Chula Vista Eastlake’s Grant Holman might even surpass some of the totals next year that State Player of the Year Hagen Danner put up this year at Huntington Beach. Holman, named as this year’s State Junior of the Year, leads this year’s group of other state players of the year. He’s joined by Kyle Ashworth from Foothill of Tustin (sophs), Lucas Gordon of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (frosh), Matt Sauer from Righetti of Santa Maria (medium schools) and Robert Cruz from Arrowhead Christian of Redlands (small schools).
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Congratulations to the following five players also who also have been selected this week as Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year.
Grant Holman (Eastlake, Chula Vista)
Our lone Player of the Year that is not from the CIF Southern Section, he did it all for the Titans this season during their CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship season and was the easy selection for this award after being the lone junior to be a finalist for our Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year honor.
Known before high school due to his standing out at the Little League World Series, Holman went 10-0 on the mound for the second year in a row with a 1.00 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 78 innings. Not only did he lead the team on the mound, but he hit a team-best 12 home runs while hitting .381 with 32 runs batted in. As a team, Eastlake also finished No. 1 overall in the final state rankings.
Scouts are wondering if Holman is a better pitcher or hitter. Yet to commit to a college, he told the San Diego Union Tribune recently that “I love doing both, and I’d like to do both in college. I love to compete. Doing both allows me to do that.”
The last State Junior of the Year from the San Diego Section was Brett Seeburger of Vista in 2012. The last one before that was Sean O’Sullivan from Santana of Santee for 2004.
Last 10 State Juniors of the Year: 2016 – Royce Lewis (SJ Capistrano JSerra); 2015 – Jeremy Ydens (Mountain View St. Francis); 2014 – Joe DeMers (Pleasant Hill College Park); 2013 – Jack Flaherty (North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake); 2012 – Brett Seeburger (Vista); 2011 – Rio Ruiz (La Puente Bishop Amat); 2010 – J.D. Davis (Elk Grove); 2009 – Jake Rodriguez (Elk Grove); 2008 – Matt Hobgood (Norco); 2007 – Kevin Eichhorn (Aptos).
Kyle Ashworth (Foothill, Tustin)
Helping him earn this statewide honor was the fact that this slugger was the offensive player of the year in the Crestview League and he was also the lone sophomore selected to the CIFSS Division I first team. The Crestview League is highly regarded with teams such as El Dorado of Placentia (reached CIFSS D1 semifinals after win over Huntington Beach), Esperanza of Anaheim and El Modena or Orange.
For the Knights, Ashworth hit .453 with six doubles, a triple and 22 runs batted in. He nearly recorded multi-hit games in half of his games played this season with 14 games and twice had a three-hit games.
There were multiple other sophomores checked out closely for this award. Two from the CIF San Diego Section were catcher Mac Bingham of Torrey Pines and first baseman/pitcher Spencer Jones of Carlsbad La Costa Canyon. Instead of trying to break what looked like a tie between those two, however, we just went with Ashworth. Xavier Carter from Sacramento Capital Christian and Brady Hormel from Buchanan of Clovis also were considered among others.
The only other two from Orange County who have been State Sophomore of the Year in the past 20 years have been Hank Conger of Huntington Beach for 2004 and Sergio Santos of Mater Dei for 2000.
Last 10 State Sophomores of the Year: 2016 – Brandon Dieter (West Covina South Hills); 2015 – Hunter Greene (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame); 2014 – Mickey Moniak (Carlsbad La Costa Canyon); 2013 – Joe DeMers (Pleasant Hill College Park); 2012 – Alex Jackson (San Diego Rancho Bernardo); 2011 – Ryan Tellez (Elk Grove); 2010 – Rio Ruiz (La Puente Bishop Amat); 2009 – Christan Lopes (Valencia); 2008 – Jake Rodriguez (Elk Grove); 2007 – Max Stassi (Yuba City).
Lucas Gordon (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks)
While eventual No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft Hunter Greene was getting the majority of the attention at Notre Dame this season, this 15 year old was standing out in his own way and showing why he is already committed to USC.
Some of Gordon’s big performances this season included a one-hit shutout against Aliso Niguel at the Boras Classic, seven no-hit innings against Crespi of Encino and a three-hit complete game in the team’s CIF-SS Division I playoff opener that had head coach Tom Dill tell the Daily News “You can’t look at his age, he’s one of the best out there.”
While Gordon did contribute at the plate by hitting .325 with nine runs batted in, it was on the mound where the 6-foot lefty made his biggest mark as he went 10-1 with a 1.21 ERA. In 69.1 innings, he also allowed just 14 walks while striking out 77.
It was only three years ago when the San Fernando Valley had its last State Freshman of the Year in Chatsworth’s Tommy Palomera. Notre Dame’s last State Player of the Year was Hunter Greene for sophomores two years ago.
Last 10 State Freshmen of the Year: 2016 – Jasiah Dixon (Orange Lutheran); 2015 – Joey Magrisi (San Diego Rancho Bernardo); 2014 – Tommy Palomera (Chatsworth); 2013 – Conrado Diaz (San Ysidro); 2012 – Jagger Rusconi (Valencia West Ranch); 2011 – Alex Jackson (San Diego Rancho Bernardo); 2010 – J.R. Crawford (Lakewood); 2009 – Ty France (Covina South Hills); 2008 – Christian Lopes (Valencia); 2007 – James Roberts (San Jose Archbishop Mitty).
Matt Sauer (Righetti, Santa Maria)
We checked the all-time list of State POYs for medium schools and there hasn’t been one from Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo County since pitcher Mel Queen of San Luis Obispo in 1960. We haven’t had any on the overall list or for small schools other than Carpinteria’s John Moreno for small schools in 1974. Both of those choices were done through retroactive research in the late 1970s but they still count in our book.
Like many others players of the year, Sauer was an outstanding two-way player for the Warriors with his pitching standing out the most. He went 9-1 with a 0.98 ERA while striking out 142 batters in 78.1 innings. Over three years he went 25-9 with a 1.35 ERA while striking out 324 batters in 222.1 innings pitched. Sauer pitched a two-hit shutout in Righetti’s CIFSS D3 semifinal win over Paraclete of Lancaster but didn’t pitch in the team’s 12-2 loss to Walnut in the final.
During his senior season, Sauer also had his best year at the plate as he hit .427 with eight doubles and 24 runs batted in. He was selected with the 54th overall pick in the recent MLB Draft by the New York Yankees and reportedly signed for almost double the slotted amount. Sauer would have played in college at Arizona.
Should he make it to the Major Leagues with the Yankees, Sauer would be the second player from the school to do so as former Righetti grad Robin Ventura played with the Yankees in 2002 and 2003.
Last 10 Medium Schools State Players of the Year: 2016 – Sean Reynolds (Redondo Beach Redondo Union); 2015 – Peter Lambert (San Dimas); 2014 – Chris Mathewson (Fontana Kaiser); 2013 – Dominic Smith (Gardena Serra); 2012 – Troy Conyers (Lakeside El Capitan); 2011 – Rio Ruiz (La Puente Bishop Amat); 2010 – Angelo Gumbs (Torrance); 2009 – Ryan Wilkins (San Diego Cathedral Catholic); 2008 – Kyle Skipworth (Riverside Rubidoux); 2007 – Mike Stanton (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame).
Robert Cruz (Arrowhead Christian, Redlands)
Named by the CIFSS as its Division 7 Player of the Year, Cruz now earns our statewide honor after hitting a monster .645 with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in.
During Arrowhead Christian’s postseason run, Cruz had two games with two home runs. In the first one, he hit two homers and drove in eight runs against Hamilton of Anza and later homered twice with three runs batted in against Boron.
While it was with his bat that he made the biggest impact and had him among the reported state leaders in several offensive categories, Cruz also was 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA and two saves on the mound. He also went 14 for 16 on stolen base attempts.
Cruz, who is headed to UC Riverside to play next on a scholarship, is the fourth small schools state player of the year from the Inland Empire on a list that starts in 1950. The other three are Kyle Kane from Linfield of Temecula in 1995, Richard Hunter of Linfield in 1993 and Marvin Cobb from Notre Dame of Riverside for 1971.
We hope the selection of Cruz provides some solace for a team that suffered the death of Jamie Gross, the wife of head coach Kip Gross, just two days before the CIFSS finals.
Note that some schools that previously were eligible for small schools are now being considered for medium due to their placement in higher section playoff divisions due to competitive equity.
Last 10 Small Schools State Players of the Year: 2016 – Brett Super (Newport Beach Sage Hill); 2015 – Nico Hoerner (Oakland Head-Royce); 2014 – Nico Hoerner (Oakland Head-Royce); 2013 – Carlos Salazar (Kerman); 2012 – Nolan Gannon (Solana Beach Santa Fe Christian); 2011 – Robb Woodcock (Kentfield Marin Catholic); 2010 – Dylan Covey (Sierra Madre Maranatha); 2009 – Andrew Rich (Easton Washington); 2008 – Clay Cederquist (Fowler); 2007 – Nick Noonan (San Diego Francis Parker); 2006 – Eddie McKiernan (Monrovia).
Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens contributed to this report. 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