Senior Salutes No. 3 (Baseball/Softball)

Two of those from the Class of 2020 deserving of a senior salute are Yucaipa’s Danny Garcia (left) and Rylie Atherton, who played last season at Central Valley Christian (Visalia) and was planning to play this season at Kingsburg. Photos: @CoachGrajeda / Twitter.com & Courtesy Family.


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.

For Senior Salutes No. 2, CLICK HERE.
(Shelby Buchanan, Alyssa Chin, Aly Kaneshiro, Bella Pahulu, Cheyanne Sandoval, Sarah Shevenell, Brett Edwards, Joseph Ingrassia, Kevin Parada, Cameron Saso, Jeffrey Taylor, Ruben Valencia)
For Senior Salutes No. 1, CLICK HERE.
(Matt Bardowell, Connor Charpiot, Manuel Chavez, Connor Falsken, Tyler Imbach, Mateo Medina, Eddie Park, Declan Van Vuren, Mia Barrozo, Ava Hand, Keahilele Mattson, Marissa Montelongo, Zoe Nolte, Kaylee Pond, Kylee Potes, Madison Simon)

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 the 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 markjtennis@gmail.com.

NOTE: This will be a series of free posts on CalHiSports.com 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.

SENIOR SALUTES (BASEBALL)

Luke Avidor (Las Lomas, Walnut Creek)
We might do a different Senior Salute later on for teammate Aaron Winer (hitting .417 to start season), but this one is about Luke. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-handed pitcher had begun with a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings and 18 strikeouts. As a junior, Avidor had the advantage every time he took the mound with a 9-0 record, a 0.47 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. He had a one-hitter in seven innings when the Knights topped San Rafael in the CIF North Coast Section D2 semifinals. They lost 2-1 in the final to Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland but still shined with a 23-4 final record.

Treven Crowley reached 93 mph on the gun while still a junior at Hilmar. Photo: Courtesy school / SportStars.


Treven Crowley (Hilmar)
We had never seen anyone in person at a game before showing any of our all-state patches on a letterman jacket until seeing Crowley with all of his at a Hilmar football game last season. He had four of them from the last two seasons in baseball and was looking like a Small Schools State Player of the Year candidate so far this spring. Crowley was playing football for the Yellowjackets as a junior and was their quarterback when they captured the CIF D5AA state title. He didn’t play as a senior, preferring to concentrate on his No. 1 sport. As a sophomore, Crowley was the Turlock Journal Player of the Year and was all-state small schools as an infielder as well as all-state underclass second team. He repeated those honors as a junior. Crowley, who batted .588 and .566 the last two seasons and had career pitching numbers of 8-4, 2.23 ERA, 183 strikeouts and 125 1/3 innings, will play next at Fresno State. He had begun hitting .467 this spring with three doubles and two triples in Hilmar’s six games (all wins). In his only pitching outing, he had a two-hitter with 15 strikeouts in a 12-0 win over Waterford.

Danny Garcia (Yucaipa)
Like everybody else, Danny only got in a handful of games as a senior, but he still had one day he’ll probably remember for a long time. The Thunderbirds played a Foothill of Tustin team in a doubleheader that was in the final state top 40 rankings and got a split with the Knights. Garcia went 3-for-4 with a triple and homer in one game. In the other game, he finished 3-for-5 with a triple and double. Last season, playing third base for Yucaipa, Garcia helped the team go 26-6 by hitting .337 with 27 RBI. Yucaipa lost standout Tyson Heaton to graduation, but had enough back to still rank as favorites to repeat at Citrus Belt League champion. Garcia has a scholarship to Grand Canyon University, but also was No. 4 in a recent ranking of top state second baseman prospects by Prep Baseball Report. Here’s was GCU recruiting coordinator Gregg Wallis said about Danny when the school announced his signing: “Daniel can swing it. He is fearless in the batter’s box and has a smooth left-handed stroke with power to all fields. Coming out of Yucaipa and playing with some of the top summer teams in Southern California, he will be prepared to compete at GCU immediately. On defense, he has the versatility to play a lot of different positions in the infield or outfield, which will help get his bat in the lineup consistently.”

Preston Howey (Arcadia)
What a season it was for Howey and the Apaches last year. He had come into it knowing he would need to be strong as an upcoming pitcher. Preston wound up with some of the best stats in the state. He finished 13-1 on the mound with a 0.75 ERA. He also had 86 strikeouts in 65 innings. Arcadia won its first 15 games, lost the second game of a two-game set with Muir of Pasadena and was rising in all of the state and national rankings at 24-1 entering a CIF Southern Section D2 second round game against El Segundo. The Apaches lost 3-2 in 11 innings. Howey had helped Arcadia to a 5-2 record so far in 2020 with a .409 batting average. He wasn’t reported yet with any pitching totals. That great season in 2019, however, did help Preston land a scholarship with St. Mary’s College of the West Coast Conference.

Austin Machado (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad)
While a lot of senior memories for Austin have been lost, he did get to have a great one last season when he played for the Mavericks in a 10-0 win against Vista that gave his father, longtime La Costa Canyon head coach Justin Machado, his 500th win. Austin entered his senior season as one of the top unsigned seniors in the CIF San Diego Section. He’s a catcher, team leader and earned first team all-state underclass honors as a junior. The Mavericks had injury issues elsewhere in their lineup and were only 17-15 overall, but Machado still shined. He hit .349 with two homers ad 27 RBI while facing some of the top league competition in California.

