Senior Salutes No. 1 (Baseball/Softball)

Two of our first Senior Salutes for some of the state’s top graduating Class of 2020 players in baseball/softball have been completed for Newbury Park High School’s Carson Falsken (left) and Carlsbad High School’s Zoe Nolte. Photos: &

As a consequence of the 2020 high school baseball and softball seasons being canceled after not even one-third of scheduled games were played in the state, we cannot produce all-state teams in those sports for 2020. We do not want to forget about those seniors from the Class of 2020, however, who were going to complete outstanding prep careers in those sports. So instead of all-state nominations or actual all-state honors, we’re going to present a series of senior salutes for these athletes through the month of June. Go inside to see which ones we are saluting today and find out how you can submit a senior salute of your own.

NOTE: We can’t obviously write up every senior softball or baseball player from throughout California, so here are the qualifications. They’re basically similar to someone being chosen as an all-state nominee. Generally will look for those who were in third year of varsity in 2020 with at least one all-league selection or some major accomplishments from last season. Must also have information easily available via MaxPreps, Twitter page or similar method. We hope not to have to look up most of our Senior Salutes on our own (like all of them in this first group). To send in a Senior Salute with information similar to what you see below and let the entire state know how proud you are of a particular player, email

NOTE: This will be a series of free posts on and it’s no charge from us to post one sent in by someone else. It’s the least we can do to highlight these seniors who’ve lost so many experiences this spring. We will alternate between baseball and softball players being listed first. For those with seniors moving on to college with no other sons or daughters still coming up, we wish you the best. For those who do have upcoming siblings, please consider getting a Gold Club membership to our site to help us continue all of the work we do on behalf of California high schools in five sports (football, boys bb, girls bb, baseball & softball). For more on special offer to get signed up for $3.99 for one month, CLICK HERE.


Matt Bardowell (Etiwanda)
We were there when Matt and his older brother Tyler played at Dodger Stadium four years ago in the CIF Southern Section D2 championship as the Eagles won that title and capped a memorable 27-3 season. Bardowell played on that team and would have been an all-state freshman if we picked such a squad with a .381 batting average and four homers. This season, he was out to a scorching start with a .611 average in five games, including a 4-for-4 day with a double, homer and six RBI in a 18-8 win over Redlands. For his career, Matt had batting marks of .299 and .376 for the last two seasons. He also was used by Etiwanda head coach Don Furnald as a pitcher with a 13-8 career record and 2.94 career ERA. At one point, the 6-4, 230-pound Bardowell was a USC commit but has since signed with California Baptist University. “Throughout my recruitment process I learned a lot about myself as a person and a player,” he tweeted on the day he committed. “I’ll be forever grateful of the opportunities that God has put in front of me.”

Palos Verdes High’s Tyler Imbach signs his letter of intent with USF. Photo:

Connor Charpiot (Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa)
To say that Connor was off to a great start might be an understatement. The senior and three-year varsity standout for same school that produced recent No. 3 first-round MLB Draft pick Andrew Vaughn had gone 7-for-15 at the plate in his first five games before the shutdown and had tossed a two-hitter over seven innings to lead the Pumas past Marin Catholic of Kentfield. In the last two seasons, Carpiot got it done with batting marks of .327 and .337 and had 58 RBI. His pitching totals for the two seasons weren’t too shabby, either: 4-2 with 0.76 ERA and 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, who would seem to have the right frame and arm strength to catch or play third base, was uncommitted for college as the 2020 season began. In the fall, he went to the Perfect Game Fall National Championships in Arizona where he gained all-tourney honors with five hits in seven at-bats.

Manuel Chavez (Highland, Bakersfield)
As a sophomore, Chavez was playing at Mira Monte of Bakersfield and transferred to Highland more than a year ago. That put him on Highland’s 2019 varsity team that was sensational at 29-2 and won the CIF Central Section D3 championship. Usually, doing that would also have given the Scots a mythical D3 state title, but they were No. 2 in a close call behind 28-1 Los Banos. Chavez was one of the top players on last year’s team with a .429 batting average, 29 RBI and two homers. The infielder was batting at a .385 clip through his first nine games of 2020, although the team wasn’t doing as well with a lot of other new players and was only 3-6.

