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IVC softball race is wide open

April 26, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

For the past few seasons in the Imperial Valley League, there has always seemed to be one or two teams a cut above the rest in softball.

Last year Central Union High breezed to an IVL championship, finishing 11-1 while Brawley Union High and Holtville were left battling for the runner-up position.

This year through the first round of league, there hasn't been one dominant team. On any day, any team, whether in first place or last, can beat just about anyone.

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Through the first six games, five teams — Brawley, Central, Holtville, Palo Verde and Southwest — are within a game at the top of the standings.

Holtville, Palo Verde and Southwest are tied for first with 4-2 records, while Central and Brawley sit tied for second with 3-3 marks.

"At the beginning of the season I knew it was going to be a very interesting league and I knew there wasn't going to be one dominant team and that no one would go undefeated," said Spartan coach Sandy Montalvo. "We started 3-0 and now we're 3-3. It's not that we don't have it. It's just that everyone has it now.

"Last year we had some games that we'd go into and know that we'd be able to kind of catch our breath. But now there's not one game at all where you can just sit back on your heels," said Montalvo. "I've told the team that what we did the first six games of league doesn't matter at all. What happens from now to the end of the season is what counts. And I've said that whichever team goes out and wins all their league games the rest of the way, no matter what their record is right now, is going to be the team that takes it."

Of the five teams at the top of the standings, three — Brawley, Central and Holtville — have gone in different directions since their starts in league.

As Montalvo pointed out, after Central established itself at the top of the league, it was handed a decisive 5-0 loss by Holtville, which started 1-2 in IVL. Since then Holtville has gone 3-1 while the Spartans lost two more in a row.

The Vikings handed Palo Verde its second league loss Tuesday to create the log jam atop the standings.

"I'm really not surprised that it's been this close because every team has players that've been playing for a long time and are now in high school playing against each other," said Holtville senior Michelle Strahm. "I think this is the craziest I've every seen it. But it makes it so exciting and it makes every game count that much more."

Said Viking coach David Rodgers: "I'm not surprised at all that league has shaped up like this. I would be more surprised if there was one team running away with everything. I think the way it's been in the first half will continue the second half."

If there is one team that would benefit more than others if the trend continues, it would be Brawley, almost left for dead after its 0-3 start.

After being a perennial contender the past three seasons and having won an IVL crown in 2000, the Wildcats seemed to be on pace for one of their worst seasons in recent memory.

But with three wins in a row, Brawley is back in the league race.

"All that was a learning experience for us. Losing is a great way to open your eyes and this has proven that things aren't always handed to you on a silver platter," said Wildcat junior Erin Rutherford. "Really, I am surprised that it's been this close because I've never heard of league being this tight, in any sport.

"It just shows that everyone's on the same level now. It's a pretty tough race and I think it's anyone's league to win," said Rutherford. "We started 0-3, but I knew it'd be a matter of time before we turned things around. Now we're really coming together as a team. If we play as a team, keep on winning and beat everyone we need to beat, then we'll be fine. But it's definitely going to be tough."

League play continues today with Brawley hosting Southwest at 3:15, Central hosting Calexico at 4:15 and Imperial playing at Holtville at 4:15.

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