Landon Wallace (Roseville)
This all-state selection for last year was starting the 2020 season where he left off. Wallace was batting .556 with a double in 15 plate appearances with On Base Percentage of .733. Batting in the No. 2 spot, Landon attended the PBR Super 60 at the beginning of spring playing with the top 60 players in the nation in Chicago. He is a University of Nevada commit and will be hoping to play for the Wenatchee AppleSox this summer in the West Coast Collegiate Summer League.

SENIOR SALUTES (SOFTBALL)

Rylie Atherton (Kingsburg)
When Central Valley Christian of Visalia cancelled its varsity season for 2020 long before the pandemic hit due to a lack of participants, Atherton was primed for a great season at nearby Kingsburg. She would have played next to standouts such as 2019 all-state Marissa Montelongo (St. Mary’s), North Carolina commit Marissa Gonzalez and Fresno State-bound Taryn Irigoyen. Rylie will still go down as a four-year standout. At CVC last year, she was the winning pitcher in a section final and had 273 strikeouts in 154 2/3 innings (one of the top 10 totals in California). She also had four no-hitter and eight shutouts. Atherton had more than 600 strikeouts in her career. She will play next at Southern Miss. We also need to mention she’s the granddaughter of Eleanor Dykstra, one of the winningest girls sports coaches in California history from her years at Valley Christian of Cerritos.

Avery Croxall (East Nicolaus, Nicolaus)
The graduating senior was on her way to perhaps one of the greatest seasons of softball pitching in CIF Northern Section history. She had started -0 with a 0.00 ERA and had 51 strikeouts in 24 innings. Avery went 18-2 in the circle as a junior for the state’s No. 1 D5 team. Those two losses were both by 1-0 scores to top-ranked large schools and both runs were unearned. For her career, Croxall was part of three league titles and two section championships (both also No. 1 in state for D5). She had a 55-6 career record with 566 strikeouts in 329 1/3 innings. Avery, who also played for a league title team in volleyball, will play next at the University of Pacific in Stockton.

Briana Velazquez of San Pedro will attend Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. Photo: Jamaal Street.


Talia Hannappel (Edison, Huntington Beach)
With teams like Los Alamitos (ranked No. 1 in the state when season stopped), Huntington Beach and Marina of Huntington Beach, Edison wasn’t expected to be near the top of the rugged Sunset League, but the Chargers had begun 7-1 and were getting great outings from their senior pitcher. Hannappel, who came on over the summer for the Corona Angels travel team and has signed with New Mexico, was 6-0 herself with a 1.18 ERA and had 58 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings. Some of her outings also included a home run in a 4-2 win vs. Royal of Simi Valley, 3-for-4 against Cerritos and a two-hitter with 16 strikeouts in the first game of the season, which went to eight innings before Edison got past Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo 3-0.

Lafu Malepeai (South San Francisco)
Last year’s San Mateo Journal Athlete of the Year was looking to have another standout softball season. She also played volleyball and basketball during her athletic career with the Warriors. As a junior, she was an effective infielder on defense and a slugger on offense. In 23 games, Lafu was no laughing matter with a .532 batting average, nine homers, 38 runs scored and 44 RBI. She smacked two homers in a game against Lowell of San Francisco and had four home runs in her last three games of the season. Malepeai was all-league in softball as well for the last two seasons.

Vianney Perez (Ceres)
Her school may not have gotten back to where it was at when recent Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Nicole “Sis” Bates was leading the way, but Perez had an outstanding career. In her first eight games this season, before the shutdown, she was hitting .636 with 14 hits and 14 runs scored as the Bulldogs had begun 6-2. Perez also already had two homers and two doubles. She’s been on the Ceres varsity since her freshman year and was looking to go 4-for-4 in being a first team all-league pick. As a junior, Vianney batted .346 with five homers and 24 RBI and was a key cog for a Ceres club that won the Western Athletic Conference title.

Briana Velazquez (San Pedro)
In the long, rich tradition of San Pedro High softball, owners of 17 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championships, few have had quite the exciting prep career as of Velazquez. Her freshman season of 2017 ended with the Pirates’ 17th CIF-LACS championship and it was Velazquez who triggered the game-winning rally against Banning in the bottom of the seventh inning when she led off being hit by pitch. Briana’s sophomore season was when she really took off… hitting .453 with 12 home runs & 38 RBIs, delivering not one but two walk-off game-winning home runs, first against Palos Verdes and then in the regular season finale against Banning, Velazquez belted a dramatic first-pitch walk-off grand slam for a 10-7 victory. Velazquez’s pitching then took center stage in the inaugural Open Division playoffs, hurling a four-hitter with seven strikeouts in a 4-1 win at top-seeded Carson, then striking out eight in the semifinal 8-4 win at fourth-seeded Sun Valley Polytechnic. Velazquez sealed the semifinal win offensively with a towering 240-foot two-run home run to dead center field in the sixth inning. March 13, 2019 was Velazquez’s finest performance in the circle as she would strike out 18 out of 21 batters for a perfect game in a 7-0 victory over Cerritos. This season, Velazquez was off to a hot start at the plate hitting 14-for-20, an even .700 with a home run, a pair of triples, a pair of doubles and four RBIs despite an injury that hindered her pitching significantly. In all, Velazquez was a two-time All-City Open Division & two-time All-Marine League selection. (Thanks to Jamaal Street for this writeup).

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


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