Despite her team losing in its final game, the Mission Viejo graduated senior had a better season than she did when she was the State Junior of the Year and a national player of the year by Gatorade. She wins in one of the most difficult Ms. Softball State Player of the Year picks in the 33-year history of honor.
For this year’s State Softball Players of the Year by class and school size, CLICK HERE.
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After gathering all of the opinions, stat sheets and various player of the year selections that already have been released (and some that haven’t), all you can say about this year’s group of high school softball seniors in California is WOW.
In the end, the five Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year finalists were ranked in order, but in reality the difference between No. 5 and No. 1 could have been completely different with one swing of the bat.
It would have been much easier if one of the leading contenders was able to end their season with a game-winning home run or complete a championship game with a final strikeout in a shutout win. Unfortunately for us, none of that happened.
The one finalist who came the closest for that happening, Yucaipa’s Brooke Bolinger, got one of the other finalists, Mission Viejo’s Alyssa Palomino, to hit a soft liner for the final out of a 1-0 win by Yucaipa in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship that spoiled a 31-0 season for Mission Viejo.
Bolinger helped Yucaipa (31-3) move to No. 1 in the final state and national rankings with the Diablos falling to No. 2, but from an individual standpoint was that enough to move her past Mission Viejo’s other finalist, Taylor McQuillin, who still ended 2-1 on the season against Yucaipa and set a CIFSS record for career pitching wins?
That question was analyzed and came back in favor of McQuillin. Other similar questions involving the Mission Viejo standout and the other finalists – dominating pitcher/hitter Rachel Garcia from Highland of Palmdale and slugging outfielder Tannon Snow of Chino Hills — also eventually were answered in her favor (even by microscopic differences) and that’s why she’s getting the nod to be the 2015 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.
As a junior, McQuillin was the only one of the five finalists who was in the mix to be Ms. Softball as well. She lost out in that selection with a runner-up finish to Pleasanton Amador Valley’s Johanna Grauer (now at UCLA). She was still the State Junior of the Year, so her starting position for this year was further along than anyone else.
McQuillin’s junior year stats when she and Palomino led Mission to a 26-1 record and No. 1 national ranking showed her at 25-1 with a 0.69 ERA, 316 strikeouts in 173 2/3 innings and a .323 batting average on offense. As a senior, the University of Arizona recruit was better in all categories: 30-1 pitching record, 0.31 ERA, 389 strikeouts in 206 innings and a .352 batting average (fifth on the team with 29 more at-bats). That’s a 55-2 record over two seasons with 705 strikeouts and in the two games she and her teammates lost it was to opponents that were beaten earlier in those seasons.
Snow had a phenomenal season with a Cal-Hi Sports state record 28 home runs (that also gave her a new state career home run record) and 89 RBI playing in the competitive Baseline League and would have been Ms. Softball for many seasons. To beat out what Garcia and McQuillin did, however, her team simply needed to go further than the second round of the CIFSS D1 playoffs.
The race that for most of it seemed would be between teammates McQuillin and Palomino (it was Palomino, remember, who was State Sophomore of the Year for 2013) settled into a back-and-forth choice between Garcia and McQuillin. Either one would be a strong pick and believe it or not this story was written with different endings. McQuillin, then Garcia. Garcia, then McQuillin.
Since the version that you’re reading has Taylor’s photo at the top, you know which one was used.
Garcia actually was the pick by a slight margin among those from the Southern California prep media scene who were there to see Highland’s 1-0 loss in 13 innings to Torrance in the CIFSS D4 final as well as the Mission Viejo-Yucaipa battle. There’s little doubt the UCLA-bound player was one of the top pitchers and top hitters in the nation. And although Highland lost that game, Garcia wasn’t the losing pitcher due to a torn meniscus she suffered while warming up for the 13th inning.
Garcia, who already has been picked as the Gatorade National Player of the Year, went 26-2 in the circle with a 0.20 ERA and 418 strikeouts. She also had five perfect games and nine no-hitters. With bat in hand, Garcia was equally dominant. She batted a whopping .667 with 20 homers and 57 RBI.