Carson Falsken (Newbury Park)
This 5-foot-10, 170-pound infielder who has signed with North Carolina State was ripping it at a robust .458 in eight games before season’s end. That includes getting a triple and single in a win against Malibu. Falsken didn’t have monster stats last season (.259 batting average), but is known for slick fielding (no errors this year in those eight games), speed and base-running (26 steals). It’s also not like Newbury Park is playing a bunch of stiffs in a weak league, either. A four-year varsity player and switch hitter, Carson is additionally an outstanding student who has been selected as one of Newbury Park’s Principal’s Scholar Athletes.

Tyler Imbach (Palos Verdes, PV Estates)
Regarded as one of the top 10 players to watch this season according to the South Bay Daily Breeze, Imbach was a returning All-Daily Breeze catcher who has signed with USF. He was MVP of last year’s El Segundo tourney and went on to finish with five homers and 19 RBI. He also batted .315 as a junior with 23 hits and displays tremendous defensive skills behind the plate. In 11 games to begin 2020, Imbach had already driven in 10 runs and was batting .361. Palos Verdes went 17-13 last season and likely would have done much better in 2020.

We got this shot of Valley Christian’s Eddie Park during sophomore season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Mateo Medina (Patrick Henry, San Diego)
This smooth, developing outfielder made his name known twice over the last year. The first time was a year ago in April as a San Diego Union-Tribune Prep of the Week with a .625 average that included two grand slams. Then in the summer after the high school season ended, Medina was named Hitter of the Tournament as a team of Patrick Henry players won the San Diego District American Legion title. Mateo hadn’t done much prior to his junior season, but came on last season with a .350 average, 15 doubles and 39 RBI. The Patriots went 23-8-1 last season, but were only 3-3 to start 2020.

Eddie Park (Valley Christian, San Jose)
Due to his ability to make plays in the outfield, come up with clutch hits and be used in various situations as a pitcher, Park has been a key member of Valley Christian’s last four teams (including this year). He stood a good chance of trying to go 4-for-4 as a Warrior regular, meaning four straight CIF Central Coast Section championships. As a sophomore, Park batted .376 for Valley Christian’s squad that finished 29-4 and also was State Team of the Year in addition to CCS champion. So far this season, he was batting .476 in seven games with five RBI. For his career, Eddie was extremely consistent (.337 as frosh, .377 as junior) with 114 hits and 21 doubles. He had 70 career innings pitched with a 10-1 record and 1.59 ERA. Park committed to Stanford early on in his career and signed with the Cardinal last November.

Declan Van Vuren (Ripon Christian)
If Declan was able to have the type of season for baseball that he had in football last fall, then he might have hit more than .500 with more than 10 homers. He was a rush end for RC’s 11-1 football squad where he ranked among the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section leaders in sacks with 14 and he had 73 tackles. As a sophomore in baseball, Van Vuren batted .325 and was part of a club that won the SJS D6 title. He was all-league last season in baseball for a team that won the Southern League championship.

Marissa Montelongo going to college in Moraga. Photo:


Mia Barrozo (Santa Paula)
A returning first team All-County selection by the Ventura County Star, Barrozo was pitching for the Cardinals much like she did as a sophomore when she had a 50-inning scoreless streak and went 16-2 with a 0.29 ERA. In her first game this season, Mia tossed a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a win vs. Oak Park and in what turned out to be her final game she had a one-hitter with 11 Ks in a win vs. San Marcos of Santa Barbara. In all, she ended 4-0 with a 0.70 ERA and had 71 Ks in 40 innings. But Barrozo was more than just a pitcher at Santa Paula. She also was a leading hitter. In nine games, she had a .435 batting average and as a junior had a season total of .421. As a team, Santa Paula was 8-0-1 and looking like a contender in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.

Keahilele Mattson of Alta Loma ended her career with 27 homers. Photo:

Ava Hand (Elk Grove)
A girl known throughout her career at Elk Grove as a great competitor against the toughest competition, Hand would have been a four-year member of the Sacramento Bee’s All-Metro team but it also is looking like the Bee won’t be able to do that for 2020. As a pitcher last season for the Thundering Herd, Ava went 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and had 196 strikeouts in 178 2/3 innings. She also batted .329 with 27 hits as Elk Grove battled perennial powerhouse Sheldon of Sacramento to a co-title in the Delta League. Hand didn’t hit as well as a freshman and sophomore, but as a pitcher she posted ERAs of 1.06 and 2.09 with a combined 298 strikeouts. Over the course of her prep career, Ava notched wins over top-ranked teams such as Sheldon (twice), Whitney of Rocklin, Casa Roble of Orangevale and Del Oro of Loomis.

