Season-long leader Mission Viejo has to slide to No. 2 behind the Thunderbirds in the final state rankings after losing to them 1-0 in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship. It’s the fifth time in six years that an Inland Empire team collects State Team of the Year honor.
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Despite its longtime status as a great producer of softball talent, It wasn’t until 2010 that a school from the Inland Empire ended the season with the No. 1 overall ranking for California.
Since then, however, the region has been getting teams into the winner’s circle in the biggest games in the CIF Southern Section championships and this year that happened again last Friday when Yucaipa knocked off unbeaten Mission Viejo 1-0 in the CIFSS D2 final in Irvine.
Although it could be argued that Mission Viejo certainly did enough throughout the season to be ranked No. 1 in the state regardless of its loss to Yucaipa (including two earlier wins over the Thunderbirds), the final No. 1 ranking and designation as State Team of the Year has always followed to what we call at Cal-Hi Sports the hardware rule. That’s the one in which the team that gets to raise the hardware after the last game (and by winning the most important game of the season) also has to be ranked at least one spot higher than the team it beat in that game.
Yucaipa did win that game that mattered the most and thus ends No. 1 in the state and is the 2015 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. The Thunderbirds also become the fifth Inland Empire team to finish No. 1 in the state in the last six years, following Ayala of Chino Hills (2010), Santiago of Corona (2011), Norco (2012) and Santiago again (2013). Mission Viejo’s 26-1 squad from last season is the only one since 2010 not from the Inland Empire.
Since dropping a 2-0 game to Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga (a team that eventually did get to the CIFSS D1 semifinals despite 12 losses), head coach David Krivett’s club went 27-2 with the only losses in those games to Mission Viejo. And it’s not exactly like the Diablos mercy-ruled the Thunderbirds in those two games. The one-run scores were 1-0 in the title game of the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., and 3-2 in the semifinals of the Michelle Carew Classic.
Pitcher Brooke Bolinger notched the shutout against Mission Viejo and was stellar through the season. The University of Nevada-bound senior had a 0.26 season ERA and had 306 strikeouts in 211 1/3 innings. Perhaps no moment exemplified Krivett’s faith in her as when he allowed her to pitch to Diablos’ standout Alyssa Palomino with the tying run on second base and with first base open in last Friday’s game. Bolinger got Palomino on a soft liner to shortstop for the final out.
“This is a dream that has turned into a reality,” Bolinger told Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise following Friday’s game. “They beat us twice before by one run, and that kept driving us. That made us want this one game more. We fought and came out on fire today. Winning this title has been the goal from the first day of practice.”
Yucaipa, of course, needed more than just a clutch pitcher to achieve its goals. Junior catcher Kelly Martinez also is an All-American candidate and led the team with a .464 average and had eight homers and 42 RBI. Senior Annie Bakenhus led the team in doubles with nine, batted .417 and had 25 RBI. Sophomore Megan Martin (.340, 20 RBI), junior Mallorie Cross (.319, 29 RBI) and Bolinger (.368 with 19 RBI) also were major contributors throughout the season at the plate.
Rounding out the roster for the 2015 mythical state champs is freshman Blayne Nelson, junior Kayla Martin, senior Jordan Green, senior Jazzy Lopez, junior Kora Shoemaker, sophomore Madyson Marvuli, sophomore Brooke Brady, sophomore Jordan Herron, senior Skyler Burke, sophomore Alexis Avalos, freshman Keely Clark and sophomore Kaitlyn Alvarado.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
SOFTBALL STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2015 – Yucaipa (31-3)
2014 – Mission Viejo (26-1)
2013 – Corona Santiago (31-5)
2012 – Norco (31-2)
2011 – Corona Santiago (28-5)
2010 – Chino Hills Ayala (29-5)
2009 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (32-0)
2008 – Sacramento Sheldon (32-2)
2007 – Valencia (32-1)
2006 – Oakley Freedom (25-0)
2005 – Simi Valley Royal (29-2)
2004 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2003 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – San Diego Mira Mesa (31-1)
2001 – Fresno Bullard (36-1)
2000 – Tustin Foothill (33-2)
1999 – Fresno Bullard (38-1-1)
1998 – Clovis Buchanan (35-2)
1997 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-1-1)
1996 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (30-1)
1995 – Huntington Beach Marina (24-5)
1994 – Clovis (31-3) (plus 2 wins by default)
1993 – Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Stockton Lincoln (35-3)
1991 – Stockton Lincoln (29-3)
1990 – Roseville (37-2)
1989 – Lakewood St. Joseph (26-1)
1988 – Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (21-6)
1987 – Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1985 – Huntington Beach Ocean View (32-0)
1984 – Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Lodi (27-2)
1982 – San Diego Madison (20-0)
1981 – Santa Maria Righetti (25-1)
1980 – Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Downey Warren (18-1)
1974 – El Segundo (undefeated)