All five finalists also would be regarded as national player of the year candidates and realistically any of the five would be a legit national player of the year. Only one, though, will be the annual Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year, a selection that dates back more than 30 years.
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Did this year’s race for Ms. Softball State Player of the Year get less complicated or more complicated when state and national No. 1 Mission Viejo was upset in its final game by Yucaipa in the CIF Southern Section Divison II championship?
Go through the explanations for this year’s five finalists and see for yourself:
(All listed in alphabetical order; announcement of this year’s winner will be toward end of June 22-26 week)
(Use comments section below to tell us what you think about this year’s honor or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Brooke Bolinger (Yucaipa)
We’ll say straight out that if Bolinger and her teammates had not gotten the 1-0 shutout of Mission Viejo in that last game that she would not have been a finalist. An obvious first team all-state choice? Sure, she already had that wrapped up. But blanking the Diablos and in turn having her team elevated to No. 1 in the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings and final FloSports Softball FAB 50 national rankings definitely puts her firmly in the Ms. Softball discussion.
In addition to the shutout of Mission Viejo, Bolinger had 15 other shutouts on the season. The University of Nevada recruit also ended with a 31-3 record, a 0.27 ERA and struck out 306 batters in 211 1/3 innings. And like other top Ms. Softball candidates, Bolinger did more than just pitch for the Thunderbirds. She also was one of the team’s leading hitters with a .368 average and 19 RBI.
Rachel Garcia (Highland, Palmdale)
A devastating knee injury suffered as she was warming up for the 13th inning of the CIFSS Division IV title game prevented Garcia from getting the same kind of storybook ending that Bolinger enjoyed. The game between Highland and Torrance was still 0-0, but without Garcia the Tartars quickly took advantage and went on to a 1-0 win.
Garcia, who is headed to UCLA, already has been named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year. Since she didn’t get the loss in the final game, her final season totals as a pitcher showed her with a 26-2 record, 418 strikeouts in 175 innings and a 0.20 ERA.
Those are insane pitching totals, but Garcia also was one of the state’s most feared batters. Before that last game, she had a .691 batting average and had 20 home runs. Garcia also had that one game against Camarillo in which she struck out 23 of 24 batters in eight innings of perfect game pitching, but using the international tie-breaker (runner put on second base to start an inning) and then a throwing error led to a 1-0 loss.
Taylor McQuillin (Mission Viejo)
All season long, we’ve been dreading the task of choosing between McQuillin and teammate Alyssa Palomino for Ms. Softball. As many know, we don’t have ties in the rankings or co-players of the year and never have had them. The local Orange County Register has never had this problem since it has named McQuillin its Pitcher of the Year and Palomino its Player of the Year three times.
As sophomores, Palomino’s power numbers were just a bit more impressive so she got the nod as State Sophomore of the Year. Then last year it was McQuillin with slightly more impressive totals so she was the State Junior of the Year. She also was the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
McQuillin also has one advantage in that she hits in Mission Viejo’s lineup in addition to pitching. This season, she did that to the tune of a .352 average.
Still, it’s the pitching that separates McQuillin. She ended her career with 103 wins for a new CIF Southern Section record. She also had 35 straight wins prior to the loss to Yucaipa and had 389 strikeouts and a 0.31 ERA.
Alyssa Palomino (Mission Viejo)
In the last two years with Palomino hitting bombs and McQuillin twirling shutouts, Mission Viejo had a 55-2 record with one mythical national title and one No. 2 finish. Both players also will continue to be teammates next season at the University of Arizona.
Palomino hit 16 more homers in her senior season and was the first player in the state to eclipse the previous Cal-Hi Sports state record of 53 career home runs set in 2009 by Alia Williams from Crenshaw of Los Angeles. Later, Palomino herself had that record surpassed. Nonetheless, she still hammered out 58 career homers for the second-highest total in state history.
For the season, Palomino also batted .532 and had a .619 on-base percentage. Her national pedigree also is shown by her presence on the USA Junior National team.
Tannon Show (Chino Hills)
The answer to the question above about it being more complicated now than just having to try to break a tie between McQuillin and Palomino is a definite yes.
The fact that Mission Viejo did not win its section title this year plus the incredible slugging numbers that Snow put up against Baseline League competition — which is certainly at least the equal to the league competition that Mission Viejo faces – makes her candidacy tough to beat.
Snow, who is headed to Washington and is a great friend of travel ball teammate Palomino, set the single season state record with 28 home runs not to mention the single season state record for RBI with 89. She also moved past Palomino on the career homer list after Palomino had broken the previous state record and finished with 60 (compared to Palomino with 58).
More dizzying totals for Snow: 212 career RBI, .501 career batting average, .573 season batting average, 7-for-8 with four homers and 16 RBI in one day (two games in Arizona tourney) plus an eight RBI day in a playoff win against Vista Murrieta.
The only downer for Snow is that Chino Hills only lasted until the second round of the CIFSS Division I playoffs with a loss to Canyon of Anaheim.