For the third time in four years, an Orange County team has been officially crowned as the State Team of the Year in softball. Since 2009, it’s been either an Orange County or Inland Empire team finishing on top in the state, but at least this year there’s no bothersome comparison of the various CIF Southern Section champions. That section’s D1 bracket has been the focus all season.
For more on all five of our State Teams of the Year (by divisions), CLICK HERE.
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While some of the divisional placements in section playoffs may be curious based on competitive equity, one great benefit of the CIF Southern Section going to that format this year for softball is that it’s no longer going to be a task to compare the various champions every year.
For softball, if a team wins the D1 bracket, there’s not much doubt. Last year, if many can recall, that wasn’t the case with the final No. 1 ranking and State Team of the Year choice requiring a comparison of D1 winner Mater Dei (Santa Ana), D2 champ Mission Viejo and even D3 titlist Grand Terrace. This season, all of those teams are in D1 and the decision about No. 1 in California also was always going to come down to which team won the CIFSS D1 title because of what D1 front-runner Norco was doing all season long.
After winning the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions title in Bullhead City, Ariz., and then the Michelle Carew Classic and starting off the bracket with a 30-0 record, Norco wasn’t just an easy choice to be No. 1 in the state but was No. 1 in the nation (FloSoftball Flo50). The Cougars weren’t able to complete their dream season, however, as Los Alamitos avenged an earlier loss by beating them 3-1 in last Saturday’s CIFSS D1 final in Irvine.
Heading into the playoffs, it also was evident that Los Al had a path to being No. 1 in the nation as well. Sure, the Griffins had three losses but they had already avenged two of them with later wins over both La Habra and Mission Viejo and getting another avenging win — and against Norco to boot — was going to be enough. That path turned golden with the win last Saturday, so head coach Rob Weil’s girls are indeed the 2017 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. Their final official national coronation is still to come.
Los Al is the third State Team of the Year in softball in the last four years from Orange County. There was a gap between 2004 and 2014, however, and in many of those years it was an Inland Empire team that ended in that position, including Norco in 2012. The last team not from the CIF Southern Section to be No. 1 in the state was Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (32-0) in 2009.
For Weil, this also is the third time he’s coached a team to the final No. 1 state ranking. He did it previously at Pacifica of Garden Grove in back-to-back seasons of 2003, 2004.
“What I’m happiest about is the 14 seniors who have been dedicated toward this kind of season for four years,” Weil said. “I mean we’re not your normal team with 21 kids in the program with D1 offers, but still it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of time to do this.”
Among those seniors are many who are headed to major colleges, including pitcher Ryan Denhart to Maryland and catcher Mary Iakopo to Oregon. Others include outfielder Ally Englant (Ohio), infielder Andrea Gonzalez (Iowa State), outfielder Jenna Kean (Arizona), infielder Caitie Ladd (Michigan State), outfielder Alexa Schultz (Oklahoma) and first base Cami Sellers (Boston College).
Weil also knows that for his own team to finish that high required an opponent with the kind of resume that Norco had built.
“You can write a book about what Taylor (Dockins) did this season and we just have so much respect for her and for Rick (head coach Rick Robinson) and their great players,” he said. “Yeah, I guess it is kind of a bummer they didn’t win.”
It’s not like it was an upset, however, and it’s not like we still don’t have a No. 1 team worthy of going down alongside some of the state’s other all-time greats.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
SOFTBALL STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2017 – Los Alamitos (27-3)
2016 – Mission Viejo (27-4)
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)
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports