Welcome to the 44th season of Cal-Hi Sports state baseball rankings. We will continue to follow more teams in the greatest baseball state in the nation than anyone else. This will be the second season in which the CIF NorCal & CIF SoCal regional championships will conclude the race to the top. Will it gain in significance or will some of the CIF section titles, particularly in the Southern Section by some schools, still be viewed as more important? The CIFSS D1 champion from last season, JSerra of San Juan Capistrano, starts out the 2023 season with the No. 1 state ranking and is near the top in many national rankings.
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(All teams listed with records from 2022 season)
(Any results from games played on Saturday, Feb. 11 or later are not included)
(Thanks to correspondent Chuck Nan for the writeups on teams from the Trinity League, which is why they are a lot longer than the others)
1. JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 25-11
Despite starting with a 1-6 record last season, the Lions united and charged forward to continue as one of the elite programs in the country and took 19 of their last 21 games. This included winning the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship and take the runner-up spot in the CIF So Cal Regional. While the Lions lost several key components from that squad, they still field a virtual all-star team of select prospects. Many experts have JSerra ranked no less than in the top three in the country. The Los Angeles Times summed it up best — “They are loaded with elite pitchers, hitters and defensive players.” Shortstop Jonathan Mendez is perhaps considered the top player, having earned several league, county and section honors. Andrew Lamb, the reigning CIF-SS Division 1 Player of the Year, sparks the offense and is a choice defender in center field. He also has been named an All-American and one of top 20 hitters in the nation by other media outlets. Lamb was clutch for his team with a .444 batting average with runners in scoring position. Infielder Trent Caraway is another prized prospect and been lauded with a load of recognition. Pitcher J.J. Hollis returns as the dominant No. 1 starter. His 2022 season was impeccable with a 9-0 record and an earned run average of 1.01. He won virtually every award possible last year during the notable run and this offseason. His biggest accomplishment may be that he defeated rival Orange Lutheran twice last year — not an easy task. Brodie Purcell and Ben Reimers are slotted to pitch in the rotation following Hollis. In all, head coach Brett Kay’s bunch boasts nine Division 1 signees. That group includes Dominic Smaldino, Lou Fujiwara and Matt Champion. This uber-talented bunch also will face one of the toughest schedules in the country between the Trinity League and tournaments.
2. Harvard-Westlake (Studio City) 22-8-1
The pitching for next two teams in order figure to be as insane as JSerra and could carry either one to the top. Both the Wolverines and Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, of course, are Mission League rivals. The L.A. Times put Harvard-Westlake second behind JSerra in its preseason rankings (we pay attention to local rankings because the people doing them tend to see the teams play) but the L.A. Daily News had Notre Dame first and the Wolverines second. The excitement at Harvard-Westlake is because 2021 State Freshman of the Year Bryce Rainer will return to pitching after he was “only” a position player in the batting order. Rainer, committed to Texas, is perhaps the No. 1 Class of 2024 prospect in the nation. Another junior entering his third season pitching is Tommy Bridges, committed to TCU. The Wolverines also have junior pitcher Duncan Marsten coming back from injury who is highly regarded and committed to Stanford. The senior on the team with All-American credentials is OF Will Gasparino (Texas). A sophomore to watch is catcher Cade Goldstein (Washington) while there’s a freshman coming up to pay attention to: James Tronstein. The OF/P/1B played on the USA Baseball U-15 team a few months ago.
3. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 22-8-1
Veteran head coach Tom Dill has a returning big four with mound dominance possibilities that he’ll be able to mix and match with all season long. The four are Justin Lee (UCLA), Sam Petrocelli (Stanford), Levi Sterling (Texas) and Oliver Boone (Cal). Erik Puodziunas is a junior coming up who also has been a football wide receiver that has been showing signs of bringing the heat. The Knights’ main returnee among the position players is OF Dean West (UCLA). They also are coming back this spring with confidence after reaching last year’s CIFSS D1 championship game.
4. Villa Park 28-6
The Spartans were No. 1 in the state toward the end of last season and while they didn’t win either the CIFSS D1 or CIF SoCal Open Division titles, they were right there and have all they need to be right there at the end once again. It all begins and ends with Villa Park this spring with senior Gavin Grahovac. He was the State Junior of the Year, L.A. Times Player of the Year and OC Register Player of the Year. He had 17 doubles, five homers and .376 on 47 hits. The best news, however, is that all 28 pitching wins from last season is returning. The leaders include Brandon Luu (8-2, 1.24 ERA), A.J. Krodel (7-2, 3.05) and Zach Brown (5-2, 2.96).
