Senior Salutes No. 7 (Baseball/Softball)

Two of our latest Senior Salutes for outstanding Class of 2020 baseball/softball players have been completed for Travis Connelly of San Pedro High and Rylie Costa from Kimball of Tracy. Photos: John Mattera Photography & Courtesy school.


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 have presented a series of senior salutes for these athletes that has extended into the month of June. Go inside to see which ones we are saluting today as a larger and final likely post in this series.

For Senior Salutes No. 6, CLICK HERE.
(Katalina Contreras, Ashley Donaldson, Grace Guzman, Kaitlynn Humphreys, Kaylie Radwich, Erin Schnabel, Nolan Dunkle, Ben Grable, Nick Kresnak, Dustin Niles, William Reece, Ian Torpey)
For Senior Salutes No. 5, CLICK HERE.
(Vinny Bachelier, Eddie Curley & Joe Soberon, Jacob Gonzalez, Carson Hamro, Christopher Lozano, Corbin Yaws, Drew Barragan, Tyler Denhart, Bailey Doherty, Maddie Helms, Virginia Nemeth, Elizabeth Thomas)
For Senior Salutes No. 4, CLICK HERE.
For Senior Salutes No. 3, CLICK HERE.
For Senior Salutes No. 2, CLICK HERE.
For Senior Salutes No. 1, CLICK HERE.

NOTE: Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions and information on Class of 2020 players for this feature. We have included all of them in what is likely the final segment of the series. Future mentions are welcome, but we may not get enough to do another full post like this one. Info can be sent via email to markjtennis@gmail.com.

NOTE: This has been a series of free posts on CalHiSports.com. 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)

Josh Alvies, Tyler Hooks & Owen Kopka (Paradise)
We wanted to offer a final tip of the cap to these three seniors, who were the ones at the school based on published rosters who played both football and baseball and who were members not only of this year’s baseball team (which only got to play four games) but of the 2018 football team that had to drop out of the CIF Northern Section playoffs when the Camp Fire virtually destroyed the town. Alvies, Hooks and Kopka also played on last fall’s Paradise football team that bounced back to finish 12-1 and won an 11-0 vs. 11-0 semifinal of the CIF Northern Section D3 playoffs against West Valley of Cottonwood. The Paradise Class of 2020 deserves special mention for all that it endured and these three players represent them for this honor roll.

Andy Ambriz & Steven Hernandez (El Camino Real, Woodland Hills)
These two were both three-year varsity starters for the Conquistadors. Ambriz was first team all-league and all-L.A. City in 2019 and was second team all-league in 2018. “A great teammate, Andy plays the game the right way and has been awesome to work with,” said ECR head coach Josh Lienhard. Hernandez was first team all-league in 2019 and was second team all-league in 2018. “He’s also a great competitor and teammate,” Lienhard stated. “Steve also has a sweet left-hand stroke.”

Giancula Shinn from St. Francis of Mountain View recently hit 90 mph on his fastball for the first time. Photo: PerfectGame.org.


Travis Connolly (San Pedro)
Having a sensational 2020 season before the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the abrupt cancellation, Connelly’s performance in a short time spoke volumes to how great he was for the Pirates in his four years with the program: the 2018 & 2019 Marine League Co-Player Of The Year, two-time All-Los Angeles City Section Open Division, and a member of three straight Marine League championship seasons, two of which in 2017 & 2019 were outright crowns. Connelly produced a 3-0 record, a squeaky clean 0.00 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched, only allowing three hits, walking two; also hitting .375 at the plate with a double and four runs batted in. Connelly started San Pedro’s season opener on February 21 at Bellflower, hurling a five-inning no-hitter striking out 10 out of 16 batters faced. Only a two-out walk in the first inning prevented a potential perfect game in the Pirates’ 14-0 victory. Another notable in Connelly’s prep career was that he smashed a 420-foot home run over the left-center field scoreboard at Narbonne during his junior season (2019), a year in which the Pirates went 27-5, won 18 straight games, and were a perfect 10-0 Marine League season. (Jamaal Street writeup)

Kaleb Hatch (Mission Hills, San Marcos)
This is the type of senior you really feel for this season because by all indications he was certainly coming into his own. Hatch, recently named one of the top 20 unsigned seniors in the CIF San Diego Section by Scorebook Live, was hitting .571 in his first few games and was up there among the reported RBI state leaders with 16. Kaleb only batted .257 last year with 18 hits and was breaking out as a senior. In one game vs. Valley Center, he went 3-for-3 with four runs scored, six RBI, one homer and one triple. A left-handed hitter, Hatch has played outfield and catcher in his career so far. Somehow, someway we hope he’ll continue to play and continue to improve.

Elijah Shih (San Mateo)
The senior outfielder and three-year varsity player provided some highlights for a Bearcats’ squad that had a losing record over the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Hitting mostly in the leadoff position, Elijah batted .308 as a junior with a .408 on base average and received an all league selection. In one game this season, Shih went 2-for-2 with a double in a loss to Aragon of San Mateo. He went 4-for-5 with two RBI in a 12-10 win last season against Half Moon Bay and as a sophomore had a 2-for-3 outing with a triple vs. American of Fremont.

Gianluca Shinn (St. Francis, Mountain View)
The lefty pitcher made a name for himself as a sophomore for the Lancers when he went 9-1 with a 2.00 ERA. He also closed out the CIF Central Coast Section divisional championship game against Soledad as a sophomore and was an All League honoree in the West Catholic Athletic League in both his sophomore and junior years. Shinn was 5-3 as a junior, but pitched in bigger games and had a lower ERA (1.41). He seemed to be he headed for a strong senior season despite only getting in one appearance before the shutdown since he had improved his velocity into the 87-89 mph range. In a recent tweet, Gianluca hit 90 for the first time.

