Preseason Softball State TOP 40

Murrieta Mesa’s team captains stopped to take a photo before recent practice. The Rams are starting out 2023 season in state’s No. 1 position. Photo: @mmhs_softball /

Welcome to another season of Cal-Hi Sports state softball rankings. These have been done more than 30 years. The softball “preseason” rankings are different than baseball, which was done last week, because there are some teams in the CIF Southern Section that have already played games. We will continue to use the California rankings we do as a lead in to the Extra Inning Softball Extra Elite 80 national rankings (beginning next week) as well as a top 20 list for the Los Angeles Times. Murrieta Mesa of Murrieta has the best combination of returning strength (hitting and pitching) among those teams that were in the top 10 after last season and is beginning in the No. 1 position.

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(All teams listed with records from 2022 season)
(Any results from games played on Friday, Feb. 17 or later are not included)

1. Murrieta Mesa (Murrieta) 25-6
Considering the schedule that the Rams will play and that they have a strong combination of returnees in their lineup and in the circle is why they are beginning the 2023 season in the state’s No. 1 ranking position. Head coach Antonio Romero’s squad has begun the season with a 7-2 win over Centennial of Corona. Last year’s team ended No. 9 in the final state rankings and was No. 1 in the Inland Empire entering the CIF Southern Section D1 playoffs. The lineup is stacked from leadoff hitter Taelyn Holley down to No. 9. Holley, a sophomore, led the team with 43 runs scored last season and batted .452. Catcher Jazzy Burns (Ohio State) also returns after hitting 13 homers with 48 RBI. Junior INF Paige Bambarger (Oregon State) is another of the top returnees. In the circle, Caylea Rains-Campbell got the job done as a junior with a 21-5 record and 1.83 ERA. The Xavier University of Louisiana signee also batted .349 with 20 RBI. The Rams also have picked up a top transfer in junior INF Madi Lardizabal. She batted .403 with five homers last season at Chino Hills and has committed to Clemson.

Ryan Maddox is a leading candidate to be Ms. Softball State Player of the Year after the 2023 season. Photo: @CNSoftball /

2. Clovis North (Fresno) 21-3
We wish the Broncos were playing in a tournament or two from outside of the CIF Central Section, but there’s no doubt that they should be considered a favorite to win a regional title this spring. You just never know with Central Section teams whether that would be in Northern or Southern California. The girls will get tough competition from within their own Tri-River Athletic Conference. Head coach Courtney Dale’s squad could have won a regional title last season, but those hopes realistically were dashed with an injury to All-American pitcher Ryan Maddox. She was still the State Junior Player of the Year. Maddox, signed with Arizona, went 20-2 with a 0.36 ERA last season and had 264 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings. She also had a .506 batting average with three homers. While one of last year’s other top players, Alexis DeBoer, has moved to Washington, there are others back as well. The list includes INF Kiara Sipe (Fresno State), junior P/1B Emma Blea (Northwestern) and INF Naleya Bridges (Longwood), a returning all-leaguer.

3. St. Francis (Mountain View) 31-2
At first glance it might seem like the Lancers (our 2022 State Team of the Year) have lost too much to be pegged too high for this season. There are big graduation losses, with Ms. Softball Jessica Oakland now at Minnesota and slugging first baseman Sydney Stewart now at Washington among those gone. But St. Francis does still have enough back to remain among the state’s top squads. The pitching of Kate Munnerlyn and Shannon Keighran that carried last year’s team, for example, will be front and center again. Both are juniors and Keighran has committed to Boise State. Chloe Cummings also has gone 16-0 as a starter in her career and batted .360 last season. Another to watch is Lexi O’Gorman, who was among the team leaders last season in runs scored, doubles and triples.

4. Norco 20-9
This where the early results so far from the CIFSS really come into play with these rankings and this is because the Cougars already have a 3-0 win over perennial power Los Alamitos and Los Al already has a win over Orange Lutheran. They are coming off of what for them was a down year (only No. 14 in final state rankings) and should be near the top this season. Leading the way will be 2021 State Sophomore of the Year Mya Perez (Texas A&M) along with University of Florida-bound Alyssa Hoverdale. Senior INF Katie Terrazas also has signed with UC Santa Barbara while junior INF Madyson Aguilera has committed to Boise State. The pitching was an issue in most of the losses, but Marley Goluskin was a late season transfer and now she has had all of the summer and fall to build confidence and consistency.

