Preseason Softball TOP 35 Teams

One of the leading players for preseason state No. 1 ranked team Norco is pitcher Stevie Hansen (left). One of the leading players for No. 2 Chino Hills is infielder Kayla Chavez. Photos: @NorcoHSSoftball / Twitter.com & FloSoftball.com.


There are a few teams that have already started, but these rankings will serve as our starting point for the upcoming 2021 spring season. Perennial powerhouse Norco is sitting in the No. 1 position for the state despite nearby school Chino Hills landing a No. 1 national ranking. Those two will play each other, which is a good thing if there’s no CIF Southern Section playoffs. Several sections in the state already have cancelled. Los Alamitos, Gahr of Cerritos and Sheldon of Sacramento also are all in the top 10. 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)
(You may notice writeups of SoCal teams already have appeared in the L.A. Times, which will be using our rankings during the upcoming season)

1. Norco 11-1, 32-1
We’ll never know if the Cougars would have bounced back from their early loss last year to win a third straight CIF Southern Section D1 title. While 2019-20 State Girls Athlete of the Year Sarah Willis has graduated, Norco still has the players and track record to be No. 1 in the state once again. Head coach Rick Robinson can send out perhaps the best pitcher in the state in any big game as Stevie Hansen (Oregon signer) has gone 15-0 so far in her career. Junior outfielder Abby Dayton also returns as one of the top hitters. Sophomore Alyssa Hovermale made her presence known as a freshman infielder last season and should be another key cog in the lineup.

2. Chino Hills 9-2, 27-5
The Huskies snagged the No. 1 preseason national ranking from MaxPreps and appear to have more D1 college bound players than any other team in the state. Starting that high for a program that has never even gotten to a CIFSS D1 final, however, doesn’t make sense. We decided to wait until the Huskies actually play Norco, which is scheduled as of now for March 26. Four-year starting pitcher Kendall Mangel (Nebraska) already has 58 career wins. Two other seniors in our Hot 100 state player rankings are infielder Kayla Chavez (Minnesota) and outfielder Mckenzie Hannah (Boise State).

3. Los Alamitos 10-0, 19-9
Head coach Rob Weil’s girls were No. 1 in the state last spring when the season shut down so there is some sentiment toward keeping the team near the top to start off 2021. The pitching isn’t as settled as other top teams, but the Griffins have a big-time lineup. Catcher Sophia Nugent is a state and national player of the year candidate who is headed to Oklahoma. There’s also seniors Emma Sellers (South Carolina INF) and Erin Mendoza (Oregon State OF) who can do a lot of damage. Coach Weil also is one of the best at preparing teams for big games that we’ve ever seen.

Taylor Stephens from Gahr of Cerritos takes a hard swing during team’s 6-3 win over West of Torrance in 2019 CIFSS D1 playoffs. Photo: @gahrsoftball / Twitter.com.

4. Gahr (Cerritos) 6-0, 22-6
If there are no CIFSS playoffs, and those can’t happen now with current state pandemic-related travel restrictions, then it becomes important to know which counties a lot of these teams are in. We’d start out Gahr tops for L.A. County, but as of now the Gladiators couldn’t play anyone in Riverside County (like Norco) since those two counties do not adjoin. Gahr has two dominant players with UCLA recruit Taylor Stephens (2B) and Oregon State-bound Kristalyn Romulo (OF). Plus, there is a pitcher, senior Ashley Benavides, who has been successful in previous seasons.

5. Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 5-0, 25-4
Outfielder Angie Yellen was the highest riser in our most recent Hot 100 state player rankings for the current senior class and has signed with Washington. The Eagles also have one of the top returning pitchers in Southern California with senior Jayci Kruse signed by Missouri. Three others from a talented senior class with D1 scholarships are Abigail Charpentier (Santa Clara), Miranda Lista (Abilene Christian) and Brooke Owens (Grand Canyon).

6. Crescenta Valley (La Crescenta) 10-1, 27-5-1
The Falcons proved their status as an elite squad with their high finish at the 2020 Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz. DeeDee Hernandez, ace pitcher who also is a member of the Mexican national team, is among several standout returnees. Junior catcher Izzy Jamgotchian and senior outfielder Morgan Eng were two of the others. The only reason we didn’t go with CV even higher was not knowing its strength of schedule. With no tournaments and likely no section playoffs, that’s a much harder determination than usual.

