The choices for State Junior Player of the Year, Sophomore Player of the Year and Freshman Player of the Year were equally difficult as for Ms. Softball. There’s not a no brainer of the bunch. We did have one for medium schools, however, since one of our six Ms. Softball finalists was from that category. We also round out this group with another prolific small schools state player of the year.
For more on Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Kinzie Hansen, CLICK HERE.
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Congratulations to the following five players also who also have been selected this week as Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year.
Nicole May (Foothill, Pleasanton)
As explained in the overall writeup for Ms. Softball, both May and Norco’s Sarah Willis were very strong contenders to be chosen for that honor. It then became the difficult task of paring it down one more time between May and Willis for the juniors.
Two years ago, May was the State Freshman of the Year after leading Foothill to the CIF North Coast Section Division I title. Last season, Willis was the State Sophomore of the Year when Norco took the title in the CIFSS D1 playoffs while May’s team lost in its section final to Pleasanton Amador Valley and 2019 national college freshman of the year Danielle Williams (now at Northwestern).
Both girls were on title teams this season so the selection was even more hard to figure out. May, who already has been named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, had the superior stats to Willis. But of course Willis and her team played a much more difficult schedule, especially down the stretch in the CIFSS D1 playoffs. How much to weigh the difficulty of that Norco schedule? Some easily could have said it was so overwhelming to what Foothill and May faced that it was the difference. We ended up determining that what May did was just a touch more impressive (and Foothill did beat two CIF section title teams).
In leading Foothill to its 28-0 record (best in NCS history), No. 2 final state ranking and No. 4 final national ranking (ExtraInningSoftball.com), May went 24-0 in the circle with a 0.32 ERA plus 246 strikeouts in 151 innings. She also batted .463 (second on the team) with five homers and 27 RBI. In the team’s NCS title game 2-0 triumph over state-ranked Heritage of Brentwood (25-3), May pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts and hit a two-run homer to account for only two runs of the contest.
May, who has committed to Oklahoma and was No. 5 in the most recent ExtraInningSoftball.com Class of 2020 national player rankings, is just the fourth State Junior of the Year from the NCS. The last one was Johanna Grauer of Amador Valley for 2013. The other two have been Dianne Kinney of Santa Rosa Montgomery (1979) and Marcy Panuco from James Logan of Union City (1996).
Last 10 State Juniors of the Year: 2018 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2017 – Megan Faraimo (San Diego Cathedral Catholic); 2016 – Camryn Ybarra (Mission Viejo); 2015 – Mia Camuso (Redding Shasta); 2014 – Taylor McQuillin (Mission Viejo); 2013 – Johanna Grauer (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2012 – Gabrielle Maurice (Modesto Beyer); 2011 – Melissa Taukieaho (Etiwanda); 2010 – Lauren Chamberlain (Lake Forest El Toro); 2009 – Taylor Edwards (Murrieta Vista Murrieta)
Savannah Pola (Godinez, Santa Ana)
Savannah and older sister Keana led Godinez to the CIFSS Division 4 championship and a 26-4 record. Keana, headed to Nebraska, already has been named the CIFSS D4 player of the year and had a terrific four-year career. For this season, however, it easily could be argued that Savannah, a sophomore committed to UCLA and considered by many among the top five Class of 2021 college prospects in the nation, had the better performance.
For most hits in a season, in fact, Savannah had one of the highest totals in CIFSS history with 64. She also led the Grizzlies in batting (.577), runs scored (49) and she had four homers with 30 RBI. Keana batted .449 with two homers, 35 hits, 35 RBI.
Savannah also is on track for some ridiculous career totals. When she first started at Godinez as a freshman last year, she batted .701 with 61 hits, three homers, 21 RBI and 55 runs scored.
The last State Sophomore of the Year from Orange County was Alyssa Palomino of Mission Viejo in 2013. The previous one before that was Courtney Fossatti from Foothill of Tustin for 1999.
It still was not easy to go with Pola. Last year’s State Freshman of the Year, Cydney Sanders of San Marcos, didn’t play on the same type of team this season as when the Knights were No. 1 in the state in 2018. Still, they went 16-13, won the CIF San Diego Section D1 title and Sanders hit 13 more homers to go with the 14 she had as a freshman. Sanders, who also batted .494 (she hit .516 the year before), can finish her prep career with well above 50 homers.
Last 10 State Sophomores of the Year: 2018 – Sarah Willis (Norco); 2017 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2016 – Vanessa Strong (Oakley Freedom); 2015 – Holly Azevedo (San Jose Pioneer); 2014 – Katie Kibby (Vacaville); 2013 – Alyssa Palomino (Mission Viejo); 2012 – Johanna Grauer (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2011 – Gabrielle Maurice (Modesto Beyer); 2010 – Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley Royal); 2009 – Ally Carda (Elk Grove Pleasant Grove).
Ramsey Suarez (Great Oak, Temecula)
Both of the primary pair we were looking at most closely among the freshmen are (like many other top recruits in the state) already committed to UCLA.
Suarez was a standout all season for a Great Oak squad that reached the CIFSS D1 championship game and finished No. 3 in the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings. She was the only freshman on the prestigious All-Inland Empire team as selected by the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Great Oak was a team of many offensive weapons, but Suarez stood out with a .465 average with 37 runs scored, 35 RBI and nine homers. One of her homers came in a big moment during Great Oak’s win over Gahr of Cerritos in the CIFSS D1 semifinals. In the title game loss to Norco, Ramsey had one of the three hits against Ms. Softball finalist Sarah Willis. She also batted .556 and had a .650 on base mark during Southwestern League play, which is not exactly weak competition.
