Showing how difficult the choice may be for Ms. Softball State Player of the Year in 2019, two of the six selected as finalists are from the same team (state No. 1 Norco). It’s not going to be a breeze for Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year, either. Two juniors are among a group of five that have been named this week as finalists. Look for Ms. Softball California and Mr. Baseball California to be out within the next two weeks.
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Congratulations to these finalists who will be considered for the 2019 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year honor (written up in alphabetical order):
Maya Brady (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village)
Compared favorably to recent Ventura County phenom Amanda Lorenz of Moorpark (now at the University of Florida and on the US national team) as a hitter and fielder, Brady had an impressive last two seasons for the Lions. This year, she cranked out 12 homers with 32 RBI to go with a .558 batting average despite not really getting too many pitches to hit with the lineup around her. For the last two seasons, she hit above .520 with 22 homers and 64 RBI. She also had a .464 career average over four varsity season and her 174 career hits will go into the state record book. The UCLA recruit was the Los Angeles Region Player of the Year as a junior by SoCalSidelines.com and she is the highest ranked college prospect in the state for the Class of 2019, according to ExtraInningSoftball.com. As a fielder, Maya only had five errors in 102 total chances and she led Oaks Christian to three Marmonte League crowns in four years. The team didn’t get past the second-round of the loaded CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs in either 2018 or 2019, but she’s clearly one of the top players in the state. We almost hate to mention the family connection, but Maya is the daughter of former state record breaking pitcher Maureen Brady (from Hillsdale of San Mateo 1989 to 1991) and is the niece of legendary quarterback Tom Brady.
Kinzie Hansen (Norco)
The main credentials that Kinzie has that will make her hard to top as Ms. Softball is that she was the State Freshman of the Year for 2016, she was the State Sophomore of the Year for 2017 and she was the State Junior of the Year one year ago. She’s been near the top of the Class of 2019 national player rankings all of this time as well with the most recent one being No. 6 by ExtraInningSoftball.com. Hansen didn’t have the same batting average of last season (.467 compared to .596), but she was arguably even better in Norco’s two main national tournaments that it won (Dave Kops TOC in Arizona and Michelle Carew Classic). The Cougars also won their second straight CIFSS D1 title and finished 32-1 (State Team of the Year). She also still ended with five homers and 36 RBI playing against a super-tough schedule in league, section playoffs, tournaments and more. Hansen, who is going to Oklahoma for her freshman college season in 2020, also is one of the best defensive catchers many have ever seen. Head coach Rick Robinson said he only had to call pitches for about half the time with Kinzie in charge.
Nicole May (Foothill, Pleasanton)
In last weekend’s CIF North Coast Section Division I championship, Nicole, a junior, pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts and hit a two-run homer as Foothill topped Heritage of Brentwood 2-0 and put the finishing touches on a 28-0 season. We didn’t rank the Falcons in front of Norco, but Kinzie Hansen doesn’t pitch and May does both pitching and hitting. In stats provided to us by head coach Matt Sweeney (not on MaxPreps), May was unbeaten in the circle with a 0.32 ERA. She also had 246 strikeouts in 151 innings. At the plate, May led the Falcons in homers with five, she was second in batting average at .463 and she was third in RBI with 27. May also is headed to Oklahoma with a verbal commitment (where Kinzie Hansen may catch her in a couple of years) and she’s already been selected as the Gatorade State Player of the Year. Many may already know, but for those following us for the first time we’ve been doing state players of the year in California for many more years than the Gatorade program. Sometimes, we agree. Sometimes, we don’t. Nicole was the State Freshman of the Year in 2017 and was basically runner-up to Norco’s Sarah Willis for sophomores after last season. Also worth noting: Brady, Hansen and May are all on the OC Batbusters-Stith travel team.