5. Los Alamitos 24-8
Several of the preseason top teams in the CIFSS have already begun to play each other. As mentioned above, the Griffins have a loss to Norco but a win over Orange Lutheran and on Thursday they beat La Mirada 5-2, a team that has a win over Mission Viejo. Head coach Rob Weil’s squad was No. 3 in the Orange County preseason rankings, but beat No. 2 OLu and No. 1 Pacifica (Garden Grove) has already dropped two close games. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to put a team coached by Weil near the top of the state. The roster just turns over with unmatched depth. The team’s top returning players include INF Giselle Alvarez (home run leader in 2022), OF Julie Holcomb (San Diego State) and junior C Alyssa Ramos (Iowa commit). Transfer Kalie Mazuno (previously at Cerritos) is expected to contribute as a defensive wizard at shortstop.

Anahi Arreola was one of the leading hitters for CIF SoCal D1 champion Oaks Christian last season. Photo:

6. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 34-1
It was impossible to write up these preseason rankings without thinking about Pete Ackermann, the head coach of the Oaks Christian program since it began who died last December at age 77 from a heart condition. We were there at Pete’s last game when the Lions won the CIF SoCal D1 regional title at Roosevelt of Eastvale. New head coach Cheyenne Coyle has college experience, but it will be a huge void for her to fill. The Lions also lost leading player Micaela Kastor to Notre Dame. She was not only the pitching ace but also one of the top hitters. The rest of the picture at Oaks Christian, however, is very positive. Leading hitters back include Anahi Arriola (11 homers) and junior Rylee McCoy (10 homers). If junior Emelia Davis can pitch well (she was 8-0 with 0.60 ERA in games she did start), then the drop-off without Kastor can be overcome.

7. Lutheran (Orange) 21-9
The Lancers were pegged No. 2 in the preseason rankings according to the Orange County Register, then lost their first game but in their case it was to No. 3 Los Alamitos so when we came up with these rankings we went Los Al No. 1 and OLu No. 2 with preseason OC No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove sliding down a few spots since it also lost its first two games (in its case to Esperanza of Anaheim). Leading the way will be sophomore OF Kai Minor, the 2022 State Freshman of the Year and who was again called this week “the best player in the state period” by longtime Riverside Press-Enterprise prep writer Eric-Paul Johnson when we talked to him on Thursday. The Lancers’ junior pitcher Brianne Weiss (committed to Notre Dame) also was mentioned this week by another prominent softball analyst, Carlos Arias of Extra Inning Softball, who pointed out that Brianne had a great summer and he’s looking for her to have a big season.

8. Granada (Livermore) 26-5
The preseason pick from the CIF North Coast Section is the Matadors. They have a strong core of returning players, led by one of the leading sophomores in the nation, 1B/INF slugger Delaney Aumua (led the team in homers with 10), along with pitcher Alex Mello, who had a 9-0 mark with a 1.93 ERA last season. Junior C Saskia Raab was another standout from last season who led the team in doubles. The sister combo of OF Lauren Deplitch (Cal State San Marcos) and junior INF Sarah Deplitch along with junior INF Alecsis Phillips (23 RBI) are among others to watch.

9. Huntington Beach 21-8
Head coach Jeff Forsberg definitely showed his excitement for this season when turning in some all-state nominations after last season. He’s definitely got one of the state’s most highly regarded pitchers in junior Zoe Prystajko, who has committed to Stanford. Outfielder Sophia Knight (signed with Boise State) should be another standout. Another pitcher and another bat will need to come through for the Oilers to get even closer to the top. Marina of Huntington Beach transfer Analiah Lummus, an infielder, should be another bonus.

10. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 26-5
The Monarchs were the main competition for eventual state No. 1 St. Francis in the West Catholic Athletic League last season and have one of the state’s leading returning players in junior C/INF Corri Hicks. She had 12 homers and 40 RBI in 2022, has committed to Oklahoma and was No. 7 in the most recent Class of 2024 national player rankings by Extra Inning Softball. Mitty has additional returning strength with players including Mia Rodriguez (San Diego State), Sara Pina (.410) and Keira Brady (junior OF). The top pitching veteran is Ava Markert (7-0, 0.66). If more pitching comes through, watch out.

Corri Hicks is about to get a little crazy with her teammates at Archbishop Mitty of San Jose following one of the home runs she hit last season. Photo: Extra Inning Softball.

11. Chino Hills 23-7
If there’s a team in the state with three batters in a row that can’t be matched, then the Huskies may be that team. They will need some pitching to come through and we’re not sure what order they come up but the three are junior MIF/OF Regan Shockey, senior Samantha Bland and senior Alexa Rosales. Shockey (Arizona commit) had 52 hits last season and batted .547. Bland (signed with Nebraska) blasted eight homers and batted .443. Rosales (Ole Miss) had 33 hits with a .379 average and is coming of a championship summer with the Athletics Mercado travel ball squad.