Tyler Simmons (West Valley, Hemet)
An honoree for Division 6 on the recent CIF Southern Section All-CIFSS teams (for seniors only and based largely on previous seasons), Simmons has been a two-time team MVP and two-year captain in his four seasons at West Valley. Before the 2020 season ended, Tyler was belting it out for a .612 batting average with 15 hits and nine RBI. He had three hits in games against Bloomington and Western Christian of Glendora. Simmons also pitched a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts in that game vs. Bloomington. For the season, he already had 33 strikeouts as a pitcher in 22 2/3 innings. “He was an absolute pleasure to coach and made the game look so easy,” wrote one of his coaches on Twitter. “He was a great teammate with an infectuous personality and an outstanding young man.”

SENIOR SALUTES (SOFTBALL)

Rylie Costa (Kimball, Tracy)
Nearby Tracy High isn’t the only school in town that has had top players in softball the last few seasons. Costa has been a four-year standout and landed a scholarship to the University of Minnesota where she plans to major in Kinesiology. “Rylie has set the bar high at Kimball,” said head coach Justin Bigler. “She is not only one of the hardest working athletes I have seen, she is also the most humble athletes who leads by example.” Normally a third baseman, Rylie was called on to pitch in her senior season. Although there were only 6 games played, she beat perennial power Tracy (first time Kimball has won against the Bulldogs in 8 years) and then Lincoln of Stockton. For her career, Costa (No. 45 in our final Class of 2020 state player rankings) had a four-year batting average of .539 (122 hits). A total of 31 percent of her hits were for extra bases. Rylie also had varsty career marks of .529 (OBP), .698 (SLG) and 1.228 (OPS).

Mackenzie Kestler from Righetti of Santa Maria collected a lot of honors during her four years of high school. Photo: ksby.com.


Sydney Costan (Terra Linda, San Rafael)
It was just a six-game season for Costan, but in her final one for the Trojans she made it count with a three-run homer in a 4-3 victory over St. Vincent of Petaluma. The senior who has signed with Canisius University in New York with head coach Kim Griffin was batting .368 in those six games with 10 RBI. As a junior, Costan proved costly to pitch to with a .556 batting average, 29 runs scored, five homers and 22 RBI. She played varsity as a freshman, but broke out as a sophomore wih a .470 average, 29 runs scored and 14 doubles. Sydney will play in the middle infield in college, but also played catcher at Terra Linda.

Gabby Herrera (Linden)
The Oregon-bound Herrera was an RBI machine for the Lions in her sophomore and junior seasons and likely would have had well over 160 RBI for her career. Herrera played 97 games in four years at Linden with a career batting average of .464. She also scored 141 runs. As a sophomore, Gabby hit .470 with 43 RBI. She pumped that up last season to .515 with 10 homers and 53 RBI. She helped Linden to a 27-6 record, including 10-0 in the Mother Lode League. In a doubleheader to start her junior season, Herrera sparked a sweep of Scotts Valley with three homers and seven RBI.

Mackenzie Kestler (Righetti, Santa Maria)
At the close of the shortened season, Kestler was tied for first in the CIF Central Section (according to MaxPreps) with four homers. She blasted two of those in the same game vs. Golden Valley of Bakersfield. Kestler also was batting .500 with eight RBI. In her first game, Mackenzie had a double and homer vs. Santa Maria. As a junior, Kestler made opposing pitchers restless with a .434 average, five homers and 17 RBI. Four of Mackenzie’s homers actually came during two days of a tournament. She will play next at Cal State San Marcos.

Angelique Munoz & Sabrina Olmo (El Camino Real, Woodland Hills)
Nominated for this feature by head coach Jodi Borenstein, Munoz and Olmo were two valuable contributors for El Camino Real’s team in 2019 that won the CIF L.A. City Section Open Division title. In six games to start the abbreviated 2020 season, Munoz batted .476 with five RBI. She was on the All-L.A. City Section team as a junior with a .411 batting average, including a huge RBI double in a semifinal playoff win vs. Chatsworth. Olmo also earned All-L.A. City honors last season. A student with a 3.7 GPA, Olmo had begun 2020 with a .429 batting average with one homer and six RBI.

Bobbiann Pratt (Aquinas, San Bernardino)
In what turned out to be her final game for the Saints, Pratt went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles in a 6-4 victory over Carson of Carson City, Nev., at a tournament in Las Vegas. She had a .556 batting mark in 12 games as a senior with 16 RBI. Pratt, who is headed to Boise State for college, first came onto the state scene in a big way as a sophomore. She had 60 RBI that season (which makes the state record book) with seven homers and a .625 batting average. Last season, Bobbiann added five homers, 45 RBI and hit .534 in 23 reported games.

Erika Rivera (Mountain View, El Monte)
As a freshman, Rivera was the main reason the Mountain View team turned around from 1-20 the year before to 19-7, including a trip to the quarterfinals in its division of the CIFSS playoffs. She pitched almost every inning of every game with 264 Ks, a 0.92 ERA and a 17-6 W-L record. From the plate, she batted .293 and led her team in hits and runs. As a sophomore, Erika kept it going with a 0.99 ERA in 92 IP with 175 Ks, resulting in a 10-6 record. She turned it on even more, however, at the plate, batting .525 with 31 hits and 24 runs. Rivera continued to excel last season, going 14-4 in the circle with a 1.88 ERA in 112 IP with 210 Ks. She also batted .379 with 25 hits and 20 runs scored. No stats were reported for her senior season, but in February she signed with Pomona Pitzer and was looking forward to leading the Vikings once again.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. 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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