Lexi Sosa (Mater Dei Catholic, Chula Vista)
A CIF San Diego Section player (Payton Tidd of San Marcos) was the Ms. Softball honoree for last season and Sosa did enough in her senior year to gain a finalist nod for 2019. She needed to put up monster numbers as a hitter and pitcher to do it and she did. In leading the Crusaders to the CIF San Diego Open Division championship and a 31-4 record, the future UCLA Bruin crushed 11 homers and had 38 RBI and had a .462 batting average. Sosa also went 24-2 in the circle with a 1.07 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 177 1/3 innings. Lexi had a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the semifinals vs. Poway and in the final vs. Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) she struck out nine and went 1-for-2 with a run scored. Sosa got a ton of help from fellow senior Alyssa Garcia as the catcher (she’s going to UCLA as well), but for her overall body of work in both hitting and pitching she stood out the most among San Diego players this season.
Lexi Webb (Oakdale)
Hailing from the same region of the state that recently had both Nicole “Sis” Bates of Ceres (Washington) and Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles of Merced (UCLA), Webb did some things in 2019 that definitely were similar or arguably superior to what Bates did in 2016 when she edged Nickles for Ms. Softball. Webb led Oakdale to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title (same one Ceres won in 2016) with monster totals as a pitcher and hitter. Her pitching stats were reported to us late Friday by assistant coach Trent Merzon (also the school’s longtime football coach) showing a 22-1 record, 0.63 ERA plus 271 strikeouts in 155 innings. The final hitting stats were impressive as well with 11 homers and a batting average at a whopping .597. Merzon also says Lexi had an estimated .750 on-base percentage, struck out just four times (she was walked at least 30 times) and had an almost 2.000 slugging percentage (1.989). He commented, “She’s the most dominant athlete I’ve ever been around.” Oakdale’s team accomplishments of going 29-1-1, being ranked No. 1 overall among SJS schools an chosen as Division III State Team of the Year also aids in Webb’s individual accolades.
Sarah Willis (Norco)
While Kinzie Hansen would be No. 1 Norco’s best player of the year candidate among position players, Willis would be the Cougars’ pitching ace and also a fine hitter. Willis, still just a junior and committed to the University of Washington, tossed three consecutive three-hitters for the Cougars in the final three rounds of the CIFSS D1 playoffs. This included a three-hitter with eight strikeouts vs. Orange Lutheran, a three-hitter with nine strikeouts vs. Huntington Beach (she also had three hits in that game) and a three-hitter with eight strikeouts in the title game vs. Great Oak of Temecula. The only two runs allowed in those three outings were unearned. For the season, our State Sophomore of the Year for 2019 went 22-1 with a 0.82 ERA and had 196 strikeouts in 153 innings. Willis also batted .350 with four homers and 20 RBI. We might see Hansen and Willis chosen as Co-Players of the Year for the All-CIFSS D1 team and we already know that the local Riverside Press-Enterprise doesn’t do a player of the year and instead does a separate pitcher of year and player of year choice. We aren’t going to ask head coach Rick Robinson to weigh in on it (wouldn’t be fair to him), so we’ll have to go through everything and perhaps make a pick ourselves between them or go with one of the other finalists. We have never had co-players of the year and aren’t going to change any time soon.
Congratulations to these finalists who will be considered for the 2019 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year honor (written up in alphabetical order):
Keoni Cavaco (Eastlake, Chula Vista)
Every time we’ve checked available MLB Draft boards (the draft will be held on Monday night of next week), Cavaco keeps rocketing higher up on it. The latest was Friday morning when the MLB.com mock draft listed him at No. 13 for the first round. No other high school player from California was listed for the first round. Cavaco also is an easy finalist for Mr. Baseball after having a great run in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs. He hit .583 in those playoffs with two homers and five RBI and Eastlake won the title last week with a victory in the final over Poway. The Titans also had a 26-4-1 season record. For the season, Keoni racked up eight homers with 29 RBI and had a .419 average. He also had 19 stolen bases. Cavaco has signed with San Diego State, but seems like he’ll be going straight to MLB. He doesn’t pitch like last year’s two-way Mr. Baseball winner from San Diego, Joe Magrisi of Torrey Pines, but it may not matter.
