Yes, we are going to have to do football, baseball and softball rankings at the same time in the coming weeks. Many of the best teams in the state in baseball are starting schedules at the end of this upcoming week. Orange Lutheran was in the No. 1 position at the end of the suspended 2020 season and starts out this spring at No. 2 behind league rival JSerra of San Juan Capistrano. Ayala, Eastlake and Thousand Oaks round out our top five. Another 20 teams listed on the bubble.
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(Teams listed with 2019 & 2020 season records)
(*Record does not include forfeit wins or losses)
(Some players mentioned could have decided to opt out of the season)
1. JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 11-1, 19-13
Last year’s team certainly had the firepower to earn the program’s first CIF Southern Section title and while this year’s team seems even more loaded it’s uncertain if that first title can be won, either. The CIFSS playoffs have yet to be cancelled, but it’s hard to see if they can happen unless the state lifts current travel restrictions. Regardless, the Lions are playing a strong enough schedule that can land them a final No. 1 state ranking (and that hasn’t yet happened for them, either). Leading the way are two All-American candidates: senior shortstop Cody Schrier (UCLA) and senior pitcher Gage Jump (also UCLA). But those are just two of many on the roster already committed to big-time colleges. Senior OF Gabe D’Arcy (Arkansas), senior C Colin Blanchard (Washington), senior 3B Matt Champion (Arizona State) and senior pitchers Eric Silva and Luke Jewett (both UCLA) all have those types of commitments and more are coming up.
2. Lutheran (Orange) 8-0, 27-5
Head coach Eric Borba loses some great players, such as Max Rajcic, the one who was leading for Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year when the season stopped. But since the Lancers are in the same league as JSerra and are guaranteed of playing a schedule that can help them stay near the top of the rankings we are going to start them out in the second spot. OLu doesn’t exactly have a bare cupboard, either. One of the top returnees is SS Justin DeCriscio, but among the newcomers is Vista Murrieta transfer Mikey Romero (one of state’s top sophomores) and freshman Derek Curiel (an outfielder ranked by Perfect Game as the top ninth grader in the nation).
3. Ayala (Chino Hills) 9-0, 25-6
The Bulldogs return a strong group of pitchers and position players from last year’s team that was No. 3 in the state when the season had to be stopped. Three of the pitchers — Thomas Cerecedes, Andres Pasillas and A.J. Juarez — combined for seven of the nine wins. Four-year standout Cole Koniarsky will again roam the outfield. The Cal State Fullerton recruit has a .432 career batting average in 71 games.
4. Eastlake (Chula Vista) 6-1, 26-4-1
Two years ago, the Titans had Keoni Cavacao, the State Player of the Year and first-round MLB draft choice. They may have another one just like him leading this year’s team with infielder Marcelo Mayer. The USC-committed phenom been in the top 10 of all MLB draft prospects in several lists we’ve seen. Eastlake also has several other top returnees, led by Long Beach State-bound pitcher Ray Cebulski.
5. Thousand Oaks 8-0, 24-6
There’s a big three for the Lancers consisting of infielder Max Muncy, infielder Roc Riggio and catcher Charlie Saum all headed for MLB draft projections and major colleges. They will clearly be one of the top teams in the CIFSS, but not being able to have playoffs or face teams like JSerra or Orange Lutheran due to current CDPH travel restrictions probably will hurt their strength of schedule.
6. Buchanan (Clovis) 9-1, 26-4
Last year’s team was the one that was supposed to be rebuilding for the Bears, but at least for the games that were played that wasn’t happening. Most of the leading players are back and there are eight players the last time we checked with D1 college commitments. The seniors who signed last November were outfielder Josh Williams (UC Santa Barbara) and catcher Austin Young (Fresno State). Travel restrictions prevent Central Section playoffs at this time, but tough competition in the Tri-River Athletic Conference is still going to occur.
7. De La Salle (Concord) 3-1, 29-1
Both the CIF North Coast Section and CIF Central Coast Section already have announced there will be no baseball playoffs for this spring. De La Salle has won four straight NCS titles and had a 31-game win streak broken in the last game it played last spring. Another hard-working, balanced group will be led by senior slugging 1B Blake Burke. He has signed with Tennessee.
8. Valley Christian (San Jose) 4-3, 29-4
Veteran head coach John Diatte has had some of the state’s best teams over the last 10 years. Last year’s team might have overcome its early losses with regular playoffs, but that didn’t happen. Among those back is 2019 State Sophomore of the Year Jonathan Cymrot, who has signed with Kansas. Shortstop Trevor Haskins and sophomore pitcher Jacob Hudson also are forecast to be leading players.
9. Jesuit (Carmichael) 3-0, 22-11
Just before the 2020 season shut down on a Friday of that fateful week last March, the Marauders took on De La Salle of Concord and ended the Spartans’ 31-game win streak. Jesuit has two leading standouts returning off of that club. Pitcher Anthony Susac has been winning big games since his freshman season and has signed with Arizona. 1B Devon Walczykowski can crush the ball and has signed with Pepperdine. The bad news is that the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section already has cancelled its spring playoffs. Jesuit being in a historically tough league, however, helps with its strength of schedule.
10. Torrey Pines (San Diego) 7-0, 20-13-1
Carson Williams ranks as one of the elite pitchers in the state and should lead a top-notch pitching staff for the Falcons. Junior Eric Van Valkenburg was another young pitcher who had begun the 2020 season looking good. There are position players that need to be replaced, but a middle infielder to watch is UCLA-bound Bryce Grudzielanek, the son of 15-year MLB player Mark Grudzielanek.
11. Huntington Beach 6-3, 25-7
It’s another packed group of D1 signers and D1 committed players for head coach Benji Madure. The pitching corps looks particularly tough with Caden Aoki (Notre Dame), Tyler Prsytajko (Washington) and Ben Jacobs (UC Irvine). The Oilers also have catcher Blake Penso (UC Irvine). Sophomore outfielder Aidan Espinoza (UCLA commit) is looking to make a splash, too.
12. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 5-3, 17-14
We just found out while double-checking info on the Dons that former longtime head coach Dick Serrano had died during the weekend. He was the winningest head coach in the CIF San Diego Section when he retired and is still on the all-time state list. Current head coach Gary Remiker does a great job, too. He’ll have a club this spring with one of the state’s best 1-2 pitching combos with Max Miller (Arizona State) and Gavin Nalu (Stanford).
13. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 2-1, 14-12
Based on returning talent from 2020, the Trojans definitely could be viewed as the preseason team to beat in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. They have the most D1 recruits among any team in the section with six. Pitcher Carter Heninger is the only senior of the group and is going to San Jose State. Juniors Calin Trexler, Dylan Warren, Andrew Uharriet and Braden Frank have all committed to Sacramento State.
14. Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 3-7, 26-11
The Eagles sure have the ability to hop some teams in upcoming rankings. Only winning three games last season, though, does cost a few spots in our system. Ethan Flanagan, a pitcher headed to UCLA, is the most prominent returnee. Texas-bound pitcher Matthew Porchas is back as well, along with infielder Jack Collins (Cal State Northridge) and outstanding catcher Zach Crandall.
15. Yucaipa 6-5, 26-6
Head coach Ralph Grajeda should have a team equal to or even better than in 2018 when the Thunderbirds won CIFSS D2 crown. There are nine players reported in the program with D1 college commitments. The team’s left side of the infield is especially stacked with shortstop Caiden Huber (USC) and Jacob Reimer (Cal State Fullerton). Junior pitcher Carter Herrera just last month also committed to the Titans.
16. San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 8-1, 27-5
The Panthers should continue to play at the same level as the top Clovis Unified School District squads in the CIF Central Section. There are two four-year starters with infielder Eddie Saldivar (Long Beach State) and outfielder Tanner Sagouspe (Cal Poly SLO). Plus, there’s returning strength on the mound, led by St. Mary’s College commit Gionvanni Blanchette.