12. Buchanan (Clovis) 21-8
One of the reasons that Clovis North may not be hurt too much by not going out of the Central Section to play in any top tournaments is that there will be plenty of competition close by. Buchanan is the leader of that pack and has an impressive group of returning players. Pitcher Christal Lopez (San Diego State), in fact, has proven she can beat Clovis North. The Bears also have a top returnee coming back at catcher in Autiana Buck (San Francisco State).

13. Roosevelt (Eastvale) 28-4
Last season’s CIFSS D1 champions lost a lot to graduation and there also are questions about a couple of other non-seniors who may not be back. The team also already has an early loss to South Hills of West Covina. Head coach Mike Smith is one of the best in the state, however, and should still have the Mustangs ready to go for any opposition. Outfielder Emily Carr, who got the game-winning hit in the CIFSS final, and pitcher Alyvia Hernandez, who hung in there during the CIF SoCal D1 final vs Oaks Christian, are two top players who are definitely returning.

14. Central Catholic (Modesto) 27-5
It may look odd for a non-D1 team to be starting out first in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, but the Raiders have almost everyone returning from last season’s D3 runner-up squad and they have the top returning player in the section, too. That would be pitcher-hitter Randi Roelling, who has signed with Cal and who struck out 418 batters last season in 183 innings. Roelling also hit six homers with 26 RBI. One of the Raiders’ big wins last season also came against D1 section champion Sheldon of Sacramento. Central Catholic also has sophomore Jazmarie Roberts (.430) and junior Emorie Machado (four homers) among those who are back.

15. Beaumont 23-5
The Cougars showed up in the top 25 of MaxPreps’ preseason national rankings and were the highest ranked California team, but we think that was just based on them having big-time junior Cambria Salmon as the pitcher. Beaumont definitely was not close to that type of ranking last season (even lost league games) and we also know that the Cougars wouldn’t have been in the top three if the Riverside Press-Enterprise had done preseason rankings. The team could still of course be better than that in the end, but it has lost already this week as well (to Valley View of Moreno Valley). Salmon enters the season as the 2022 State Sophomore of the Year and Inland Empire Player of the Year. The top returnees other than her are Keali Huss-Cochran (led team in hits) and INF Leah Mays (Oregon State).

16. Sheldon (Sacramento) 28-6
We might have placed one of Sheldon’s big league rivals, Elk Grove, higher to start but the Thundering Herd lost all-state pitcher Aissa Silva (Arizona) to an early graduation. The Huskies, who lost to St. Francis of Mountain View in last year’s NorCal D1 semis but beat the Lancers earlier in the season, also have a number of graduation caused holes that will need to be filled. There are three very strong returnees, however, for longtime head coach Mary Jo Truesdale to build around. They are C Jaylee Marshall (Santa Clara), INF Sakora Harvell (Loyola Marymount) and P/B Jaylee Ojo (Iowa).

Esperanza’s Taylor Shumaker supplies speed on the bases, defense in the outfield and much more for her team. Photo:

17. La Mirada 22-7
It’s already been a great start for head coach Brent Tuttle’s squad, including a 16-1 romp past St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs and a win against Mission Viejo. A loss on Thursday to Los Alamitos only prevented the Matadores from starting out even higher in this week’s “preseason” rankings. La Mirada had some big wins early on in 2022 as well and while there wasn’t much of a playoff run its loss in the CIFSS D1 bracket was to eventual champion Roosevelt of Eastvale. Junior C Rebecca Eckhart is the Matadores top returnee with a commitment to Notre Dame. Natalie Craig, Angelyna Conde and Alyssa Avila are also back on the infield and all have all-league credentials.

18. Esperanza (Anaheim) 19-12
This is the program that was No. 1 in the state from two years ago in that shortened COVID season. Shortstop Sharyn Duncan was on that team as a sophomore while another standout was then freshman and now junior Taylor Shumaker. She could be one of the best defensive outfielders in the nation. The Aztecs also have a proven pitcher in junior Mia Sanchez. Esperanza was slated to be in the preseason top 25 but has been placed higher than expected from a week ago due to posting two early wins over preseason Orange County No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove. The second of those wins, 2-1, came on Thursday of this week. The team does have an early loss too, in its case to California of Whittier, but that team has a loss already as well.

