IRVINE — If you talk with Bellarmine-Jefferson High Coach Florencio Galindo, it’s not by chance that the Guards softball team was able to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship game and earn an 8-4 win Saturday against Mary Star of the Sea..
In fact, the coach believes the fact his squad has qualified for three straight title games in consecutive years can be directly linked to the type of competition the Guards have faced in the preseason.
The last two seasons, Galindo has made an effort to give his team a chance to play teams that are either in higher divisions or are successful established programs.
“I really believe that the only way you are going to get better is to play the tougher teams,” Galindo said. “You want to go up against the best hitters and pitchers and that’s how you learn. We wanted to play the tough teams and play in good tournaments.
“You really don’t get anything out of playing against the Sisters of Mercy type of teams.”
Galindo said he had to pepper his nonleague league schedule with quality teams not only to get his team prepared for the postseason, but because Bell-Jeff often doesn’t face quality competition in the Santa Cruz League prior to the postseason.
This season, the Guards captured their fourth straight league championship, going undefeated with an 8-0 record. The closest game the Guards experienced in league play was a 5-1 victory over St. Matthias.
“We have to play other games that will get us ready because some of those league games are pretty one-sided,” said Galindo, whose squad notched a 21-5 win against St. Mary’s Academy and a 16-0 blowout against St. Genevieve in league. “And to go right from league into playoffs after playing in some of those games could be trouble for us.”
That’s why Galindo scheduled more challenging teams, even if it meant his Guards would take their share of lumps against tougher opponents. That was evident in losses to Harvard-Westlake (14-1), Granada Hills (11-1), Lancaster (7-1), Chaminade (7-1) and Mira Costa (4-2).
But Bell-Jeff also notched its share of wins or was at least competitive against some other established teams. The Guards defeated Downey Calvary Chapel (9-8), Alemany (6-3), San Fernando (3-1), St. Paul (3-2), Palos Verdes (9-2), and lost to Beckman, 2-1.
“There were some very good teams we lost to,” Galindo said.
That likely helped the Guards slice though the first four rounds of the playoffs, outscoring opponents, 26-3.
“I think playing against tougher teams really prepared us for the teams we saw in the playoffs,” Bell-Jeff senior shortstop Monique Landini said. “And it’s good to see the kind of ball some other teams play. But it all came down to preparing us for the playoffs.”