17. Harvard-Westlake (Studio City) 6-3, 25-7
All-Americans Pete Crow-Armstrong and Drew Bowser were part of a great senior class of 2020, but the Wolverines still have a formidable lineup and pitching staff. Senior pitcher Christian Becerra is headed to Cal while one of the top freshmen in the nation is pitcher Bryce Rainer. Shortstop George Cooper is another worth noting since he is going to Harvard.
18. Foothill (Tustin) 8-2, 19-12
USC committed junior Austin Overn showed in a recent video that he’d probably win a slam dunk contest among all baseball players in the state. This is the point of the preseason rankings where it gets tougher, but the Knights are one of the teams that shines not just with Overn (an outfielder) but several other leading players. Nevada recruit Carson Case batted nearly .350 in the shortened 2020 season, while pitcher Brady Ashworth went 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA.
19. Palo Alto 5-1, 20-10
Just about everyone on the roster from last season is back for the Vikings. The most heralded of the group is four-year catcher Aidan Berger (who has signed with UCLA). Outfielder Henry Bolte is a junior with big-time potential and has committed to Texas. Shortstop Zander Darby also is highly regarded with commitment to UC Santa Barbara. Ryan Harvey, who started last spring 2-0 with no runs allowed in 7 2/3 innings, should one of the best pitchers.
20. Heritage (Brentwood) 4-0, 21-7
The last time the Patriots lost was in the 2019 CIF North Coast Section D1 finals to De La Salle. The best player off of that team and last year, Ryan Jackson, has graduated, but that group we saw in 2019 had a number of impressive sophomores and freshmen on it. Christian Machado was a sophomore pitcher in 2019 who went 8-1 with a 1.51 ERA.
21. La Mirada 6-2, 26-7
The Matadors were projected to be battling for the No. 1 ranking last year with a stellar group led by 2019 State Junior of the Year Jared Jones and were No. 5 at the sudden end. They not only lose him to graduation but most of the others. Head coach Jimmy Zurn still has players to watch, including Long Beach State committed junior catcher Andrew Pyle, and upcoming younger players.
22. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 6-1, 24-7
Right behind La Mirada in last year’s final rankings at No. 6 were the Knights and we’re keeping it that way to start this spring. Notre Dame faces some rebuilding as well with a great senior class moving on. Among those coming back is senior shortstop Nico Rynn (.467) and promising junior pitcher Cole Clark.
23. Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 1-3, 20-10-1
If you didn’t know, the Broncos have had more all-state first team players than any other school in state history with 21 since the school opened in 1990. They should continue to be one of the best in the CIF San Diego Section with another solid senior class. Those headed to D1 colleges are catcher Charlie Fick (Cal State Fullerton), infielder Shunsuke Sakaino (Cal State Northridge), third base Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State), pitcher Trevor Moeck (Bradley), pitcher Collin Rothermel (Kansas State) and outfielder Jackson Castillo (Utah).
24. Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 6-2, 23-9
Thatcher Hurd is one the red-hot pitching prospects from Southern California and has signed with UCLA. But there’s more to like about the Mustangs than just him. Infielder Aidan Aguilar and catcher Nick Bacura are two among others looking good. They are headed to Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara, respectively.
25. Vacaville 2-2-1, 31-2
The Bulldogs captured the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 title in 2018 and 2019 and didn’t get to defend it last year due to the pandemic. They are still the defending champions and have a team deserving of attention with three D1 senior signers, headlined by pitcher Kyle Bender (Washington). Even with no games in such a long time, a lot has happened for head coach Stu Clary’s program, including alum Tony Gonsolin pitching in the World Series for the Dodgers and several families suffering losses last summer in a wildfire.
26. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 5-0, 22-11
First-round MLB Draft pick Nick Yorke already is getting work at the Boston Red Sox main spring training camp and will be hugely missed by the Monarchs this spring. Another from the Yorke family, junior multi-purpose talent Zach Yorke, will still be on hand. Other returnees who seemed on track to have outstanding seasons last year include junior pitcher Tristan Fox, senior outfielder Matt Halbach and senior pitcher Anthony Sanguinetti.
