Southern California Christian (17-4) at Hart Park, Orange--Top-seeded Cornerstone Christian is attempting to reach a final for the first time since being runners-up in 1995.
Four starters are batting over .500 for the Eagles, who defeated L.A. Lutheran, 4-3, and Grace Brethren, 5-1, to advance to the semifinals.
Paige A. Leech is a staff writer. Dave Desmond is a correspondent.