As the Southern Section Division II softball championship game drew near, Quartz Hill and Cerritos highs scrambled to acquire scouting reports.
All they really had to do was look in the mirror.
Both have relied on young lineups and solid defenses to upset the division kingpins and advance to the final tonight at 7:30 at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.
The similarities don't end there.
Each team has outscored three playoff opponents, 14-2, and is seeking its first section title after losing in previous championship-game appearances.
"We want this one real bad," said Quartz Hill co-Coach Coy Ray, whose team fell to La Mirada in the 1991 3-A Division title game, the Rebels' only other trip to the final.
Cerritos lost to Corona Centennial in the 1996 Division IV final, its only appearance.
"When you get this far, it comes down to pitching and defense." Quartz Hill co-Coach Ben Meyer said.
"And you buy a run here and there."
Runs won't come cheap against junior left-hander Jodie Cox (21-3) of Quartz Hill and either junior right-hander Jaime O'Neal (15-2) or sophomore left-hander Jessica van der Linden (9-3) of Cerritos.
Cox, who has yielded one earned run in her last 57 innings, beat all-state pitcher Jocelyn Forest of second-seeded Santa Maria Righetti, 2-0, in 14 innings in the quarterfinals.
Cox struck out nine on Tuesday in a 3-2 victory over third-seeded Jurupa Valley and enters with a 0.30 earned run average.
O'Neal and Van der Linden have platooned throughout the season for the fourth-seeded Dons, who defeated nationally-ranked Mater Dei and Camarillo during the regular season and top-seeded and defending champion Woodbridge in the semifinals.
Cerritos (25-5), with only two seniors in its lineup, outscored opponents, 187-16, and has five players batting better than .356.
The Dons have won 18 consecutive games.
Quartz Hill (23-3-2), with three seniors, has six batters hitting at least .306.
Sophomore third baseman Sara Moore has been the Rebels' hottest hitter, going seven for 15 in the postseason and is batting .354.
Cox leads the team with eight home runs, 30 Runs batted in and a .448 average.
Sophomore catcher Olaya Salazar has 26 RBIs.
The Cerritos coaching staff has ties not only to the region, but also to Quartz Hill.
Cerritos Coach Kim Denhart, formerly Kim Oakes, played softball at Cal State Northridge in 1991 and '92.
Her husband and assistant coach, Todd Denhart, was a pitcher for the Northridge baseball team in 1990 and '91.
Mike Sims, brother of Quartz Hill assistant coach Cindy Sims, was the catcher for Denhart at Northridge.
"We both have great memories of the Valley," Todd Denhart said. "But our loyalty only goes so far. We want the championship."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
QUARTZ HILL (23-3-2) *--*
No. Player Pos. Yr. Avg. 12 Kellie Cox CF Fr. .311 20 Penny Wood RF Sr. .260 19 Jodie Cox P Jr. .448 16 Olaya Salazar C So. .330 21 Amber Slaton SS Sr. .313 18 Sara Moore 3B So. .354 14 Jamie Booth DH So. .306 13 Shauna Murray LF Sr. .176 22 Andrea Cabriales 1B Fr. .212 15 Christa Galier* 2B Jr. .207
*will not bat Co-Coaches: Coy Ray and Ben Meyer Assistants: Cindy Vargas, Judy Reynolds
CERRITOS (25-5) *--*
No. Player Pos. Yr. Avg. 29 Brandi Stuart 3B Jr. .385 12 Julie Hoshizaki RF So. .356 21 Sara Winters C So. .293 99 Jessica van der Linde P/1B So. .419 6 Lauren Johnson SS Fr. .386 30 Nichole Maddox LF So. .396 5 Renee Cardenas 2B Sr. .241 9 Julia Seki CF Sr. .244 3 Jaime O'Neal P-1B Jr. .287
Coach: Kim Denhart Assistant: Todd Denhart
QUARTZ HILL *--*
Player H R HR RBI Jodie Cox 39 28 8 30 Olaya Salazar 30 11 1 26 Amber Slaton 27 12 3 14 Sara Moore 29 10 0 7 Kellie Cox 28 17 0 3
Pitcher I K ER ERA Jodie Cox (21-3) 189 242 8 0.30
Player H R HR RBI Jessica van der Linden 39 25 1 28 Nichole Maddox 36 16 1 24 Brandi Stuart 37 30 5 13 Sara Winters 27 25 0 17 Lauren Johnson 32 22 1 15
Pitcher I K ER ERA Jaime O'Neal (15-2) 112 95 5 0.31 Van der Linden (9-3) 77 100 5 0.45
Righetti: 2-0 (14 inn.)
Jurupa Valley: 3-2
La Palma Kennedy: 1-0
Irvine Woodbridge: 2-1