SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of our final NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week for the 2021-22 school year are Noah Zirkle (left) from St. Mary’s of Berkeley and Dakota Kennedy of Sacramento Sheldon. Photos: & Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

With everyone playing on Tuesday this week, the final player of the week feature for this season has been done earlier. We also would have concluded the Player of the Week feature last week, but with the advent of the CIF Regional playoffs for the second year in the Southern Region and the first year in the Northern Region beginning this week, we searched for four honorees from section title games and came up with some solid performances despite not as many games as usual. We head to Sacramento and Berkeley in Northern California and Chatsworth and Fallbrook for the Southern California award winners.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. For questions, email Congratulations to all of the weekly honorees in both NorCal and SoCal in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball during the 2021-22 school year.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Noah Zirkle (St. Mary’s, Berkeley) Sr.

To find our Northern California Baseball Player of the Week honoree, we head to the East Bay and the border of the cities of Berkeley and Albany, and in fact to a school the border runs right through.

At St. Mary’s, we find a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher named Zirkle whose pitches have made circles around opposing batters all season, and last Saturday was a perfect example.

For a pitcher, other than a perfect game, there is no greater accomplishment than to pitch a no-hitter. To do it in a non-league or league game, a tournament, a league championship, or a playoff game is a significant accomplishment, but to do it in a section title game is a rare and very significant feat. But guess what? That’s exactly what Zirkle did.

Facing No. 4 seed St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda at home in the CIF North Coast Section Division IV title game, Zirkle pitched a no-no for the third-seeded Panthers and they needed every bit of his performance in a 1-0 victory. The line for the Fresno State-bound Zirkle included three walks separating him from perfection, plus he had seven strikeouts.

It was only the second CIFNCS title for St. Mary’s in baseball.

“This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and I’m proud I can do it for this school,” Zirkle told Prep2Prep correspondent Scott Giorgianni.

Stats were not completely updated but based on Saturday’s performance, Zirkle is 9-1 with 86 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched, and the 2.15 ERA he entered the title game with will be lower.

Of note is St. Joseph’s starter Dylan Stewart was almost as equally impressive with a four-hitter, but an RBI single by the Panthers’ Derrick Bedford in the fifth inning was all Zirkle needed.

We’re not sure how many no-hitters have been pitched in section title games but we do know one thing, there have been none pitched in a CIF Northern Regional playoff game, and that’s because they’ve never been held before this season.

We’re not sure if Noah’s ark is sailing on Tuesday in a first round NorCal Division IV match-up with host St. Francis of Watsonville, but if he’s on the mound Zirkle will get the opportunity.

Jose Ruedas (21) helps hold up the CIF L.A. City Section championship trophy after Chatsworth’s win last Saturday over Birmingham. Photo: CIF L.A. City Section.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Jose Ruedas (Chatsworth) Sr.

For our Southern California Baseball Player of the Week choice, our destination is the San Fernando Valley. At Chatsworth is where we find this senior Chancellors pitcher as our honoree.

Ruedas may go to school at Chatsworth, but his latest feat didn’t come at home or away, or even at a high school or college facility. While Ruedas didn’t pitch a no-hitter like the NorCal honoree, he saved his best performance of the season for the biggest moment after he pitched a four-hitter with six strikeouts in a 2-0 victory over Lake Balboa Birmingham in the Los Angeles City Section Open Division title game – and he did it in Chavez Ravine at Dodger Stadium.

What he also did was help an improbable Chatsworth team that came into the playoffs with a 3-7 record in the West Valley League and 12-14 overall get to 16-14 and earn a spot in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I playoffs where they open at home as the No. 4 seed against No. 5 seed Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.

The fact Jose and his Chatsworth teammates are even in this position is a story in itself. The section title victory was the Chancellors’ fifth straight win. After three league losses, including two to LA City Section Open Division top-seeded Granada Hills Charter, they ended league play by getting a split with Birmingham.

The team was pretty much an afterthought as the Open Division No. 9 seed but went on the road to Carson and won 11-8 in a slugfest. Next up was Granada Hills Charter, and wouldn’t you know it, the Chancellors stunned the top seed they had lost twice to just two weeks prior to the matchup, in a 6-4 victory. You don’t have to guess who was on the mound because we’ll tell you. It was Ruedas.

After the Granada Hills win and prior to the title game, the Chancellors won a 4-3 squeaker over Roosevelt of Los Angeles.

The fact that Ruedas helped lead his team to the title as the No. 9 seed was somewhat improbable, but the fact Chatsworth won a LA City Section title was not as it was the 10th in school history.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Softball Player of the Week

Dakota Kennedy (Sheldon, Sacramento) Sr.

We don’t know the miles per hour that showed how hard Dakota hit her two homers for the Huskies in their 7-1 win last Saturday against Lincoln of Stockton in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 final. Let’s just say both were missiles and Kennedy has been launching quite a few of them in recent weeks.

Kennedy, who committed to Arizona in 2020 and has been one of the nation’s top-ranked recruits as an outfielder since then, will enter the CIF NorCal playoffs having hit at least one homer in seven of her last nine games. She now has 13 for the season (one of the highest reported totals in the state).

“We were just feeding off of the first homer hit today (by teammate Sakora Harvell),” Kennedy said. “We’re ready for this week.”

For the season, Kennedy will enter the final week of her prep career leading the 27-5 Huskies in home runs, steals and runs scored (53). She’s also No. 2 in batting average (.468) and No. 2 in RBI (41).

Sheldon tied a section record by winning its ninth section title, but will start off the NorCal playoffs at home as a No. 4 seed against No. 5 Archbishop Mitty.

Baylee Howley will head to the University of North Dakota after batting nearly .600 this season for Fallbrook. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Softball Player of the Week

Baylee Howley (Fallbrook) Sr.

In Fallbrook, we find a senior catcher who has been hot all season, but really came alive during the drive towards a San Diego Section Division V title. For the championship game, Howley got to perform at UC San Diego.

In the championship game 16-3 shellacking last Friday by the third-seeded Warriors over top-seeded Foothills Christian of El Cajon, Howley was 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, an RBI, and three runs scored.

On Thursday in the double-elimination format of the San Diego Section, Baylee was partially responsible for putting the hurt on Foothills Christian after she was 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and three runs scored in an 8-0 rout.

In the opening round 11-1 win over Francis Parker of San Diego and a quarterfinal 6-3 victory over No. 2 seed Maranatha Christian of San Diego, Howley was a combined 4-for-6 with a double, two walks, three RBI, and three runs scored. She also had four stolen bases in the four playoff games.

So far this season, and heading into the CIF Southern Regional Division V playoffs where the No. 5 seed travels to No. 4 seed Nipomo on Tuesday, Howley leads Fallbrook with a .586 average. She has two home runs, two triples, 15 doubles, 12 RBI, five of which she got in the four games of the playoffs, and a team-leading 35 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. An impressive stat is that in 83 plate appearances Baylee has only struck out twice.

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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