Villa Park returns the most prominent player and starts 2022 in the No. 1 position. Northern California teams check in at No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 8 with one of those four that could actually play in the CIF SoCal regionals.
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It’s a new era for California high school softball as it will be the first season ever in which the CIF will crown regional champions in both Northern and Southern California at the end. That means that concerns about ranking teams too high at the beginning that may not play the toughest schedules doesn’t matter as much. It’s not a state championship yet, but it’s closer.
There were CIF SoCal regionals last season, but the season was delayed to such a degree that when those playoffs were held in late June that many of the best players on the top high school teams already had checked out to play for their summer travel ball clubs. Many top teams also just opted out. There were no NorCal regionals since there were no section playoffs in some of those CIF sections.
With the CIF Southern Section teams now all more bunched together in Division I (the D2 bracket there was just as strong as D1 last season), one of the biggest questions of the season will be about whether the D1 championship team from the CIF Central Section will go to the north or the south for the regional playoffs.
Under the current guidelines, all it says is that four teams from the Central Section will be placed in the north and four in the south. It doesn’t say which four go where so there is flexibility. To avoid CIFSS rematches in the SoCal Open Division, if it looks like the available teams from San Diego and L.A. City will not be that competitive with the top CIFSS teams, then it’s likely a Central Section team (potentially Clovis North) could be in the SoCal Open lineup.
There are games being played this weekend in a few places around the state so it may not be preseason for all teams. Still, we wanted to get these done as a starting point for what could be a historically great season.
STATE TOP 25 RANKINGS
(Listed with record from 2021)
(Games played Saturday, Feb. 12 not counted unless noted)
1. Villa Park 24-3
One swing of the bat caused the Spartans to lose in extra innings to Upland in last year’s CIFSS D2 championship, which also prevented them from being No. 1 in the state. All but three players are back off of that squad, which makes Villa Park one of the state’s anticipated leading teams for 2022. The Spartans are at the top since one of those back is University of Arizona national recruit Sydney Somerndike. She was the State Junior of the Year who pitched in every game with a 0.80 ERA. She also hit five homers and batted .317.
2. St. Francis (Mountain View) 26-0
The Lancers were No. 4 to end 2021 and they had a CCS championship that was celebrated. They will be looking for more with just about the entire team coming back. Minnesota-bound Jessica Oakland led the way with 19 homers, 55 RBI and a .612 batting average. Sydney Stewart is another Lancer regarded as one the best in the nation. The catcher signed by Washington belted 12 homers last season and had 44 RBI.
3. Norco 27-2
Head coach Rick Robinson loses an elite pitcher in Stevie Hansen, but only one other regular contributor from last season is gone. And when in the last many years has Norco not had a pitcher who can get outs and collect wins? State Sophomore of the Year Mya Perez, who has committed to Arizona State, is back for her junior season. The Cougars also have a highly-ranked national player among the juniors in corner infielder Alyssa Hoverdale. She has just recently committed to national powerhouse Florida.
4. Heritage (Brentwood) 23-0
Last year, of course, with both Heritage and St. Francis being unbeaten, it would have been perfect to have NorCal regionals. The Bruins are also similar to the Lancers in that every starter except two has returned. Three of head coach Ron Rivers’ best, including pitcher Kasey Aguinaga, are headed to Boise State. Third baseman and all-state selection Tiana Bell is going to Cal.
5. Clovis North (Fresno) 21-1
What makes the Broncos so dangerous and a threat to win the NorCal Open Division title if they’re in the north or the SoCal Open Division title if they’re in the south is pitcher Ryan Maddox. The junior fireballer is one of the leading Class of 2023 recruits in the nation already committed to Arizona. Sophomore Alexis DeBoer did not move with her family to Washington, and there’s still a more than solid group to go with Maddox and her, including INF Emma Bumatay and junior INF Naleya Bridges.
6. Pacifica (Garden Grove) 20-4
Returning State Freshman of the Year Brynne Nally is among a great returning cast for the Mariners, who handed State Team of the Year Esperanza one of its two losses. Two other returning sophomores, Kaliya Bragg (five homers) and Kayli Counts (.319, 12 RBI), were also standouts as freshmen last season. Nally was the team’s leading pitcher.