In addition to Suarez, we also could have just as easily gone with Megan Grant from Aragon of San Mateo for this honor. Grant was the top reported freshman home run hitter in the state with 13 and also batted .500 with 51 RBI for an Aragon team that went 22-6 and beat Watsonville 6-1 for the CIF Central Coast Section Division 1 title.
This is the category in which Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Kinzie Hansen was selected for in 2016. There have been many from the Inland Empire to get it, but the last ones before Hansen were Taylon Snow of Chino Hills (if you count Chino Hills as Inland Empire) in 2014 and Tatum Edwards of Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) for 2007.
Last 10 State Freshmen of the Year: 2018 – Cydney Sanders (San Marcos); 2017 – Nicole May (Pleasanton Foothill); 2016 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2015 – Danielle Williams (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2014 – Taylon Snow (Chino Hills); 2013 – Zoe Marrott (Moraga Campolindo); 2012 – Amanda Lorenz (Moorpark); 2011 – Tera Blanco (Huntington Beach Marina); 2010 – Ali Aguilar (Orangevale Casa Roble); 2009 – Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley Royal); 2008 – Dani Gilmore (Woodland Hills El Camino Real).
Lexi Webb (Oakdale)
If you looked at the list of Ms. Softball State Player of the Year finalists and were really paying attention, you might have noticed that only one of the six was not from what could be classified as a large school or top state divisional school according to competitive equity.
That player was Webb, who had a hard-to-believe season in leading Oakdale to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title and were it not for Nicole May at Foothill would have been the top pick for players in Northern California.
Webb follows in the path of University of Washington All-American Nicole “Sis” Bates as a girl from the SJS to be medium schools state player of the year. Bates, who is from Ceres, got the nod three years ago. Webb will play next at Fresno State. Prior to Bates, the most recent medium schools honoree was Cheyenne Cordes of Fairfield Rodriguez in 2011. Erin Arevalo, who played at East Union of Manteca (same league as Oakdale), was the choice for 2008.
Oakdale only lost once en route to its section title (29-1-1) and was considered the No. 1 overall team in the SJS regardless of division. Webb went bonkers at the plate with a .597 average (.712 on base) and had 11 homers, 12 doubles and two triples. She walked 30 times and only struck out four times in 104 plate appearances. As a pitcher, Webb racked up a 22-1 record with a 0.65 ERA. She also struck out 248 batters in 139 innings.
Last 10 Medium Schools State Players of the Year: 2018 – Maile Newman (Torrance West); 2017 – Brooke Yanez (Ventura Buena); 2016 – Nicole Bates (Ceres); 2015 – Rachel Garcia (Palmdale Highland); 2014 – Kylee Perez (Martinez Alhambra); 2013 – Rachel Garcia (Palmdale Highland); 2012 – Nisa Ontiveros (Bakersfield Ridgeview); 2011 – Cheyenne Cordes (Fairfield Rodriguez); 2010 – Courtney Ceo (Lake of the Pines Bear River); 2009 – Jenna Rich (El Segundo); 2008 – Erin Arevalo (Manteca East Union).
Sydney Kuma (Washington, Easton)
This University of Georgia recruit had an overwhelming season in the circle and at the plate for a team that won the CIF Central Section Division 4 title.
Kuma, who played her first two seasons of high school ball at Caruthers, racked up an amazing 13 homers with 46 RBI and had a .683 average for the Panthers. She was equally dominant as a pitcher with an 11-1 record, 0.75 ERA and had 131 strikeouts in 93 innings. The team won its section title and ended 19-10 with a 4-0 win over Fowler. In that game, Kuma went 2-for-2 with a triple and pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
For her career at the two two schools, according to CIF Central Section historian Bob Barnett, Kuma tied a section record with 37 homers. She also ended with a .626 batting average, 154 runs scores, 149 hits, 126 RBI, 51 pitching wins (against 13 losses) and 728 strikeouts.
We don’t do a CIF Central Section overall player of the year, but it’s easy to see that Kuma would get the nod, despite her team not playing at the highest level. She was just that dominant.
Other players that were considered for this honor included Sidney Wimpee from Nordhoff of Ojai, junior Jordyn Hutchins of Woodland Christian and more than one from 30-2-2 East Nicolaus of Nicolaus.
The last Small Schools State Player of the Year from the Central Section was Michelle Gates of Chowchilla in 1996. The only other one on the all-time list (which dates back to 1985) is Michelle Perez of Fowler for 1992.
Last 10 Small Schools State Players of the Year: 2018 – Lindsey Walljasper (Manteca Sierra); 2017 – Livy Schiele (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2016 – Kailia Searcy (Lancaster Paraclete); 2015 – Zoe Casas (San Bernardino Aquinas); 2014 – Grayce Majam (Pine Valley Mountain Empire); 2013 – Zoe Casas (San Bernardino Aquinas); 2012 – Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson); 2011 – Elizabeth Caporuscio (Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World); 2010 – Sammy Albanese (Palo Alto Castilleja); 2009 – Jessica Moore (Sutter).