Kyle Harrison (De La Salle, Concord)
In last weekend’s CIF North Coast Section Division I championship, Harrison led the Spartans to their fourth straight section title and to a 29-1 final record by pitching a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of a 10-1 romp past Heritage of Brentwood. Harrison also had two hits (including a double) and drove in three runs. He was one of the leading sophomores in the state last season when DLS won its third straight section crown and this year’s team also won 28 straight games to close the season (one of the best in-season win streaks in state history). Committed to UCLA, Harrison wound up 10-0 on the mound with a 1.26 ERA. He also whiffed 103 batters in 61 innings. His final totals as a hitter showed him at .270 with one homer and 20 RBI. In one of Harrison’s other top outings, he had a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a win vs. California of San Ramon.
Jared Jones (La Mirada)
Our State Sophomore of the Year for 2018 is going to be hard to beat for Junior of the Year and could become that rare junior to get Mr. Baseball plastered on his resume. Jones already has been ranked as a very high first round MLB Draft prospect for 2020 and already has plenty of USA baseball experience. Despite not being able to lead La Mirada to the CIF Southern Section Division I title, Jones still lived up to his previous accolades for a team that went 26-7 and went out in the playoffs after falling 1-0 in 12 innings to Cypress. The UCLA commit, who is known for his high velocity pitching, went 7-1 this spring with a 0.77 ERA and had 94 strikeouts in 64 innings. At the plate, Jared excelled with a .457 average with three homers and 16 RBI. For his career at La Mirada (with still one year to go), he had 227 strikeouts in 163 innings to go with an 18-5 record and 0.90 ERA. Jones also already has 103 career hits (.396), seven homers, 21 doubles and 56 RBI.
Cameron Repetti (Cypress)
By being the No. 1 player on the No. 1 team in the CIF Southern Section (and No. 2 in the state behind De La Salle although many will argue that one), Repetti also essentially knocked out a couple of other players who could have been considered Mr. Baseball finalists as well. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior with a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton had a sensational season. During the regular season, Repetti had a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts vs. Tustin. In the CIFSS D1 playoffs, he had a complete game four-hitter and had two hits, two runs and one RBI in a 5-1 win over Yucaipa; he took over on the mound in the fifth inning of a 1-0 win in 12 innings vs. La Mirada in the semifinals; and in the finals vs. Harvard-Westlake he went 5 1/3 innings with no runs allowed (six strikeouts) as Cypress won 2-0. Teammate Brett Wozniak was lights out pitching down the stretch as well, but Repetti’s overall numbers make him a leading Mr. Baseball candidate. According to the Orange County Register’s Steve Fryer, Cameron went 11-2 as a pitcher with three saves and a 1.21 ERA. He had 93 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings with just 12 walks allowed. At the plate, he batted .371 (1.014 OPS) with two homers, 27 runs scored (led team) and 26 RBI (led team).
Steven Zobac (Valley Christian, San Jose)
Considering the incredible competition of the West Catholic Athletic League, what Zobac did the past two seasons for the Warriors was hard to believe. Often brought in to close games on the mound with an occasional start, Zobac did that to the tune of a 0.23 ERA in 60 2/3 innings this season. He also had a 6-1 record and 75 strikeouts. In addition, he anchored Valley Christian’s batting order with a .465 mark this spring with a team-best five homers and 23 RBI. Over the past two seasons as a pitcher, Zobac went 90 2/3 innings and had a ridiculous 0.15 ERA with 107 strikeouts and a 10-1 record. Valley Christian repeated as CIF Central Coast Section Open Division champions at 29-4 after going 28-3 and earning State Team of Year honors in 2018. Zobac already has been named WCAL player of the year and to us (at least so far in the process) ranks at least equal to De La Salle’s Kyle Harrison as Bay Area & Northern California player of the year.