19. Pacifica (Garden Grove) 26-5
A couple of tough, close losses by the Mariners to Esperanza of Anaheim to start the season shouldn’t hinder their high hopes. They were not picked as preseason No. 1 in Orange County for invalid reasons. Pitcher Brynne Nally was the State Freshman of the Year two seasons ago and the lineup is stacked as well. Included in that group are fellow juniors Kaniya Bragg at shortstop (UCLA commit), catcher Delaina Ma’ae (all-state underclass) and OF Kayli Counts (Cal). One of the returning seniors, INF Alysa Del Val, has signed with Oregon State.

20. Heritage (Brentwood) 23-4-1
The defending CIF North Coast Section D1 champions are starting out No. 2 in that section with four of their top six hitters coming back. The leader is OF Alexandra Cutonilli (St. Mary’s), who had 35 RBI as a junior and will be a four-year varsity standout. The Patriots lost ace pitcher Kasey Aguinaga to graduation, however, and will need to fill a void there for their repeat possibilities.

21. Mission Viejo 27-6
The Diablos were the CIFSS D2 champions last season and are moving up to D1 for this spring. They surged in the state rankings early, took a dip and then surged late for a final No. 15 slot. Junior P/INF Sofia Elliott was one of the state’s top sophomores and was Orange County Player of the Year. Some of the other top players last year, however, were seniors. We also once picked sophomore Reece Uehara as a SoCal player of the week last season for some of her pitching performances. Mission Viejo is a team that has already played with a win over St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs and a loss to La Mirada.

22. Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 22-11
It was difficult picking a preseason top team from the CIF San Diego Section, but the Crusaders got the nod. They won the CIF SoCal D2 regional title last season and had the 2022 State Coach of the Year in Mike Centrullo. His program has been the best overall the best in the section for the last few seasons and there were just two seniors on the roster from last year who graduated. OF Ayanna Shaw (Ohio State) also is one of the top if not the top returnee in the section. She had a .524 average as a junior. Sophomore P/INF Analesse Garcia also is back after really coming on strong down the stretch as a freshman.

23. Camarillo 25-5
Most of the standouts from last season’s team, such as All-American and all-state Rylee Pinedo, are gone due to graduation. The Scorpions do have one of the top pitching returnees in the CIFSS, however, in Ainsley Berlingeri. In the last two season, Berlingeri (signed with Nevada) has gone 40-7 with a 1.36 ERA.

Addison Amaral from Notre Dame High in Salinas has committed to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Photo:

24. Notre Dame (Salinas) 21-8
Like last year, the Spirits are playing Clovis North early in the season. They return two of the leading players in the CIF Central Coast Section with Samantha Rey and Addison Amaral. Rey, a senior and returning Monterey Herald Player of the Year, batted .577 last year with eight homers. She has signed with Central Florida. Amaral, committed to Notre Dame, is a junior who hit .418 with seven homers. The pitching graduated except for junior Jessie Casarez (7-0, 0.66).

25. Millikan (Long Beach) 22-11
Long Beach Press-Telegram Player of the Year Avi Ramirez (.432, 26 RBI) and Moore League Pitcher of the Year Ava Schaffel (105 Ks in 66.1 innings) are both back for the Rams, who won the 2022 CIFSS D2 championship. Schaffel also has committed to San Diego State. Millikan, which has begun with two wins already this season, also welcomes back junior INF Katie Knorr (Rhode Island), who batted .388 with four homers.


26. Central (Fresno) 21-9
The Grizzlies notched some big wins late in the 2022 season and have very good returnees. P Mia Nishikawa had a 1.67 ERA and is headed to St. Mary’s. Junior Jayden Ramos had five homers and 33 RBI and has committed to Arkansas. The team already is shown this week with a 10-0 win over Chowchilla.

27. Centennial (Corona) 25-7
There were just five seniors on the roster of the Huskies last season, who should give Norco a run in the same league. INF Sierra Humphreys (Central Florida) and P/SS Jiselle Hernandez (Penn State) are among the players to watch.

28. Oakdale 25-3
Next up from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section is the Mustangs, who are from the same Valley Oak League and higher ranked Central Catholic. While CC has Cal-bound Randi Roelling, Oakdale can match with Mississippi State-bound Delainey Everett. The two teams played three times last season with CC winning twice. Everett, who also has some other good returnees back to go along with her, had a 0.47 ERA as a junior with six homers and a .451 batting mark.

29. Otay Ranch (Chula Vista) 23-8
The CIF San Diego Section D1 champs from last season no longer have ace and top hitter Maya Loper. There are some top-notch players returning, however, including Cal-State Fullerton commit Nataly Lozano. The junior batted .440 with four homers in 2022.

30. San Ramon Valley (Danville) 18-9
Paige McLeod was one of the top players in the East Bay Athletic League last season (same league as No. 8 Granada) and should push the Wolves to a strong season. She had a 1.35 ERA and 156 strikeouts pitching and batted .400 with five homers. Sophomore Sophia Jin also returns (.556, 35 runs).

31. Villa Park 24-5
Sydney Somerndike was such a force for the Spartans for the last four years that the current University of Arizona pitcher will be really hard to replace. Sophomore Auddrey Lira is slated to take over the top pitching role and there are some other returnees who should keep the team fairly high in local and state rankings.

32. Clovis 26-7
Head coach Mike Noel starts out with 719 career victories and sits at No. 9 on the all-time state list. His teams are always among the best in the CIF Central Section. It was a mostly senior crew in 2022 that was No. 6 in the final rankings last season and won the section title. Catcher Sveva Sweeney is one returnee to watch.

33. South Hills (West Covina) 24-5
This team has an early win over defending CIFSS D1 champ Roosevelt of Eastvale. Junior Joie Economides has a commitment to Stanford and hit nine homers as a sophomore. The Huskies also have a returning pitcher with Audrey Gallegos and another player, Kayla Sigala, who has committed to Syracuse.

34. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 19-8
There’s no question that the Knights have one of the leading players around with junior Ella Parker. The nationally ranked recruit, Oklahoma commit and niece of L.A. Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts batted .651 with 11 homers last season and shined in the summer travel ball circuit. The team, however, has never been that successful even at the lower divisions of the CIFSS playoffs. We’ll be looking for some big wins before moving up Notre Dame in our state rankings to match where MaxPreps put the Knights nationally.

Jada Villegas of Cajon had impressive outings last season in two league games against Beaumont. Photo: Victorville Valley Press.

35. South (Torrance) 23-7
The back-and-forth nature of the Torrance schools playing each other tough should continue, but one of those teams that has a top-notch returning pitcher is the Spartans. Jayden Nishi went 5-0 in the circle in the TNT tourney last year in leading the team to the title.

36. Cajon (San Bernardino) 24-7
The Cowboys and junior pitcher Jada Villegas battled Beaumont and State Sophomore of the Year Cambria Salmon twice in Citrus Belt League games last season, winning a 1-0 game in nine innings and losing 2-1. Cajon also has started out this season with a 3-0 record.

37. Temple City 26-7
Junior pitcher Kassandra Gewecke led the Rams to the 2022 CIF Southern Section D4 title, including a perfect game in the semifinals, and is back. Gewecke (Ohio State commit) had a 0.40 ERA. Another leading returnee is INF Samantha Womack (UC San Diego), who smacked seven homers and had a .394 batting average.

38. Gahr (Cerritos) 23-10
When the Gladiators upset Orange Lutheran in the 2022 CIFSS D1 playoffs, Marley Cortez did the pitching and had the big hit. While there are a lot of players that have moved on, Cortez is one player at Gahr who has returned.

39. Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 20-9-1
Before a tough stretch to the end last season, the Broncos were one of the top-ranked teams in the CIF San Diego Section and have a lot of returnees. Pitcher Madison Hulse went 15-6 with a 0.85 ERA and INF Keely Gousha has signed with Boise State.

40. Los Gatos 22-4
The Wildcats were a CCS Open Division squad last season and return their top player in Anna Bean. She had a 1.05 ERA as a pitcher and belted nine homers as a batter.

More Teams On The Bubble
Bonita (La Verne) 28-6-1
Canyon (Anaheim) 23-6
Del Norte (San Diego) 26-6-1
Del Oro (Loomis) 27-5
Elk Grove 21-7-1
East Nicolaus (Nicolaus) 29-3
JSerra (SJ Capistrano) 19-10
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 17-10
Monterey 25-8-1
Moorpark 23-5
St. Anthony (Long Beach) 19-10
St. Francis (Sacramento) 26-5
Valley View (Moreno Valley) 15-10-1
Vintage (Napa) 21-4
Warren (Downey) 23-5

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. PunchyMcGee
    Posted February 17, 2023 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    All I can say is—-WOW! Six of your top 9 are among my 8 seeds in the MCC (the other two seeds are at 19 and 21 in your rankings.. And we have 13 of your top 40 plus bubble teams in our 32 team field…….. So it should be another blockbuster days at the end of March.!

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted February 17, 2023 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Getting St. Francis to come down once again was a key to that, but it could be also just great minds thinking alike.

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