NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Justine Bergara from Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and Braedon Ross from Christian of El Cajon. Photos: & Courtesy Ross Family.

With the two largest sections in Northern California (Sac-Joaquin and North Coast) concluding action, it makes the NorCal selections a little more difficult, but we found a doozy from the Northern Section where some teams are still in action. From there, it’s “do you know the way to San Jose” to complete the Northern California winners. For Southern California, we’re in the East County portion of the San Diego Section and finally finish this week’s journey in the San Fernando Valley.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email We are picking the winners on Monday nights for the rest of the spring season.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Braeden Ross (Christian, El Cajon) Sr.

The East County area of the CIF San Diego Section is where we land in our search for the Southern California Baseball Player of the Week, and the reality is this week we didn’t have to do too much investigating to find our honoree.

Each week we often get nominations from parents, coaches and others, and more often than not they don’t meet the mustard to go on a true ballpark frank. But this week we’ve got one, and although the nominee knows about this, we’re going to leave it as a Ross family secret they can cherish.

Ross started last week by hitting his seventh home run of the season, a 3-run shot, plus he walked, stole a base, and scored twice in a 21-2 home victory over San Diego High Tech. Two days later on the road at High Tech in the second game of the three-game series, a 17-2 victory, the Cal State Northridge-bound Braeden did it at the plate and on the mound. As a batter he was 4 for 6 with home run No. 8, five RBI and three runs scored. On the mound he pitched a two-hitter, with a walk, six strikeouts and he gave up one earned run. In the third game against High Tech, a 21-0 shellacking, Ross hit round-tripper No. 9, plus he had a double, four RBI and three runs scored.

Christian already played a game this week and in a 7-0 victory over San Diego Mission Bay he walked and had a sacrifice that drove in a run.

Heading into the second game this week with Mission Bay on Wednesday afternoon for the 20-4 Patriots, Ross was hitting .461 with the nine home runs, five doubles, 31 RBI and 28 runs scored. From the mound he was 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA and had 56 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.

His nine home runs is tied for fifth in the San Diego Section and is among the state leaders according to totals reported to MaxPreps.

Earlier this season, Braeden was considered for this honor, but in the same week his good friend Austin Smith of nearby Granite Hills (El Cajon) pitched a 16-strikeout no-hitter.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Ethan Lay (Colusa) Jr.

For this week’s NorCal baseball honoree, we head to the CIF Northern Section for the first time in this pandemic-affected season and land on the banks of the Sacramento River off of Highway 20 around 10-miles east of Williams and Interstate 5 and 25 miles west of Yuba City.

In Colusa, we find Lay, a junior right-handed pitcher and infielder who’s been laying down opponents at the plate and from the mound for one of the top schools in the Northern Section period, despite having a Division IV classification.

To be 26-1 heading into a Wednesday afternoon match-up with Live Oak that would end its season, Colusa has needed a lot of pitching and hitting from multiple contributors, and head coach Eric Lay has no shortage of talent, but last week belonged to his son, Ethan.

Lay started the week scoring a run and pitching an inning to get the save in a 7-3 victory over East Nicolaus of Nicolaus. In the second game of the double-header, a 14-0 victory, Ethan was at it again, only this time Lay led the way and took center stage. He went 3 for 3 with a home run, base on balls, four RBI and three runs scored, and pitched an inning with a strikeout in the three batters he retired.

On Thursday, in a 10-0 victory over Orland, Ethan got the start and in 5.2 innings he pitched a 1-hitter with a walk and eight strikeouts. At the plate he was 3 for 3 with a walk, and RBI and a run scored, plus he stole a base.

So far this week Lay had a hit and a walk in two plate appearances and drove in a run in a 13-0 victory over Live Oak.

On the season, and heading into the second game this week with Live Oak, Lay was hitting an even .400 with two home runs, four doubles, 32 RBI and 33 runs scored. Ethan is even better on the mound where he’s 8-0 with a 0.32 ERA and two saves in seven starts and 16 appearances.

Every pitcher needs hitting and we know Lay would want to give a shout out to junior teammate and slugger Emanuel Frias. He leads the team in several offensive categories with a .444 average, six home runs, nine doubles and 44 runs batted in.

Note: There will be final divisional state baseball rankings that will include Colusa. We just don’t know which divisions teams will be placed in because we don’t know how the first CIF SoCal regional playoffs will unfold. We also can’t get to doing divisional state rankings for this strange season with four sports we cover all going on at the same time. Lay & Frias also will be eligible for all-state small schools recognition, but that likely won’t get completed until late July.

Kaylee Norris of San Jose Piedmont Hills will gain entry into the state record book for hitting four doubles in one game. She also may have a future in designing websites. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Softball Player of the Week

Kaylee Norris (Piedmont Hills, San Jose) Sr.

Close to the foothills of north-easterly San Jose and not far from Alum Rock Park is where we land in our search for the Northern California Softball Player of the Week.

It’s at Piedmont Hills where we find Norris, a senior shortstop who has Pirates’ fans shouting in glee every time Kaylee comes to the plate, and why not, she’s only hitting .737 this season.

Last week, Norris was perfect at the plate in 10 appearances.

On Tuesday, Kaylee was 5 for 5 with four doubles, five RBI and four runs scored. The four doubles makes the Most Doubles (Game) list in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book. All individual records will be posted soon, but four doubles does make it.

Piedmont Hills lost 10-8 to Morgan Hill Live Oak to go to 8-5 on the season, but Norris was 4 for 4 with another double, two RBI and a run scored.

Heading into the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs, the .737 average the Dominican University-committed Norris boasts is the No. 2 reported mark in the CCS and No. 6 in the state. She also has 10 doubles in the 11 games she’s played in.

Despite only getting three games as a junior and 11 games this season, Norris has a .582 career batting average, 27 doubles, 67 RBI and 70 runs scored in 52 career games played.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Softball Player of the Week

Justine Bergara (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) Sr.

The north-westerly part of the San Fernando Valley is where we find our Southern California Softball Player of the Week, and it’s at a school that in recent years has produced some of the state’s top boys and girls basketball teams, plus some great football teams as well.

However, in this pandemic-affected season, the Trailblazers softball team is making some noise and demanding some attention, and Bergara is the one getting some for a Sierra Canyon team that is No. 6 in the L.A. Daily News rankings, No. 31 in the most recent Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, and 16-1 heading into a Thursday afternoon CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoff opener with Charter Oak of Covina.

Last week, in a 4-1 victory over visiting Campbell Hall from across the valley in North Hollywood, Bergara could brag about doing it in the circle and at the plate. She pitched a 1-hitter with 11 strikeouts, and the senior slugger who plays infield when not pitching had an RBI double.

So far this season, and heading in the Thursday playoff opener, Bergara is batting .462 with 16 doubles and 21 runs batted in – and she’s only struck out twice in 52 at bats. As a pitcher Justine is at 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA, and 40 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched.

Once the season is over, Justine will head to Muhlenberg College of Allentown, Pa.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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