For coming up with the perfect blend of seniors and younger talented players that won the coveted CIF Southern Section Division I title, Esperanza of Anaheim head coach gains the 2021 State Coach of the Year selection for California softball. This also was his 21st season and there were some difficult moments to overcome.
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So how did a team go from being projected to be third in its league at the start of a season to No. 1 in the state? First, it’s a highly competitive league — the Crestview League in Orange County — and second the team in question, Esperanza of Anaheim, had all of its pieces fall completely into place from its pitching to its young infield playing great and its senior leaders coming through in the biggest games.
Orchestrating the Aztecs’ rise in the state rankings was veteran head coach Ed Tunstall, who this week has been named as the 2021 State Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports. He joins a long list of annual honorees that dates back to 1974 and is the first from Orange County since 2003 when Rob Weil (then coaching at Pacifica of Garden Grove but who is now at Los Alamitos) was the choice.
“Thanks you, I am very proud of these players,” Tunstall replied after being informed he was this year’s honoree. “They overcame considerable adversity in 2021 and stayed strong in support of each other. Every player delivered when they had the opportunity to help the team win. This was truly a team championship.”
Tunstall has been the head softball coach at Esperanza for 21 years. His previous best team was in 2011. That team was 22-2 entering the CIF Southern Section playoffs, but lost right away in an upset to Kennedy of La Palma. The team posted an 8-2 record last year in the scrapped campaign due to COVID and in the previous two seasons went 19-9 and 24-5.
Tunstall also has had a number of D1 college players, including his daughter, Amy, who played for him at Esperanza from 2003 to 2006. She later played for four years at Boston College. He has three other daughters from his first marriage.
According to the school’s web site, Tunstall began this season with 298 career wins. That means his 300th win was a doozy. That was when the Aztecs showed they were going to be a force on the statewide scene with a 3-2 win in 10 innings over a Chino Hills squad that was No. 1 in the MaxPreps’ national rankings and was No. 2 in the Cal-Hi Sports’ state rankings. After the season, Tunstall improved his career record to 320-182-3 (not including forfeits). He also has won eight league titles.
Esperanza obviously had several other huge wins in its march to the school’s first-ever CIF Southern Section D1 title. One was in the Crestview League against Villa Park (which itself spent time at No. 1 in the state) and avenged an earlier loss to the Spartans. The other came in the CIFSS D1 semifinals when the Aztecs knocked off 2019 champion Norco, 7-2. The Cougars also were No. 1 in the state at the time of that matchup.
In the CIFSS D1 final, Tunstall’s girls edged Roosevelt of Eastvale, 3-2, on a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning by sophomore Audrey Robles.
Robles, who batted .406 for the season, played second base and was joined up the middle by sophomore shortstop Sharyn Duncan. She hit .395 on the season and those two were outstanding defensively.
Another talented youngster who came through for Esperanza was freshman outfielder Taylor Shumaker. She hit a triple with two outs to put her in place to score the winning run in the final and led the team with a .478 batting average. She also had five homers and 23 RBI.
Tunstall needed senior leaders to shine and he got that, too.
The team’s most well-known player, outfielder Hannah Coor, who is now getting ready for her freshman year at NCAA champion Oklahoma, belted seven homers with 28 RBI. She also led the team in on-base percentage (.563) and tied for the team lead in runs scored (33).
Senior pitcher Emily Gomez was arguably the real key for everything coming together. She was in a league with highly regarded junior fireballer Sydney Somerndyke of Villa Park (Arizona commit) and even though she’s reportedly not planning to play softball in college (studying to be a nurse at Boise State) she matched zeroes with the best of them. Gomez ended 18-2 with a 1.62 ERA. She didn’t strikeout more than one per inning like other top pitchers, but she struck out 105 in 116 innings and most impressively only walked seven.
Junior Sabrina Seaton (1B/3B), who led the team in RBI with 39 and hit seven homers, along with junior pitcher Brooke Perez, who won four games when Gomez suffered an injury, were two of the team’s other standouts.