Mary Jo Truesdale earned her 8th section title banner in 2017 at Sacramento Sheldon. Photo: Mark Tennis.


7. Sheldon (Sacramento) 0-2, 19-7-1
Northern California’s top teams from last season, especially Foothill of Pleasanton, have been hit hard by graduation. It was hard to do preseason rankings among those teams so for this first one we’re cheating a bit because the Huskies have already played games, including a 15-0 win this week over Lincoln. They’ve also already swamped 2019 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champ Whitney of Rocklin and a Del Oro of Loomis squad that was No. 1 in the Sacramento area last year when the season was stopped. Sheldon, of course, has been the dominant program in recent years in the SJS under longtime head coach Mary Jo Truesdale. Leading players include junior outfielder Dakota Kennedy (Arizona), junior infielder D’auna Johnson (Cal), senior infielder Kennedy Upshire (Appalachian State) and senior catcher Reina Zermeno (San Jose State).

8. Santiago (Corona) 8-4, 19-6-1
Savannah Hooks received all-state recognition as a sophomore in 2019 and actually has the experience of pitching a team to a win over Norco (the Sharks’ league rival). She has signed with Loyola-Marymount. Outfielder Kaylah Nelsen, a senior headed to Oregon State, and infielder Amari Harper, a junior ranked among the top 100 recruits nationally by ExtraInningSoftball, are two of Santiago’s other top players.

9. Villa Park 8-2, 15-11
Junior pitcher Sydney Somerndike has committed to Arizona and is regarded as one of the top Class of 2022 hurlers in the nation. The Spartans also have tons more experience and talent returning from last season. The list includes seniors Andreya Florea (Fairleigh Dickinson), Courtney Alvarado (Vanguard) and Andrea Alvarado (Eastern New Mexico), who all just signed letters of intent in February.

10. Westlake (Westlake Village) 6-0, 20-9
Two years ago as a sophomore, Kylie Chung went 11-1 in the circle with a 1.51 ERA. She’s now getting ready for her season season and a future at Stanford. Last year’s team also appeared on its way to making history with a 59-6 scoring edge in its first six games and just about everyone is back.

Jessica Oakland first made her mark at St. Francis as a freshman in 2019. Photo: Twitter.com.


11. St. Francis (Mountain View) 1-0, 25-6-1
The Lancers were poised to have a potentially huge season in 2020 and lucky for them most of the girls those projections were based on are still around. University of Minnesota committed junior infielder Jessica Oakland, the daughter of head coach Mike Oakland, is the team’s leading all-state candidate. Pitcher Lauren Baker, who starred as a sophomore in the spring of 2019, also is among the returnees.

12. Grand Terrace 4-0, 25-4-1
Last year’s team of Titans was thought to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode and never got the chance to play the strongest teams on its schedule. This year’s group comes back loaded with D1 college bound prospects. The list includes a pitcher, Jessica Hubbard, who is headed to Loyola-Marymount. Three other seniors to watch are Sacramento State-bound 3B Nikki Barboza, Cal Baptist-bound MIF Priscilla Estrada, and St. Mary’s College-bound 1B Aslyn Zermeno.

13. Heritage (Brentwood) 2-0, 25-3
It would seem that the Patriots are logical choice to be at the top of the CIF North Coast Section to start the spring. They have a pitcher on the roster, Kasey Aguinaga (junior), reported with a commitment to Boise State. They also have an elite player, junior 3B Tianna Bell, who is going to Cal. Senior catcher Julia Barnett also has signed with Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.

14. Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 6-0, 31-4
The CIF San Diego Section was another one difficult to decide on a preseason pecking order due to a lot of teams losing top players to graduation. MD Catholic was one of them, but also still has several standout returnees and because of that is continuing in the state rankings. It was a small sample size, but both Kiyra Moody and Gigi Gonzalez both batted over .500 last spring.

Kiyra Moody knows how to get on base for Mater Dei Catholic. Photo: ncsasports.org.