5. Valley Christian (San Jose) 25-8-1
Head coach John Diatte became just the 14th coach in state history to reach 700 career wins last season and may have one of his best teams. It’s hard to say the best because the Warriors have been State Team of the Year before. All of the top pitchers plus most of the top position players are back from last year’s team that lost to St. Francis of Mountain View in the CIF NorCal D1 semifinals and was No. 12 in the final state rankings. Jacob Hudson starts his fourth varsity season as the top returnee since he was the 2022 West Catholic Athletic League Player of the Year for his pitching and hitting. Valley Christian also welcomes back P Alec Belardes (Arizona State), junior OF Tatum Marsh (Stanford), sophomore P/INF Quinten Marsh (Stanford) and another one of the top freshmen in NorCal last season in OF Hunter Fujimoto.
6. Huntington Beach 25-9
Power-hitting first baseman/catcher Ralph Velazquez was referred to as “the Aaron Judge” of high school baseball earlier this week by the L.A. Times. That’s the Aaron Judge of today because Ralph is far ahead of where Aaron was at the same stage of his career at Linden up in Northern California. Velazquez hit nine homers last season for the Oilers, none bigger than the two-run shot he had in the 2-0 win in eight innings over JSerra in the CIF SoCal D1 championship. Huntington Beach does lose some great pitching off of that team, but should still be one of the top teams in the state and nation with a schedule that shows it. Leading returnees include senior OF Aidan Espinoza (UCLA), senior C Trent Grindlinger (Long Beach State) and sophomore INF Dean Carpentier (USC).
7. De La Salle (Concord) 27-6
With five straight CIF North Coast Section D1 titles and two No. 1 state finishes from 2019 and 2022, starting out the Spartans at No. 7 might be a little low. They lost some standout seniors from last season, but head coach David Jeans has the program rolling along and has some leading returnees as well. Senior P Cal Randall is a UCLA signer primed to have a big year. Fellow senior Connor “Bear” Harrison will move to catcher and has been pitching. He’s the younger brother of upcoming MLB prospect Kyle Harrison (SF Giants). St. Mary’s bound OF Tanner Griffith is also one of many others to watch.
8. Lutheran (Orange) 25-5
For the first time in head coach Eric Borba’s tenure at Orange Lutheran, he is saddled with the task of effectively filling some voids. The defending Trinity League champion Lancers lost significant resources from their batting lineup and more critically on the bump. There are only three returning starters, but they are real standouts. The pitching depth is a bit thin, but OLu has reloaded in a sense with a talented pitcher transferring in and a lively arm still in the fold. The returnees are led by third baseman Casey Borba. He is stocked with legitimate power and shows signs of just getting better. He hit .353 in 2022 and launched six bombs. Junior center fielder Derek Curiel is well-known across the country and considered a dangerous hitter. The hurler to be counted upon is Evan Miranda. He was 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA, one save and 38 strikeouts in 28 innings. Ross Clark looks like the “next man up” on the hill. Junior utility man Ben Reiland (.306 BA) has big game experience and should become one of the club’s leaders. The key transfers are Vinny Hudson, a junior pitcher from Ayala (Chino Hills) and Gabe Fraser, a junior infielder from Huntington Beach. The Lancers are still good enough to be considered a top 25 team nationally. The schedule is intense as usual. In addition to Trinity League, the Lancers will be challenged by a whole lot of talented opposition at the Boras Classic-South.
9. Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 19-11
Head coach and alum Chris Malec sees his remarkable roster at Santa Margarita Catholic loaded with impressive talent and an unprecedented 11 Division 1 signees — nine from the 2023 class and two from 2024. The heavily senior dominant club embarks upon a rugged schedule and appearances in two nationally-acclaimed tournaments for the first time — the National High School Invitational (NHSI) and Boras Classic-South. Several outlets see the Eagles as a top 15 team in the nation, but with the most threatening competition right at home in the Southland where another half-dozen schools are just as strong we’ll be a little more cautious. Three of the team’s best position players all have roots as catchers: Luke Lavin, Blake Balsz and Bryce Humphry. Lavin was named a preseason Second-Team All-American and All-CIF-Southern Section Division 1 a year ago with his .433 average, 23 RBI and 1.172 OPS. Left-handed Sammy Cova will anchor the staff that sees veteran Jack Svinth miss the season with injury. SMC will look to Zach Fjelstad to help fill the void. Cade Townsend, Jake Lavin and Logan de Groot are three non-seniors that figure to be big contributors. Blake Wilson, a two-sport star, is the Swiss Army knife of the club. He combined three home runs, 16 RBI, a 2-0 record on the mound along with four saves and an ERA of 1.00 during his excellent 2022 season. Steady outfielder Drew Rutter has a significant amount of varsity experience under his belt and will be called upon. The highlight of last season came when SMC swept a three-game series versus eventual Southern Section champion JSerra Catholic.
10. Etiwanda 27-9
This Inland Empire powerhouse should have one of its best teams with a lot of returning assets from last season. The CIFSS D2 champions begin with a pitching staff led by senior Dylan Goff. All he did as a junior was become first team all-state (overall) and gain Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year honors. Goff finished 12-0 with a 0.93 ERA plus 93 strikeouts in 86 innings. The lineup boasts of having sophomore Brady Ebel, who also can pitch but was named State Freshman Player of the Year mainly for hitting.
11. Whitney (Rocklin) 28-6
With a few of the big-name players that Franklin of Elk Grove has coming back, putting that team at the top to start in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section makes sense. It just makes more sense for it to be Whitney. The Wildcats are coming off a CIFSJS D1 championship and have a huge chunk of their roster returning. They have two players back who led them in pitching and hitting last season. Jace Gillmore (Santa Clara) went 11-0 and had 31 hits. Gavin McLendon (San Diego State) went 9-1 with a 0.91 ERA and batted .326. OF Tyler Allen led Whitney in hits with 34, Shane Saunders led in RBI with 26 and junior INF Jax Giminez (.308) also is highly regarded.
12. Franklin (Elk Grove) 24-9
Right behind Whitney is the Wildcats, also from the Sac-Joaquin Section. They clearly will be in the mix for top section and NorCal honors with their cast of returnees. They have the top MLB draft prospect in the region and one of the best in the nation with elite hitter (and pitcher) Nolan Stevens. The Mississippi State signer had 31 RBI as a junior and went 6-0 pitching with 59 strikeouts in 38 innings. He’s been making a name for himself since his freshman season. Junior pitcher Nic Abraham also should be an ace for Franklin. He has committed to Oregon. Plus, the team has one of the top junior infielders in Northern California with Jordy Lopez (committed to Cal).
13. Cypress 23-6-2
Much of the lineup and much of the pitching is back for veteran head coach John Weber (2019 State Coach of the Year). USC-bound INF Abbrie Covarrubias leads the way, but junior Gabe Cobian also received All-Orange County honors last season. The pitching includes 2022 leaders Luke Matlock and Zack Ocampo. The Centurions also will have OF Matt Morrell, one of the state’s top football-baseball combo athletes. He was just named all-state medium schools in football.
14. St. Francis (Mountain View) 31-5
Head coach Matt Maguire’s squad came within one out of finishing No. 1 in the state last season before a crushing loss to De La Salle in the CIF NorCal D1 final. That team was comprised mostly of senior standouts, and while we’re starting the Lancers behind league rival Valley Christian in the preseason rankings it wouldn’t be a surprise if they also are still at the top in the CCS. INF Elias Duncan and OF Derek Gile are the top position returnees. Both were all-league last season and both had more than 20 RBI. Jack Surdey (6-0, 1.48) and Ned Righellis would seem to be the top returning pitchers.
15. Bullard (Fresno) 23-6
By a slim margin, the Knights have the best collection of returning talent in the CIF Central Section. They may not be from the powerful Tri-River Athletic Conference, but head coach Tom Donald has had State Teams of the Year before when he was at nearby Buchanan. Two-time league player of the year Cameron Schneider (Fresno State) tops the list at Bullard. The Knights also have one of the top juniors in Northern California in three-year standout Beckett Zavorek (Arizona State). Junior INF Keynen Gomez (San Diego State) and senior C Jake Porter (Santa Clara) also return plus Nick Stubblfield and Jaxon Murphy are two outfielders who can deliver on defense and with their bats.
16. Stockdale (Bakersfield) 26-5
The loss of CIF Central Section MVP and Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year finalist Austin Charles will be tough for the Mustangs, but they should be another favorite in that section and beyond this season. Head coach Brad Showers still has pitcher Ryan Featherston (Oregon) and other top-notch returnees. Featherston went 10-2 last season and had 82 strikeouts. St. Mary’s-bound Matt Torres is back after scoring 55 runs while San Diego State-bound Ruben Rodriguez also is back in the middle of the infield after driving in 39 runs.
17. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 24-10
Five of the Monarchs’ top six RBI leaders are back from last season as they will be looking to upend both St. Francis and Valley Christian in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League. The top returnee is senior OF/INF Jarren Advincula, who has signed with Cal. INF Alijah Ramos, also a senior, is headed to Cal State Fullerton. OF Danny Scudero also is one to watch. He was a jack-of-all-trades for the Monarchs in football and is coming off a season in football in which he was the Santa Clara County Player of the Year.
18. Aquinas (San Bernardino) 28-3
The Falcons have been showing up in preseason national rankings and there’s good reasons for that. It’s just that they’ve never been in this echelon of teams before (lower divisions of the CIFSS) and would have to prove it on the field for us to put up way up into the top 10 or higher. Senior Eric Bitonti (Oregon) hit nine homers with 41 RBI and had a 0.62 ERA last season and was State Medium Schools Player of the Year. Junior teammate Nate Christman (.508) also has committed to the Ducks. Transfers have come into the program as well, most notably UCLA-bound shortstop Owen Egan from Yucaipa.
19. Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 21-13
It’s a wide open field lacking an obvious frontrunner in the CIF San Diego Section. Usually, when there is one, that team would be in the top 10. The Broncos were one of the best last season and have an impressive collection of players back. USC commit Kevin Takeuchi hit .356 as a junior and led the team runs (31) and doubles (11). INF Brent Abel is headed to Cal State Northridge, Ben Lyons batted .391 and Jehee Lee had 22 RBI. For pitching, RB checks in with junior Tyler Arnold (4-0, 1.69) and junior Brady Dockan (Cal State Fullerton).
20. Servite (Anaheim) 17-12
Many still believe in the mojo of Servite baseball. The past few seasons have been good by other schools’ measures, but not to the level of the Friars’ legacy on the diamond. Coach Shawn Gilbert enters his ninth season for a school that resides in the toughest baseball league in America, but no matter, the expectations are still lofty. Gilbert does have some key talent pieces that he will build around. The key will be to maintain consistency. The Friars have the services of senior Roman Martin. Many feel he may be the best player in California and a good bet to be one of the first 15 drafted next June. Martin has garnered every honor possible from reputable local, state and national media outlets. In 2022, he batted.422 with 22 RBI and a .547 on-base percentage. Outfielder and pitcher Miles Scott was just a freshman last year when he dazzled everyone with his poise and maturity. One more than one occasion, Scott proved to be quite a clutch performer. He also boasted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Servite will need some new arms to step up and provide strong pitching. Colin Galvin is the best of the returnees. He was excellent on the mound with his 2-0 record, 1.62 ERA, three saves and 27 strikeouts in 26 innings. When not tending first base, Jonathan Rodriguez will be called upon to give the Friars some needed innings. Rodriguez is a three-year varsity letterman and earned All-Trinity League honors.
21. Clayton Valley (Concord) 21-5
We like the Ugly Eagles to be the No. 2 team to start out in the CIF North Coast Section following De La Salle. They have one of the top catchers in the nation, Ryder Helfrick (Arkansas), among the returnees. Helfrick hit .417 last season. Two of the pitchers, Kyle Connelly (Cal) and junior Hank Phifer (Long Beach State), also are D1 bound. Three other seniors who signed last December were OF Myles Walton (Sacramento State), OF Niko Olson (Santa Clara) and OF Isaiah Landry (Alabama State).
22. La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 24-11
The defending CIF San Diego Section Open Division champions will again have one of the leading sluggers around in Gabe Camacho (Pacific), who blasted 10 home runs as a junior. OF James Theodore (27 runs) also is returning, but one top pitcher last year was a senior while the other one moved to Alabama. Camacho also will be counted on for pitching by head coach Justin Machado.
23. Norco 24-6
The star power at the top of the roster for the Cougars is impressive. INF Cameron Kim (UCLA) batted .510 as a junior and has head-turning talent. Junior C Cole Hansen (.409) is simply one of the best at his position in his class in the country. Ryan Jenkins also is back to lead the pitching staff. He went 8-1 last season with a 1.71 ERA.
24. Foothill (Pleasanton) 26-6
Last season’s CIF North Coast Section D1 runner up had a deep, speedy lineup that was comprised mostly of seniors. The good news for the Falcons, though, is that their top two pitchers return. One of them, UC Riverside-bound Tyler Gebb, went 14-1 with a 1.82 ERA. He had a chance to gain entry into the state record book if he had finished 15-0 or better, but lost his final game to De La Salle. The other top returning pitcher is Jackson Flora, who won eight games and is headed to Loyola-Marymount. Catcher Trevor Harmon (USF) and INF Brendan Comerford (St. Mary’s) also are back.
25. Clovis West (Fresno) 21-9
Cayden Munster (Fresno State) was the Tri-River Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year (.488, 38 RBI) and returns as one of several standouts for the Golden Eagles. Junior catcher Tyler Patrick, son of head coach Kevin Patrick, also should be primed for a big season plus he has gone 11-3 in two seasons on the mound. Transfers also should boost Clovis West, particularly OF Daryl Tillman from Redwood of Visalia and junior OF/C Dominic DeCanio from Clovis High.
THE NEXT 15 TEAMS
26. La Mirada 22-7-1
Sophomore Maverik Russell and Aiden Aguayo are both committed to UCLA for the Matadores, who have been pegged No. 1 preseason team in the Whittier/San Gabriel Valley are by our friends at the SGV/Whittier Prep Sports Zone.
27. Woodcreek (Roseville) 25-3
Graduation cost the Timberwolves a lot from last season, but the cupboard is hardly bare. INF Connor Barth (Oregon State), INF Dylan Green (Oregon), P Austin Nye (Vanderbilt) and C John Handy (will be a D1 signer) have all been among those looking good coming into this season.
28. Granite Hills (El Cajon) 24-7
It was fun meeting AD and longtime Eagles’ baseball coach James Davis at the CIF football state finals. His group this season will feature INF/P Brenden Lewis, one of the top sophomores in the state.
29. Corona 19-10
Head coach Andy Wise has all the pieces to get over the hump in the same league with Norco, including junior P/1B Ethen Schiefelbein (UCLA) and junior C/INF Josh Springer (Oregon).
30. Gahr (Cerritos) 12-17
No matter who is coming back we just never put a team into the top 25 for the preseason that had a losing record from the previous season. The Gladiators regardless have a lot to like with P Jaden Alba (Arizona State) plus two of the top incoming freshmen in SoCal — USC commits Andres Gonzalez (INF) and Bryce Morrison (P/1B).
31. Palo Alto 26-7
The Vikings lose a ton from their squad in 2022 that ended No. 11 in the final state rankings, but two strong returnees are P Sam Papp (UC Davis) and junior INF Charlie Bates, who last August fulfilled a dream by committing to the college across the street (Stanford).
32. Buchanan (Clovis) 25-5
Similar to Palo Alto, the Bears also lost the majority of their top players to graduation from last season. And for them, Jayden Mandal (the football-baseball star), also graduated early to head to college.
33. Palos Verdes (PV Estates) 21-12
Eight returning starters are back for the Sea Kings and one of them is USC-bound P/INF Garren Rizzo.
34. Crespi (Encino) 16-13
We’re starting the Celts (No. 3 in the L.A. Daily News preseason rankings) behind the team they lost to in last year’s CIFSS playoffs. Mission League Pitcher of the Year Isaiah Magdaleno (Hawaii) is among the returnees.
35. Bellarmine (San Jose) 22-10-1
Fresno State-bound Chase Knight and high-rising junior P Ishaan Khambal (recently committed to USC) should spark the Bells, who also return another leading hitter in Thomas Trombatore.
36. Arlington (Riverside) 27-2
Four players who earned all-league honors will be back for the Lions, who won 27 straight games last season (lost first, then upset in CIFSS D2 playoffs).
37. Foothill (Tustin) 20-10
The offensive lineup was struck by graduation for the Knights, but they have a potentially strong pitching staff led by Andrew Harbour (USC) and Andrew Parker (Cal State Northridge).
38. Del Campo (Fair Oaks) 29-6
Four-year standout Matt Moses (OF) will be looking to move up among the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s list of leaders for career hits.
39. Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 20-9
All three teams at every level won league titles for the Broncos last year. The leading returnees are Roman Meyer (Long Beach State) and David Ruth Jr. (University of San Diego).
40. Calabasas 19-10
UCLA-bound Phoenix Call should be one of the most exciting players in SoCal this season as he speeds around the bases, gets to fly balls in the outfield and hits for a high average.
More Teams On The Bubble
Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 22-11
California (San Ramon) 23-6
Casa Grande (Petaluma) 19-9
El Dorado (Placentia) 17-13
Granite Bay 21-14
Hart (Newhall) 20-10
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 12-16
Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 18-11
Righetti (Santa Maria) 25-7
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 17-11
South Hills (West Covina) 23-6
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 23-12
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports
its a great article about sports, i like to watch baseball