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State Junior of the Year
Johanna Grauer (Amador Valley, Pleasanton)
As the only junior of the eight finalists for Ms. Softball, it was pretty much a lock that Grauer would repeat as her class winner after capturing State Sophomore of the Year honors for last season.
Despite the fact she got hit a bit at the Michelle Carew Classic, every softball analyst that saw her and offered input agreed she is the best pitcher in the state, and possibly the nation.
Going into the CIF North Coast Section playoffs, she remained a leading candidate for overall Player of the Year. She even finished the East Bay Athletic League season by pitching a mercy-shortened perfect game.
Unfortunately for her and the Dons’ faithful, a freak accident in which she stepped in a gopher hole shagging fly balls in the outfield ended her season the day before they were to open play in the Division I quarterfinals, a game they lost to end the season with Grauer only able to watch from the dugout.
Before injuring her ankle, the Arizona State-committed Grauer was pitching her best. She ended up 22-2 with a 0.08 ERA and only two earned runs given up and 39 hits allowed in 152 innings pitched that saw her strike out 274 batters.
Besides pitching the one perfect game this season, Grauer pitched three no-hitters and eight one-hitters. As a batter, after struggling with a BA below .200 until midway through league, she ended up at .328 on the season. According to Amador Valley head coach Teresa Borchard, Grauer has recovered and will take her place on the Swedish National team as the youngest member when play begins in early July.
State Sophomore of the Year
Alyssa Palomino (Mission Viejo)
In a year of tough decisions that started with the final rankings and continues with Players of the Year, the sophomore award was almost as hard as Ms. Softball, since that class has the most abundant crop of underclass or maybe even overall talent in state history.
In the end, it came down to Palomino, the slugger from Orange County and the slugger from Ventura County and last year’s State Freshman winner Amanda Lorenz.
In what boxing would call a split decision, Palomino, the granddaughter of Los Angeles area boxing legend Carlos Palomino, has been declared the winner on points.
The powerfully-built and Arizona commit also had some knockouts when it came to hitting the yellow ball. Her 18 home runs tied for the state lead this season, and will get her a place on the Most Home Runs (Season) list in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. It came against some of the state’s toughest competition as well.
Besides the 18 long flies, the Ms. Softball finalist and Orange County Register Player of the Year hit .522 with nine doubles, two triples, 33 RBIs and 50 runs scored. She also stole a base on all eight attempts.
State Freshman of the Year
Zoe Marrott (Campolindo, Moraga)
There were quite a few freshmen that could have won the honor, but the early Arizona State-committed third-sacker got the award for four reasons.
First, she was the top player and leader of an underdog team that won a section title, in her case the CIF North Coast Section Division III title, and second she was instrumental in that victory (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) on both offense and defense.
The third reason is her numbers in comparison to the competition she and her rivals faced are among the tops, and last, the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan saw her in the NCS final, and there’s a good reason ASU offered early, and like Johanna Grauer, she accepted.
Marrott is, in fact, among the best freshmen we’ve seen in many years. She plays with precision and displays a kind of maturity that allows older girls to follow her. On the season, she hit .484 with a .590 on-base percentage, three home runs, 23 RBIs, 18 runs scored, a .726 slugging percentage, only seven strikeouts, and seven stolen bases.
Medium Schools Player of the Year
Rachel Garcia (Highland, Palmdale)
Just as is in the case of the State Junior winner, the only Ms. Softball nominee from her level enrollment category is another one of the phenomenal sophomores of this season.
Although she was also a finalist for the State Sophomore honor, Garcia still won a statewide honor as she has been chosen as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, which includes academics in its criteria.
Garcia has the extraordinary numbers to back up that selection. She finished the season as a pitcher 22-2 with a 0.50 ERA and had 302 strikeouts in 139 innings pitched. Garcia also was prolific as a batter with a .709 average, including 13 home runs, 12 doubles, 42 RBIs and an astronomical 1.380 slugging percentage. In her 79 official plate appearances, the UCLA-commit had more extra base hits than outs.
Small School Player of the Year
Zoe Casas (Aquinas, San Bernardino)
In a year in which two girls named Zoe are honored, this Zoe is also the second winner of a statewide award from the Inland Empire, and another of the plethora of talented sophomore girls.
On a team that went 26-2 and easily captured the CIFSS Division V championship and was ranked No. 1 in the final Cal-Hi Sports Division IV state rankings, the speedy San Bernardino Sun Player of the Year and Florida State-committed centerfielder was at or near the top of all the team’s offensive categories except home runs, where she only hit two.
Casas’ .663 average, 63 hits, 50 runs scored, and eight triples all led the team, while her 11 doubles got a tie. Another thing that led the team was her 16 steals and the fact she didn’t strike out once all season.
With all the talent they have in Florida, when Florida State goes after a sophomore, small school California player to sign early, that says a lot. But based on what she did and what her team did, Casas has earned this award on the field and not because of recruiting ratings.