15. Canyon (Anaheim) 6-3, 19-9-1
One of the great league races in the state will be in the Crestview League of the CIFSS where Villa Park (No. 9 above) and Canyon will do battle. The Comanches have many returning players and have a dominant pitcher in junior Kylee Magee. She’s already won national titles at the club level and has committed to Arizona State. With Villa Park’s Sydney Somerndike committed to Arizona, Sun Devil and Wildcat fans will probably pay close attention to their matchups.

16. Saugus 8-2, 20-8
The Centurions could move up if their pitching comes through. The lineup that head coach Julie Archer can put out there is stacked. The list includes three big-time senior recruits: 1B Gracie Keene (Tennessee), 3B/1B McKenna Gibson (also Tennessee) and OF Allie Enright (Arizona).

17. Foothill (Pleasanton) 4-0, 28-0
Yes, the Falcons may have a tough time with one of the best players in recent NorCal history, Nicole May, now at Oklahoma plus other seniors from last season graduated. But we’ll always continue to rank a program on a long win streak like the one Foothill is on until it is over. Among top players who are back include senior outfielder Emma Chandler and junior infielder Avery Francis.

18. Clovis 9-1, 21-7
It was difficult to determine a top preseason pecking order for the CIF Central Section as well. Cougars’ head coach Mike Noel always does such a great job and does have some solid players coming back. Among those would be senior outfielder Macey Grigsby, junior infielder Brooke Brazill and junior outfielder Taylor Johnson.

19. Rancho Buena Vista (Vista) 7-1, 18-9-1
Outfielder Paige Dimler is perhaps the top returning player in the CIF San Diego Section. The University of Arizona recruit has been slugging homers since her freshman season. Savannah Coyle also returns in the circle after posting 5-0 record with 0.84 ERA last year. Sophomore Janae Combs led the team in RBI as a freshman and is another key returnee.

Tiana Poole was team leader for RBI last season at Orange Lutheran. Photo: oluathletics.org.


20. Lutheran (Orange) 9-3, 23-7-1
Under head coach Steve Miklos, the Lancers have a program that has former players tearing it up right now at colleges throughout the nation. There are new players that need to step up, but junior Tiana Poole led the team in RBI as a sophomore. A key transfer is Kiki Estrada, nationally ranked junior who previously was at Chino Hills.

21. Notre Dame (Salinas) 1-0, 23-4
That’s not a typo that the Spirits only got to play once last spring before the pandemic began to hit hard. They were state-ranked at time based on returnees from the previous season and all of those player (except one) is still on campus. It’s a group that has a proven pitcher (junior Samantha Rocha), a catcher who’s already been heavily honored (senior Angelita Fuentes) and one of the top juniors in Northern California (infielder Victoria Cervantes).

22. Elk Grove 2-2, 21-10
The Thundering Herd also have started out impressively as sophomore pitcher Aissa Silva struck out 17 in a win over Del Oro of Loomis. They also had a tie on Tuesday of this week vs. Roseville, which didn’t effect this ranking because Roseville also is projected to be one of the top clubs in Northern California this spring. Elk Grove also has one of the top catchers in NorCal with Boise State-bound Brooklynn Pettis.

23. Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 3-1, 25-1
Forget any qualms about small school status for the Wildcats. They’ve got one of the top pitchers in Northern California, period, with Annabel Teperson, who has signed with Cal. Head coach Dave Albini also has firepower elsewhere on the field and at the plate.

24. Murrieta Mesa (Murrieta) 9-2, 13-14
The Rams have two players that were in our Class of 2021 Hot 100 and one of those, Lacie Ham, is a pitcher. She will play next at San Jose State. Infielder Bella Flexen is the other one and will play next at Long Beach State. Plus, leading RBI producer Jaelyn Eaves (junior) also is back.

25. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 8-2, 22-5-1
Ventura County has several strong squads on paper after Westlake with several others that also could have made a case for a preseason state ranking. We’ll go with veteran head coach Pete Ackermann’s group next. The leading returnee from among many returning starters is junior Micaela Kastor. She has 13 career homers even with just the 10 games from 2020 plus she has more than 100 strikeouts as a pitcher.

26. Great Oak (Temecula) 3-3-1, 26-4-1
We’re unsure about pitching for the Wolfpack, but two of the leading player of the year candidates for seniors, Quincee Lilio, and juniors, Ramsey Suarez, are both returning. Lilio, leadoff hitting shortstop, was described as a “hybrid athlete” on signing day by her future head coach at Oklahoma. Suarez, State Freshman of the Year in 2019, has committed to UCLA.

Mia Hildebrand is following in a long line of great players at Amador Valley of Pleasanton. Photo: ncsasports.org.


27. Madera 12-0, 20-9
Our 2016 State Coach of the Year, Judy Shaubach, should have an outstanding team this season. Senior outfielder Leilani Ricks leads the way and has gained a scholarship HBCU Howard University. The Coyotes also have a proven pitcher with junior Alexis Galvan.

28. Upland 11-3, 20-8-3
The Highlanders welcome back a pitcher headed to the Pac-12 Conference in Sarah Haendiges, who is coming on after a string of impressive summer outings and has signed with Oregon State. They also have an impact leadoff hitter in senior Maddy Souza, who is headed to the Ivy League (Columbia).

29. Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 1-1, 18-9
The Dons are going to have to beat their rivals from Foothill on the field for us to rank them higher, but they figure to be one of the best in the East Bay. Pitcher Mia Hildebrand is one to watch and has signed with UC Davis. Junior Alexa Perez (OF), junior Sophia Youngberg (C/SS) and senior Allyson Kim (SS/C) are other players who’ve been productive in the past.

30. Yucaipa 13-3, 13-12
Pitcher-hitter Esperanza Coe was such a great player for the Thunderbirds last season and will be hard to replace. Still, offensively at least, it should be a potent group. Shortstop Annessa Arredondo hit .435 and is headed to Arizona State. Junior Emma Martinez (.549 average) an senior Kaelyn Loncharich (Providence) are also returning.

31. Pacifica (Garden Grove) 4-5-1, 25-4-1
This traditionally great program in Orange County loses some very good players from last season. The best of the seniors still on hand is infielder Jacquelyn Bickar (signed with Long Beach State).

32. La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 5-4, 13-14
The Mavericks look like a threat in the CIF San Diego Section. Kaitlyn Farley can hit and pitch with the best of them and will play next at Ohio State. This also is a team with more than just one pitching standout. Angelina Russo is another who has closed games effectively.

33. Roseville 5-0, 17-9
Like Sheldon, the Tigers have one of the state’s all-time winningest head coaches in Art Banks. His team that was unbeaten when the 2020 season was shut down returns a lot of strength, especially with junior pitcher Malaya Johnson (UC Santa Barbara) and junior shortstop Shaylen McDowell (Oregon State). Roseville started this week at No. 1 in the Sacramento Bee’s preseason rankings, then played a 1-1 tie with Elk Grove.

34. St. Anthony (Long Beach) 8-0, 16-8
Tiare Jennings and Zaida Puni from last year’s team are now at Oklahoma, but their younger sisters are still at St. Anthony and should be fun to follow over the next two seasons. Tele Jennings is a sophomore outfielder/utility player while Zaniah Puni is a sophomore outfielder/infielder.

35. Aragon (San Mateo 2-1, 22-6
We’re not sure about the pitching, but just can’t resist writing up the Dons as one of our top 35. They happen to have two of the best Class of 2022 players in California with Megan Grant (UCLA) and Olivia DiNardo (Arizona).

20 MORE TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE

Alta Loma 11-2, 12-12
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 3-1, 18-6
Ayala (Chino Hills) 8-3-1
Buchanan (Clovis) 8-1, 24-4
Bullard (Fresno) 5-3-1, 23-6
Camarillo 6-1, 18-9
Clovis North (Fresno) 7-1, 23-6-1
Edison (Huntington Beach) 7-1, 16-9
El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 21-9, 7-2
Huntington Beach 2-3-3, 18-9
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 6-6, 15-11-1
Newbury Park 9-3, 15-8
Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 12-1, 10-9
Rocklin 5-3, 16-9
Royal (Simi Valley) 5-3, 19-7
Sonora (La Habra) 8-0, 22-4
South (Torrance) 7-2, 24-7
St. Paul (Santa Fe Springs) 9-2, 19-8
University City (San Diego) 5-1, 15-16
Vanden (Fairfield) 5-0, 19-8

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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