Keahilele Mattson (Alta Loma)
Part of a strong senior class for the Braves that had gotten them out to a 11-2 start with a No. 11 in the state computer ranking, Mattson has been a standout since her freshman season when she hit .545 with five homers and 22 RBI. She was “only” hitting .361 when the season was halted with three homers, but still finished her career with 27 home runs and a career batting average of more than .500. Mattson will play next at Fresno State. Senior teammate Savana Sanders already had blasted seven home runs in the 13 games while senior teammate Erica Soliz also had begun in the circle with few runs allowed and a lot of strikeouts.

Marissa Montelongo (Kingsburg)
What a tear that Marissa had been on to start the season. In seven games, she was batting .565 with four homers (including two grand slams) with 18 RBI. The Vikings had lost twice in a 4-2-1 start, but that didn’t mean they still didn’t have a good shot at winning a second consecutive CIF Central Section D2 title. Montelongo, a four-year starter in two sports at Kingsburg with the other sport being soccer, had one of the more impressive feats we’ve seen this year when she scored two goals in CIF regional soccer playoff game and then 45 minutes later was on the softball diamond and blasted a pair of homers on the same day. Marissa, an infielder who will play next at St. Mary’s College, was on her way to being Kingsburg’s MVP for the third straight season. As a junior, she hit for a .380 average with 39 runs, four homers and 10 doubles.

Zoe Nolte (Carlsbad)
She was a freshman move-up to the varsity in 2017 and immediately got to experience the Lancers’ drive to the CIF San Diego Section D1 title. As a sophomore, Nolte gained some fame by making two home-run robbing catches over the fence in a playoff game vs. Henry of San Diego. She batted .429 with 39 hits and 29 runs while making just two outfield errors last season for Carlsbad’s 17-10-1 squad. In just three reported games for this season, Zoe had gone 5-for-9 with five runs scored. Last November, Nolte signed a letter of intent with UNLV. In an article in Carlsbad’s on-line newspaper, the Lancer Link, Zoe commented about her high school career. “Have fun with everything [in high school] and appreciate every moment with your team and friends because high school flies by,” she said. “Everything works out, you’ll end up at the college you’re meant to go to.”

Kaylee Pond was MVP of her league in two sports last year. Photo:

Kaylee Pond (Acalanes, Lafayette)
This was supposed to be quite the season for Acalanes. In addition to Pond, an Iowa State recruit who was MVP of the Diablo Athletic League as a junior with a whopping .680 batting average plus seven homers and 32 RBI, the Dons also were looking for big things from junior Santa Clara-bound infielder Morgan Salmon plus freshman phenom Hailey Stripling. Acalanes was 18-6 last season with a 2-1 start for 2020. Pond came back from missing her sophomore season with a torn ACL to be named MVP of her league not just in softball but in basketball as well. Her junior year softball stats also showed her with 47 runs scored and 25 steals. She continued with the two-sport switch over from hoops to softball this season.

Kylee Potes (Las Plumas, Oroville)
As a freshman, Kylee was brought up from the JV to the varsity and now as a senior she was one of the top players in the CIF Northern Section. In her junior season, Potes posted totals of 16-5 as a pitcher with a .455 average as a hitter. She also had a 0.45 ERA, 13 RBI and 278 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings for a team that finished 19-8. As a senior in nine games that the Thunderbirds did get in, Kylee had a 3-1 pitching record with a 0.85 ERA plus 54 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. She also was batting .370 with four doubles and one triple.

Madison Simon (Beckman, Irvine)
In the Cal-Hi Sports state record category of career homers, it takes a number of 27 to get onto the all-time state list. And even though Madison only had three games reported for her as a senior year, she still finished with 30 career homers and comfortably will be added to that all-time state list. In the three games, Simon went 7-for-8 with four homers. She broke onto the scene for Orange County as a freshman in 2017 with 13 homers, 32 RBI and a .425 average. She had a foot injury that limited her sophomore season, but then last season she had 10 homers, 11 doubles, 34 RBI and batted .446. The daughter of second-year Beckman head coach Lou Simon had committed to Duke earlier in her high school years, but last fall she signed with Oregon State.

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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