7. Camarillo 21-2
The Scorpions were the highest ranked team to win a regional title last June and start out in the same No. 7 spot they were placed at the conclusion of last season. There’s a couple of key players that graduated, but all-state first team Rylee Pinedo is back and she has signed with UCLA. Pitcher Ainsley Berlingeri also returns. She’s already shown she can pitch and win the biggest games.
8. Sheldon (Sacramento) 21-2*
The returning slugging power of the Huskies could be a sight to behold. Longtime head coach Mary Jo Truesdale has girls who hit 11, nine and eight home runs, respectively, from a year ago. OF Dakota Kennedy (Arizona) tops the charts. Junior Jaylee Ojo hit 11 homers, batted .523 and did some pitching. If another pitcher emerges or Ojo proves she can beat elite teams in the circle, then Sheldon will indeed rank as one of the state’s top teams.
9. Esperanza (Anaheim) 22-1
All-State INF Hannah Coor has moved on to Oklahoma & All-State P Emily Gomez has graduated as well, but the Aztecs still have an outstanding P in Brooke Perez, who has committed to UC Riverside. Several other leading players also return, including junior INF Sharyn Duncan, junior INF Audrey Robles and sophomore OF Taylor Shumaker. Note: Esperanza lost its first game on Saturday, 3-1, to preseason No. 12 Orange Lutheran.
10. Upland 25-2
Emily Capobianco had the swing of the season in 2021 with her game-winning homer that beat Villa Park in the CIFSS D2 final. She’s back at catcher and has a scholarship from Utah. While pitcher Sarah Haendiges has left for Oregon State, the Highlanders still have a top-flight ace with Paige Cowley, who has signed with Notre Dame.
11. Roosevelt (Eastvale) 21-6
The Broncos were a mostly young group that reached the CIFSS D1 final last year and lost to Esperanza. Nebraska recruit Dakota Carter, a speedy outfielder, is among those back. Pitcher Priscilla Llamas, a sophomore, was effective with her change-up in last year’s playoff run.
12. Roseville 18-5
Head coach Art Banks ranks No. 6 on our all-time state list for coaching wins with 728 (including 18 seasons at nearby Woodcreek) and should have one of the top teams in Northern California. Three of the Tigers have signed with UC Santa Barbara, including pitcher Malaya Johnson. INF Shay McDowell, No. 31 in the ExtraInningSoftball Extra Elite 100 for the Class of 2022, has signed with Oregon State.
13. Lutheran (Orange) 18-12
It’s an interesting mix of players for veteran head coach Steve Miklos. Among the returnees is senior All-American candidate Kiki Estrada, a top 25 national recruit who has signed with Arkansas. He also has two young players looking to break loose in freshman INF Kai Minor and sophomore P Brianne Weiss. Senior Jordyn Villanueva also is a member of the Mexican Junior National Team. Note: Miklos won his 500th game on Saturday as the Lancers opened the season with a win against preseason No. 7 Esperanza.
14. Los Alamitos 20-8
There were a lot of seniors on the Griffins’ roster last spring, but head coach Rob Weil has perhaps the deepest program in the state outside of Norco. There were seven D1 signers in December. One of the most notable was catcher Diamond Sefe with Texas Tech.
15. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 18-4
There were some epic battles last season between the Lions and neighborhood rival Westlake. While Westlake ace Kylie Chung has headed off to Stanford, Oaks Christian still has its ace. That would be senior Micaela Kastor, who had a 0.75 ERA and has signed with Notre Dame. Junior 1B Nani Arreola, who hit nine homers as a sophomore, and 3B Riley McCoy, ranked among the top Class of 2024 recruits in the nation, also are back.
16. Otay Ranch (Chula Vista) 18-7
It seemed like the CIF San Diego Section’s top team from last year, Mater Dei Catholic, was hit hard by graduation, so the team we came up with to start out on top in that section was league rival Otay Ranch. The Mustangs won the D2 section title with a win over 26-5 Helix of La Mesa and return twin sisters Maya Loper (All-CIFSD) & Sarah Loper. Maya is the ace in the circle with Sarah behind the plate. Junior Isabel Vinulan is a top returning hitter.
17. Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 26-2
Most of the major pieces who led the Crusaders to the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title (and No. 6 final state ranking) are gone, including INF Giselle Gonzalez, P Gizelle Garcia and INF Kyra Moody. Junior INF Ayanna Shaw (.418, 28 RBI) is one of those who is back.
18. Notre Dame (Salinas) 17-3
The Spirits took a step in the right direction last spring with some games against CIF Central Section top teams. They were a top 25 team for most of the season and have a lot of returning talent. Junior Samantha Rey pitched well, batted .627 and has committed to Central Florida. Junior Addison Amaral has committed to Notre Dame. Plus, Victoria Cervantes and Victoria Rey are proven leaders who can produce at the plate.
19. Clovis 24-5
Some of the top position players have graduated after last season, but the Cougars have a returning ace with senior Lauryn Carranco. They also have a great track record of success with another leading returnee in INF Brook Brazill.
20. Santiago (Corona) 12-9
The third team from the Big VIII League (same as Norco and Eastvale Roosevelt) has a loaded group of position players, but needs an ace pitcher to step up to really jump up there. INF Amari Harper is one of the best in the nation and will play next at Texas A&M. Sophomore Ashleigh Mejia (INF) also is ranked among the best nationally in her class. Senior Kaylah Nelsen batted .545 with four homers last season.
21. Whittier Christian (La Habra) 22-3
The CIFSS playoffs didn’t go as planned for the Heralds, but they proved they could play anyone and win. They will have one of the leading players in Orange County in Medium Schools State Player of the Year Brooklyn Carreon. She and the team will be large schools this year (based on competitive equity). Carreon is headed to Utah. Note: Whittier Christian lost in its first game on Saturday to Marina of Huntington Beach.
22. Westlake (Westlake Village) 22-4
The Warriors, as mentioned earlier in the Oaks Christian writeup, lose a lot with Kylie Chung’s departure to Stanford. Still, they have a strong group of position players and we didn’t want to start them completely out of the top 25 after finishing No. 8 in 2021. Stanford-bound SS Emily Jones is one of the best defensive players in the state and hit above .500. Catcher Kennedy Bunker is going to Fresno State.
23. Livermore 16-3
Who’s No. 2 in the CIF North Coast Section behind obvious No. 1 Heritage? Foothill of Pleasanton normally would be a good place to start, but lost its senior pitcher. Livermore returns pitcher Taylor Rodriguez plus has a highly-regarded sophomore in Jae Cosgriff (hit 6 HRs as a freshman).
24. Sutter 24-0
Both Sutter and East Nicolaus, the two small school powerhouses from the CIF Northern Section, should be outstanding and when the first-ever CIF NorCal regional playoffs are seeded (based on competitive equity) they both can expect to be placed in higher divisions. The Huskies are starting the spring with a 42-game win streak and have almost everyone back, including a D1-bound pitcher-hitter in Riley Wickum (Cal State Northridge).
25. Liberty (Bakersfield) 19-1
The Patriots reached the CIF Central Section championship opposite Clovis North and have a strong returning corps of players. The leader should be senior Presley Hosick, who batted .508, went 5-0 on the mound and has signed with Cal Baptist.
TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
Aragon (San Mateo) 15-3
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 14-7
Chino Hills 20-6
Clayton Valley (Concord) 10-6
East Nicolaus (Nicolaus) 23-2
Elk Grove 18-8
Foothill (Pleasanton) 17-2
Helix (La Mesa) 26-6
Huntington Beach 21-5
La Serna (Whittier) 13-7
Marina (Huntington Beach) 12-10
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 12-11
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 24-10
Murrieta Mesa (Murrieta) 18-9
Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 15-4
Redwood (Larkspur) 17-2
Rosary (Fullerton) 21-11
St. Francis (Sacramento) 15-6
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 20-9
Vanden (Fairfield) 11–0