27. Bishop Amat (La Puente) 5-3, 20-9
It’s a good mix of returning veterans (both in pitching and in the lineup) and younger players showing promise for head coach Joe Hoggatt. Senior catcher Daniel Briones (San Diego State) along with senior Adrian Verduzco have been known to heat up at the plate. Top pitchers include Izeah Muniz and Ryan Verdugo.
28. Elk Grove 1-2, 13-17
All the excitement of the Thundering Herd having seven alums in the major leagues at the same time last season (surpassing Newhall Hart for the state lead) could be matched with a team this spring ready to get back to the top of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section heap. One of the top players should be senior Eddie Madrigal (St. Mary’s), a cousin of one of those MLB players (Nick Madrigal of the Chicago White Sox).
29. California (San Ramon) 5-1-1, 10-14
With just four seniors last spring, all the promise the Grizzlies showed at the beginning of last season could still be realized this year. Junior Nic Bronzini is one of the top-rated of his class as a pitcher, owns a verbal commitment to Oklahoma and he can hit. Junior outfielder Raoul Fabian also is reported with a commitment to Long Beach State.
30. Glendora 9-1, 16-13
What stands out about the Tartans is their pitching as just about everyone from last season is back, led by junior Braydon Wooldridge (committed to Cal). Seniors back with good numbers on offense include Jeff Isenberg and Carson Collett.
31. Clovis North (Fresno) 8-2, 21-8
Of course, we wanted to get a second team from the Tri-River Athletic Conference of the CIF Central Section into these rankings, but it was very hard picking which one. Clovis North was right up there with Buchanan last year and could have several top underclass players.
32. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 7-1, 14-15-1
With former Chatsworth head coach Tom Muesborn now assisting head coach Jerry Royster, the Trailblazers will look to continue to grow their program toward the elite status of other teams at the school. One of those back is junior pitcher Jaden Noot, who already has committed to Oklahoma.
33. Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 4-1, 21-7
It’s hard to know about pitching for the Cardinals, but they’ve probably got a dynamite lineup led by shortstop Carson Crawford (going to Cal) and catcher Shane Moran, who gave up his senior spring season of football since he’s a D1 baseball player headed to Long Beach State. Another infielder who has major college skills is Aidan Lombardi.
34. St. Augustine (San Diego) 5-1, 18-14-1
Saints don’t appear to have the pitching of their rivals from Cathedral Catholic, but they’ve got some intriguing players. Junior Cade Martinez is an infielder committed to San Diego State, but the one that got us going more is 6-foot-6, 235-pound sophomore slugger M.J. Sweeney, the son of longtime MLB player Mike Sweeney. We saw Pops in high school for Ontario’s legendary team in 1991 that finished 26-0.
35. Clovis West (Fresno) 7-2, 18-12
The Golden Eagles may still be a year away from really getting up there. It was impossible not to notice that one of those coming up is freshman catcher Tyler Patrick, representing the next generation of Patricks. Grandpa James, the former and longtime head coach at Clovis, will no doubt be watching closely.
20 MORE TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 6-2, 20-16
Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) 3-8, 19-10-2
Clovis 7-3, 20-11
Corona 7-2, 20-10
Cypress 7-5, 31-3
Damien (La Verne) 5-4, 17-12
Frontier (Bakersfield) 8-1-1, 21-11
Great Oak (Temecula) 8-3, 23-9-1
Helix (La Mesa) 4-2, 20-13
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 4-3, 17-15
Lodi 2-1, 23-6
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 3-6, 15-17
Mission Viejo 6-0, 14-16-1
Newbury Park 7-1, 15-14
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 9-1, 24-10
Rocklin 3-2, 14-15
San Luis Obispo 5-0, 23-5
Serra (San Mateo) 1-3, 19-11
Turlock 3-2, 22-7
Woodcreek (Roseville) 2-3, 21-9