The adversity that Tunstall referred to wasn’t just about the pandemic causing a major delay to the season or about those games when Gomez was sidelined.
Details are not known due to student privacy laws, but in May there was an incident involving “alleged racist comments” made by players on the team in a group chat (according to the Orange County Register). At a May 20 game, the Aztecs topped Villa Park in that rematch game with several JV players having been called up to the varsity and “without several players.” Esperanza also forfeited its previous game on May 18 to El Dorado of Placentia due to not having enough players. The forfeit doesn’t count in the rankings, but it did officially in the CIFSS and contributed to a fourth seed for the D1 playoffs instead of likely No. 2 behind Norco.
“Both district and school officials promptly addressed the matter pursuant to the district’s established discipline procedures,” the Placentia-Yorba Linda School District said in a statement that was released on the Friday morning before the CIFSS finals. “Our school district condemns any form of discrimination and harassment. A safe and respectful environment is absolutely essential to student success.”
Coaches who have demonstrated they put their players first and respect their sport also are essential to student success. Ed Tunstall has been that kind of coach at Esperanza for 21 years.
All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Softball Coaches Of The Year
2021 – Ed Tunstall, Anaheim Esperanza (22-2*)
2020 – No selection (pandemic)
2019 – Matt Sweeney, Pleasanton Foothill (28-0)
2018 – Teresa Mayes-Borchard,
Pleasanton Amador Valley (23-5-1)
2017 – Mike Noel, Clovis (25-6)
2016 – Judy Shaubach, Madera (26-7)
2015 – Margaret Neill, Lancaster Paraclete (27-4)
2014 – Margaret Mauro,
San Diego Cathedral Catholic (29-3)
2013 – Mike Smith, Chino (26-2)
2012 – Rick Robinson, Norco (30-2)
2011 – Scott Smith, Hollister San Benito (29-1)
2010 – Teri Johnson, Union City James Logan
2009 – Tony Dobra, San Pedro (28-4)
2008 – Duane Zauner,
Lake of the Pines Bear River (29-3)
2007 – Mary Jo Truesdale, Sacramento Sheldon (29-1)
2006 – John Perez, Corona Santiago (26-5)
2005 – Art Banks, Roseville Woodcreek (28-6)
2004 – Pete Ackermann, Westlake Village Oaks Christian (34-1)
2003 – Rob Weil, Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – Brad Griffith, San Diego Mira Mesa (35-1)
2001 – Gary Walin, Thousand Oaks (24-5)
2000 – Jo Ann Byrd, Corona (28-4)
1999 – Jim Liggett, Belmont Carlmont (35-4)
1998 – Joe Given, Salinas Notre Dame (30-2-1)
1997 – Alan Dugard, Irvine Woodbridge (34-2)
1996 – Nancy Acerrio, Chula Vista Hilltop (27-2)
1995 – Marie Dean, Fremont Washington (27-0)
1994 – Joe Gonzalez, Tustin Foothill (25-7)
1993 – Jill Matyuch, Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Jeff Carlovsky, Escondido (26-2)
1991 – Kevin Newman, San Jose Gunderson (33-2)
1990 – Susie Calderon, Huntington Beach Marina (28-5)
1989 – Sharon Coggins, Ventura Buena (28-2)
1988 – Rich Kerr, San Lorenzo Arroyo (29-1)
1987 – Bob Regpala, Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Dick Barnes, El Monte Arroyo (22-1)
1985 – Neils Ludlow, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1984 – Aaron Ishikawa, Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Carol Hamilton, San Diego Madison (23-1)
1982 – Rich Spiekerman, Lodi (29-3)
1981 – Leslie Steffen, Hanford (20-4)
1980 – Bob Bush, Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Barbara Weding, Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Peggy Linville, Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Betsy Ward, Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Janet Balsley, Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Sally Carmen, Downey Warren (19-1)
1974 – Sandi Behrmann, El Segundo (undefeated)