In addition to overall No. 1 and Division 1 No. 1 Esperanza of Anaheim, others that can say they are mythical state champions for 2021 are Upland (Division 2), Notre Dame of Salinas (D3), Sutter (D4) and Fowler (D5).
For more on the 2021 State Team of the Year announcement,
Note: For the final divisional state rankings coming later this week, all of that info is for our Gold Club members only. You can get a subscription going right now, however, that is just $3.99 for one month and in addition to all of our rankings that also will include all of our upcoming all-state teams, state record updates plus additional, exclusive Gold Club content. For details, CLICK HERE.
Congratulations to these five softball teams for being added to the list of all-time state teams of the year according to our traditional Cal-Hi Sports five-division format:
This year’s team was just the second in school history to reach a CIF Southern Section championship game. The first was in 2001 in Division I. Adding more excitement to the softball team’s ascent to No. 1 overall in the state was a series of upsets by the girls basketball team at roughly the same time that advanced that team to the CIFSS D1 championship game.
It’s no surprise based on the last overall state rankings that the CIFSS D2 champions also would be tops for schools statewide coming in at D2 in our five-division format. Like the top four teams in the CIFSS D1 bracket (Esperanza, Roosevelt of Eastvale, Norco and Chino Hills), the top two teams in D2 (Upland and Villa Park) also opted out of the CIF SoCal regional playoffs. Camarillo was the team that won the first-ever CIF SoCal D1 regional title, but obviously that wouldn’t change what happened in the CIFSS playoffs with Upland winning in the semifinals over the Scorpions (3-2) and then beating Villa Park, 1-0, in the final. Upland & Chino Hills split games in the Baseline League, but anyone would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the Upland locker room prior to the season that would have thought that was possible or that the Highlanders would end up top five in the state. All the credit to head coach Sara Farnworth and the players. Pitcher Sarah Haendiges (Oregon State) out-dueled the more heralded Sydney Somerndike of Villa Park in the final and was nails all season. This is the first state team of the year honor in softball for Upland in any division.
Notre Dame (Salinas)
Despite El Camino Real of Woodland Hills (CIF L.A. City Section Open Division winner) and Sultana of Hesperia (CIF SoCal D2 regional titlist) also being considered D3, Notre Dame served as blast from the past for us and scheduled tough enough to gain this selection. This is the Spirits’ seventh No. 1 finish in the state. They were No. 1 in D4 in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003 and were No. 1 in D3 in 2004 and 2008. It’s been awhile since Notre Dame has been in the mix of top teams overall in Northern California, but current head coach Tom Cardinale has been building for seasons like this. It definitely helped that this year’s team was able to schedule games during the pandemic with three of the top CIF Central Section teams due to Monterey County touching Fresno County. The Spirits beat Buchanan of Clovis, but lost to both Clovis North and Clovis with the Clovis North game going to the wire (1-0 in extras). Notre Dame then won the rest of its games locally (one good win especially against San Benito of Hollister) and then entered the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs. The team beat both Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Pioneer of San Jose before losing 6-0 in the final to St. Francis of Mountain View. Since the Lancers ended 26-0 and will top five in the final overall state rankings, there’s nothing much wrong about that.
It’s still impossible not to think of USA softball pitcher Jessica Moore when the Huskies have had great teams after she was there in the late 2000s. Moore, who later became an All-American at Oregon, led Sutter to a 34-0 record in 2009 with a No. 1 state ranking in this division. Her team in 2008 also was No. 1 in D4 in 2008 at 35-2. Since then, the CIF Northern Section small school power has had one other No. 1 D4 ranking (27-1 in 2018). The Huskies return to the top this year with a 24-0 record. Included in their wins was one over Sac-Joaquin Section D2 ranked Elk Grove plus two over Pleasant Valley of Chico and Chico and one against fellow section small school power East Nicolaus. Head coach Stefanie Danna will return a number of leading players next season, led by junior Riley Wickum. She went 18-0 in the circle with 0.89 ERA and also batted .579 with 36 RBI. Junior Ella Jolly led the team in RBI (38) and home runs (five) and batted .521. With competitive equity seeding by the CIF, we can almost guarantee that if Sutter is as good or stronger next season it will be placed in a much higher division than D4.
This is the only one of the five divisional No. 1 teams that had to win in a CIF SoCal regional final in order to finish No. 1. The Redcats faced St. Bonaventure of Ventura on the road in the D3 game and blanked the Seraphs, 4-0, on a shutout by pitcher Kameryn Cordova. They have been D5 for our rankings and would continue to be D5 for this season. Head coach Jessica Schendel’s club wrapped up a 25-1 record with the only loss to D2 Sanger, 5-3, in the seventh game. St. Bonaventure came into the game No. 4 in our D4 state rankings. This is the third time that Fowler has been No. 1 for D5 softball. The first two came in back-to-back seasons in 1991 and 1992 and the 1992 squad went 25-0. With normal CIF regional and state playoffs next year, we also wouldn’t expect the Redcats to be able to continue to be D5 in these rankings, either.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports