Here’s an updated and expanded version of our ranking of the all-time greatest teams in California high school softball history. This one includes two teams from last season placed fairly high — one in the top five and the other in the top 15. We also have added three more teams from the first 25 who were selected. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose for 2009 remains in the No. 1 position. Go inside to check out criteria and full presentation in part 1 of this two-part series, but you’ll need to be a Gold Club member to read the entire two posts.
Note: All of the writeups, photos and more for all of these teams are for our Gold Club members only. If you’ve thought about joining, just going through this attempt at ranking the greatest softball teams in state history may be worth it just by itself for a one-month sign up. For details, CLICK HERE.
FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 16 TO NO. 30 plus more teams listed on the bubble (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.
Arguing about which team deserves to be No. 1 or which teams may have been missed is actually the point of completing such a project like ranking the all-time greatest softball teams in California high school history. It’s expected, it’s fun comparing viewpoints and it gives some fans of certain teams today the chance to look back and re-live some old glory.
For these all-time state rankings, which also have previously been done in baseball and just within the last six weeks for football, we are not going to go against our own published state rankings for a given season. For these rankings in softball, if a team ended No. 1 in our state rankings (which have been done for 25 years longer than anyone else nationally or in California) we’re not going to rank the No. 2 team higher now.
Secondly, finishing No. 1 in a credible national ranking also was used as a barometer to measure a team’s greatness. We also look for historical achievements plus we received input from several individuals over the years about this topic, including our own Harold Abend (a regular at the Livermore Stampede plus North Coast Section and Central Coast Section championships) plus Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise and Carlos Arias of ExtraInningSoftball.com.
These rankings are given the term “greatest” instead of “best” on purpose as well. Of course, some teams from 30 or 40 years ago may have had a hard time playing on even terms with some of the teams today. The key is to look for how much better a particular team was judged against its contemporary competition.
It’s also possible for teams to move up or move down over the years in all-time rankings. This is due to how certain players off of those teams may develop in college or for USA national teams. Additional research into the past also can uncover new facts and new reasons for making a change.
Finally, of course, nothing we’ve ever done, including this project and the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac, would be possible without all the research that was done for so many years by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis (1936-2004).
Cal-Hi Sports All-Time Top 30
Greatest Softball Teams
1. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 2009
Head Coach: Sarah Thomas
Two of the first major requirements to be crowned with this ranking was for a team to be unbeaten and for it to have at least one player that could be called all-time great.
The Monarchs did that by going unbeaten in 2009, finishing No. 1 in all of the state and national rankings and were led by pitcher-slugger Keilani Ricketts. She would later lead Oklahoma to an NCAA championship.
As a senior at Mitty in 2009, Ricketts only gave up two earned runs and had 347 strikeouts to go along with her 0.10 ERA. At the plate, she was perhaps even more feared, finishing with a .456 average with nine homers and 36 RBI.
In most years, final state rankings can be debated, but in 2009 not so much. While Mitty didn’t have any trouble winning the CIF Central Coast Section Division II title, the key was that the team posted a win over CIF North Coast Section champ Freedom of Oakley and knocked off Sheldon of Sacramento at the Livermore Stampede when Sheldon was the No. 1 team in the nation.
Before playing and losing to Mitty, Sheldon had gone down to the Faster to First tourney in Southern California and behind pitcher Jolene Henderson (Cal) won the title. Freedom also went to the same tournament and it was there when it handed one of just two losses to eventual CIF Southern Section Division I champion Norco.
Ricketts had given up a two-run homer to Sheldon’s Lindsey Ziegenhurt in the top of the first inning of that memorable Livermore Stampede final. Then in the bottom of the inning, facing Henderson, Ricketts launched a three-run bomb over the right field fence. Those runs she gave up on the homer were the only runs Ricketts allowed all season.
Mitty’s 2009 team also had a number of outstanding complimentary players. Perhaps the best was junior all-state outfielder Jillian Anderson. She batted leadoff and only struck out twice all season. Anderson ended up hitting .423 with 41 hits and 28 runs scored.