There are more than one from Orange County for both baseball and softball as post-season honors begin with a look at top candidates for the only baseball and softball State Player of the Year honors that have more than 100 years of history behind them.
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Congratulations to these finalists who will be considered for the 2017 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year honor (look for announcement of winner in approx. two weeks; written up in alphabetical order):
Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach)
The UCLA signer has been floating around the projected first round of next week’s MLB Draft for more than year as has Huntington Beach teammate Nick Pratto. It doesn’t matter for Mr. Baseball if Pratto ends up chosen higher because Danner has to be the one off of the Oilers’ roster pegged higher for what happened in high school. That’s the way it always is for those who have both big-time hitting and pitching totals. Danner probably would have been a slam dunk for the eventual Mr. Baseball selection had Huntington Beach ended up No. 1 in the nation. A CIF Southern Section D1 playoff upset to El Dorado (Placentia), however, took care of that. Danner still had an amazing season with an 11-1 pitching record and 11 homers. He led the team to a championship at the Boras Baseball Classic. All of his final stats are still unreported.
Hunter Greene (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks)
The first-ever Sports Illustrated coverboy from a California high school could make it hard not to choose him Mr. Baseball if he’s the No. 1 pick in next week’s MLB Draft. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Mickey Moniak of Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, surely benefitted but he also had an outstanding prep season. Greene also did well for the Knights, but he was shut down as a pitcher after only a handful of appearances. With a fastball that was reported several times at more than 100 mph, Greene ended up 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA at Notre Dame this season. He also had 43 strikeouts in 28 innings. At the plate, Greene batted .324 with six homers and 28 RBI. If he does become a position player later on, it’s likely at shortstop and more than one of his defensive plays went viral on social media.
Grant Holman (Eastlake, Chula Vista)
The only junior on the list, Holman could practically be called the Hagen Danner of San Diego due to his accomplishments on the mound and at the plate. The only difference is that Holman’s team actually ended up higher in the final state rankings than Huntington Beach. After Eastlake defeated Helix of La Mesa 8-3 for the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title, Holman improved to 10-0 as a pitcher for the season and to 20-0 for his prep career. The former Little League World Series standout also blasted a team-leading 12 homers. There isn’t a total in the state listed in the MaxPreps database at least that is higher. He is undecided about a college.
Jake Jackson (El Toro, Lake Forest)
Two weeks ago, we can say with certainty that Jake wouldn’t be this high on the player of the year radar screen. But after watching him dominate Corona with a three-hitter last Friday at Dodger Stadium he’s at least deserving to be in the conversation. Earlier in El Toro’s march to the CIFSS D1 title, Jackson delivered a one-hitter. For the season, the University of Nevada-bound senior went 12-1 with a 0.61 ERA. He also had 89 strikeouts and just six walks in 92 innings. “He’s been the best pitcher in Southern California in the playoffs,” said Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times while we were sitting next to him last Friday.
Royce Lewis (JSerra, San Juan Capistrano)
Our State Junior of the Year from last season already has been selected as the Gatorade State Player of the Year. The strength of Lewis’ case to be Mr. Baseball is based not just on the Gatorade pick (which we often don’t match because the Gatorade picks usually don’t wait until a season is over) but by being player of the year three times in the insanely-competitive Trinity League. Lewis, signed by UC Irvine, also is pegged as a high MLB draft choice. For the season, he hit .377 four homers, 32 runs scored and 25 steals. He was at his best at the National Classic tourney where he went 8-for-11 with two homers, one double and one triple and led JSerra to the championship game. It wasn’t nearly as strong of a season for the Lions as in 2016, however, as they only finished 17-13.
Congratulations to these finalists who will be considered for the 2017 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year honor (look for announcement of winner in approx. two weeks; written up in alphabetical order):
Taylor Dockins (Norco)
Regardless of the loss to Los Alamitos from last Saturday, Dockins remains a strong candidate. She ended her career with 108 career pitching wins (one of the highest in state history) and was Norco’s leading hitter for average. She had two hits for the Cougars in that final game. Her story of how she came back from cancer surgery last summer not only inspired her teammates, but players and coaches nationwide. Dockins already has been named the Gatorade State Player of the Year. She will play next at Cal-State Fullerton.
Maddy Dwyer (Lutheran, Orange)
The Orange County Pitcher of the Year as a junior and a likely three-time All-American, Dwyer completed a four-year career for the Lancers by leading them to the CIFSS D1 semifinals. She only allowed three hits in a loss to Los Alamitos. In addition to her pitching, Dwyer also was one of the top hitters for a team that will end No. 3 in the final state rankings. Her career and season stats are not yet available, but she’s likely going to be on several all-time state career pitching leader lists. Dwyer will play next at Stanford.
Mary Iakopo (Los Alamitos)
Regarded as possibly the best defensive catcher in the nation and one of the top college prospects in the nation regardless of position, Iakopo had a great season for Los Al. No disrespect to pitcher Ryan Denhart, but Iakopo ranks as the team’s leading player of the year candidate. She was the No. 4 hitter in the lineup all season, hit with power and already has been on a U.S. National team. Iakopo drove in the first two runs of the game when the Griffins beat Norco 3-1 last Saturday that gave them the CIFSS D1 title plus a mythical national title. She will play next at Oregon.
Briana Perez (Alhambra, Martinez) Sr.
Yes, the competition she faced in some games was questionable, but there isn’t an obvious player of the year candidate from anywhere else in Northern California and Perez is the No. 1 college prospect in the country (according to FloSoftball) who had a sensational high school season. She’s also a finalist for what she’s done throughout her four years and not just this season. Perez, who has signed with UCLA, led the Bulldogs by hitting .592 with six homers and 31 RBI. Her batting average actually dropped from .608 as a soph and .613 as a junior. For her career, Briana had a .569 average with 31 homers and 145 RBI. Both the average and homers make the all-time state lists.
Brooke Yanez (Buena, Ventura) Sr.
It’s hard to imagine a better ending to a season than the one Yanez had. In Buena’s 4-0 win against San Marcos of Santa Barbara for the CIFSS DIV crown, the UC Davis-bound standout pitched a no-hitter and struck out 12. Yanez led Buena to a 27-0-1 record, which is the first time a team from Ventura County finished unbeaten. For the season, Yanez had a 19-0 pitching record and hit 11 homers. She also batted more than .400 and had 35 RBI.