Many have scoffed at Garcia’s totals due to Highland being in D4 of the CIFSS and not in D1 or D2, but as one SoCal writer pointed out “she would have been the best pitcher in D1 and right up there with McQuillin and Bolinger in D2.”
McQuillin’s career totals of 103-10 in the circle and 1,251 strikeouts with a 0.72 ERA, however, did come against tougher competition than Highland faced, including appearances by the Diablos in several of the nation’s toughest tournaments. Garcia’s career pitching showed her at 87-13 with 1,315 strikeouts and a 0.48 ERA. The 2013 and 2015 State Medium Schools Player of the Year also ended with 44 career homers, 152 career RBI and a .593 career batting average.
The question became was Mission Viejo’s competition that much better. People of different backgrounds would answer that one differently, too. To us, it was just enough of a difference. In one of Highland’s only games this season against a CIFSS D1 opponent, for example, Garcia was the losing pitcher in a 3-2 defeat to West Ranch of Valencia.
In close calls such as this, it’s also impossible to avoid checking out Hot 100 recruiting lists (such as those by FloSportsSoftball.com) and looking into possible travel ball summer matchups. It didn’t take long to find McQuillin pitching a two-hitter for the OC Batbusters last summer in a 3-0 win over the Corona Angels (with Garcia in the circle for that team) in the title game of the prestigious 18 Premier Division of the Premier Girls Fastpitch national tournament.
If there ever was a time to do Co-Players of the Year, this would be it. That’s a move, however, we’ll just never do.
So congratulations to Taylor McQuillin, you’ve been an inspiration to many with how you’ve overcome being legally blind in one eye with partial hearing in one ear (due to her infancy battle with Duane syndrome). You’ve been impressive how you’ve handled yourself in the last four years both academically and athletically and we’re proud to put you on the list of all-time Ms. Softball players for California that dates back to 1974.
ALL-TIME LIST CAL-HI SPORTS
MS. SOFTBALL STATE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2015 — Taylor McQuillin, Mission Viejo P
2014 — Johanna Grauer, Pleasanton Amador Valley P-DH
2013 — Kylie Reed, Norco INF
2012 — Emily Lockman, Norco P
2011 — Lauren Sweet, Corona Santiago C
2010 — Jessica Hall, Chino Hills Ayala P
2009 — Keilani Ricketts, San Jose Archbishop Mitty P-DH
2008 — Jessica Spigner, Valencia P-SS
2007 — Jordan Taylor, Valencia P
2006 — Amanda Williams, Oakley Freedom P
2005 — Katie Cotta, Linden P-DH
2004 — Anjelica Selden, Travis AFB Vanden P
2003 — Lisa Dodd, San Diego University City P-DH
2002 — Alicia Hollowell, Fairfield P
2001 — Marissa Marzan, Fresno Bullard P
2000 — Jamie Southern, Clovis, P-INF
1999 — Andrea Vidlund, Orangevale Casa Roble, P
1998 — Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica, P
1997 — Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica, P
1996 — Amanda Scott, Clovis P
1995 — Courtney Dale, Fresno Bullard P (Jr.)
1994 — Sara Griffin, Simi Valley P
1993 — Sara Griffin, Simi Valley P
1992 — Leah O’Brien, Chino Don Lugo P
1991 — Jennifer Brundage, Irvine P
1990 — Karen Jackson, Roseville P
1989 — Lisa Fernandez, Lakewood St. Joseph P
1988 — Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia P
1987 — Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia P
1986 — Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia P
1985 — Jackie Oakley, Huntington Beach Ocean View P
1984 — Samantha Ford, Newhall Hart P
1983 — Shawn Andaya, Lodi P
1982 — Kandy Foust, Santa Maria Righetti P
1981 — Tracy Compton, Santa Maria Righetti P
1980 — Tracy Compton, Santa Maria Righetti P
1979 — Mary Lou Ramm, Chula Vista Hilltop P
1978 — Teri Young, El Segundo P
1977 — Karen Andrews, San Diego Henry P
1976 — Jan Jeffers, Lompoc P
1975 — Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian P
1974 — Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian P