SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of the final four SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week for the 2017-18 school year are Jessica Lopez from Santa Fe of Santa Fe Springs and Nick Cirelli of Concord De La Salle, who is shown greeting athletic director Leo Lopoz. Both shined in section title games. Photos: Patrick Takkinen / & Mark Tennis.

For the final weekly player of the week honors of 2017-18, all four obviously had to have led their teams to CIF section titles last weekend. They all did it in different ways for CIF North Coast Section Division I, CIF Southern Section Division II, NCS D4 and Southern D4.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. This is the final set of players written up for the 2018 season in baseball and softball. Thanks to everyone during the spring who sent in nominations and to everyone who contributed during the 2017-18 school year in football, plus boys and girls hoops.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Tyson Heaton
(Yucaipa) Jr.

For our final SoCal award winner we go east of San Bernardino to the far reaches of the Inland Empire where it can get pretty hot, but a different kind of heat than what Heaton brought in an 8-1 victory over Beckman (Irvine) in the CIF Southern Section D2 championship.

Heaton wasn’t a furnace in the title-game victory, but he scattered five hits and struck out three against Beckman. At the plate, he was 3-for-3 with a double and a walk.

Heaton played first base in a 7-3 semifinal victory over Ayala (Chino) but still brought some heat with his bat after going 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Against Crescenta Valley of La Crescenta, Tyson had two hits including a double with two runs scored.

Not only has Heaton brought the heat during the playoffs but although not overpowering he’s been smoking-hot perfect all season from the mound. In 16 appearances, Tyson has resembled boxing knockout king Mike Tyson with a 12-0 record and a 1.37 ERA.

As a batter, Heaton has stroked it to the tune of a .373 average with two triples, seven doubles, 19 RBI and 18 runs scored.

According to his twitter page, Heaton has been named the baseball athlete of the year for the Inland Empire by the Riverside Press-Enterprise. That makes him a candidate to be State Junior of the Year as well.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Softball Player of the Week

Jessica Lopez
(Santa Fe Springs) Sr.

For our final SoCal softball honoree we go around 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles and not far from the interchange of the Interstate 5 and I-605 freeways to honor a girl who like this week’s final four award winners led their team to a section championship.

For Lopez, her heroics came in the CIF Southern Section Division IV title-game 3-0 victory over San Marcos of Santa Barbara.

Jessica is a pitcher that doesn’t hit, but the way she tossed the big yellow ball in the playoffs gave her Chiefs teammates more than enough room to score the runs she needed to get her team through to a CIFSS section title and the first for Santa Fe Springs since 1990.

Not only did Lopez pitch a no-hitter with three walks and nine strikeouts in the title game, it was amazingly her third no-hitter in the five games of the playoffs.

Lopez pitched a no-hitter in the second round that saw her walk two but fan 17 in a 2-0 win over Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. She went back-to-back and was a walk away from a perfect game in a 4-0 victory over Oak Hills (Hesperia) where she stuck out 13 batters.

The senior right-hander would not have had a chance at a third no-no had her team not scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out a 3-2 victory over Sonora (La Habra) that avenged a season-opening 6-4 loss.

In her final season, Lopez was hurt early on and shared duties with two other pitches for the 22-7 Chiefs, but she certainly finished strong with a 7-2 record and a 0.88 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 71.2 innings pitched.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Nick Cirelli
(De La Salle, Concord) Sr.

A lot of people outside the North Coast Section don’t realize that besides being a football powerhouse, the De La Salle baseball team has been a perennial power as well. Since 1985, the Spartans have won 11 NCS titles, including five in Division I since head coach David Jeans took the helm in 2012 and the past three straight. In a real rarity, and although they’re not out yet, Jeans and his boys are guaranteed to finish higher in the final state rankings then the No. 4 spot the football team finished last season.

So what does this have to do with us going to the shadows of majestic Mt. Diablo for our final NorCal baseball honoree? Well, we already told you the top-seeded Spartans just marched to their third-straight NCS D1 title, and guess what, just like he has all season, and particularly in the playoffs, it was Cirelli that had the big bat and drove Foothill willy-nilly in a surprisingly lopsided six-inning 11-0 victory over Foothill (Pleasanton) in the championship final.

Nick’s bat was quick enough to generate two home runs in a 3-for-4 performance with four RBI and three runs scored.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pound senior, who not surprisingly at his size is a two-way lineman on the storied football team, was a juggernaut the final three games when Sparta rolled Danville San Ramon Valley 12-2 and Heritage of Freedom 10-0 before the shellacking of Foothill. Cirelli was 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored against San Ramon Valley and he had two doubles and an RBI against Heritage.

On the season, Cirelli drove opponents silly. He hit an even .500, led the team with 47 hits and 41 RBI, and was second on the team with six home runs.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Softball Player of the Week

Caroline Evans
(St. Joseph Notre Dame) Fr.

We don’t care if our honoree is a senior, junior, sophomore, or in this case a freshman, so we go to a school famous for basketball great Jason Kidd, to honor a girl who despite her tender age gave the Pilots faithful a performance that will be hard to duplicate in her next three years in the circle and the batter’s box for the Catholic school in the Island City of Alameda.

The bottom line is Caroline was more than fine in a 4-0 Pilots victory over Del Norte (Crescent City) in the CIF North Coast Section Division IV title game at St. Mary’s College. She was close to perfect after pitching a no-hitter and providing all the offense she would need with a solo home run on the third pitch she saw in the bottom of the first inning for top-seeded St. Joe’s.

For someone pitching in her first NCS title game, Caroline was cool as a cucumber and responded with a 71-pitch, no-hit, no-walk effort in the circle, facing just two batters above the minimum thanks to a pair of errors in the field. Besides the long tater, Evans had a double and was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.

In an 11-1 semifinal victory over Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa, Evans had an RBI triple and scored a run in two at-bats.

On the season from the circle, Evans was 13-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 20 appearances for the 22-2 Pilots and she had 132 strikeouts in 96.2 innings pitched. With bat in hand, she led the team in average (.569), home runs (eight), runs scored (40) and stolen bases with 22, and she had three triples, eight doubles, and was third on the team with 27 runs driven in.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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