SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal honorees are Justin Santiago from Bonita of La Verne (getting an ice bath above) and Sophia Mariottini of Hollister. Photos: @Bonita_Baseball / & @BalerSportsAD /

Because of needing to get out final girls basketball rankings and current baseball and softball rankings out on Monday and Tuesday, our Players of the Week feature is running on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, and while we like to get these honors out before games are played, we’re not sure under the circumstances of the weather, how many teams have actually gotten in any games this week. Because of that, we included some Monday results, including tracking a state record, which is one of the two criteria for this feature. Be as it may, we hit the road and make stops in La Verne and Oxnard in Southern California and Sacramento and Hollister in Northern California.

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Notes: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Justin Santiago (Bonita, La Verne) Sr.

Our journey in search of the Southern California Baseball Player of the Week takes us to the Pomona Valley portion of the San Gabriel Valley, smack dab in the middle between San Dimas to the west and Claremont to the east, and a few blocks south of Route 66 aka Foothill Boulevard in La Verne.

At Bonita is where find our award winner, and now he is getting a statewide award after being selected the San Gabriel Valley Tribune Boys Athlete of the Week twice, including this week.

So far this season, this 6-foot-2, 185-pound Long Beach State-committed senior right-handed pitcher has been almost unhittable on the mound.

On Friday, in a home and away series with Palomares League rival and nearby Alta Loma, Santiago went all the way and threw a no-hitter with eight strikeouts and only two walks separating him from a perfect game.

It was the second no-hitter of the season after Justin tossed a no-no in a season-opening 2-1 victory over Covina Northview in a complete game 11-strikeout performance. In late February he led Bonita to the championship of the Pizza Chalet tournament after tossing a five-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 4-2 victory over San Dimas.

So far for the 8-1 Bearcats, who are on the bubble of the most recent State TOP 35 rankings, and heading into a Friday game with Ayala of Chino Hills, Santiago was 4-0 with a 0.21 ERA and 41 strikeouts with just six walks in 33 innings pitched.

Nicolette Hunter of Oxnard Rio Mesa tossed a no-hitter in the same game in which she had three hits as a batter. Photo: @RioMesaVarsity.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Softball Player of the Week

Nicolette Hunter (Rio Mesa, Oxnard) Sr.

Ventura County is our destination in search of the Southern California Softball Player of the Week, and at Rio Mesa in Oxnard we find a senior who like the SoCal Baseball Player of the Week already has two no-hitters to start the season.

Last week, “Nikki” as she’s known in the Southern California softball community, was a base on balls away from a perfect game after striking out nine of the 22 batters she faced in a 9-0 victory over crosstown Pacifica.

In a season opening 8-0 victory over Simi Valley, it was an error she erased on a double play the kept her from perfection as Hunter hunted down all 21 batters she faced with eight strikeouts in that performance.

So far this season for the 5-1-1 Spartans, and heading into a Channel League game on Friday with visiting Buena of Ventura, Hunter is 3-1 with a 0.52 ERA and 36 strikeouts with only three bases on balls in 27 innings pitched. She’s also batting .450 with five doubles and four RBI in 20 at-bats, and when she’s not pitching is listed at first base and the outfield.

We’re not sure what her GPA is but it must be pretty high because Nikki is committed to Harvard.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Softball Player of the Week

Sophia Mariottini (Hollister) Sr.

The search for the Northern California Softball Player of the Week takes us to San Benito County and around 10 miles east of Highway 101 on Highway 156, where we land at Hollister High, the home of the Haybalers.

At Hollister, we find one busy Baler who is the new star in the circle for a school with a long tradition of softball excellence.

Unlike baseball, in softball pitchers can go every game and in the case of Mariottini the senior hurler has recently taken it to the ultimate.

In six days, and not including any action on Sunday when high schools don’t play, Mariottini pitched in six games and won them all.

Sophia started last week by only going three innings of an 11-1 win over visiting Live Oak (Morgan Hill) on Wednesday, but when she left the Balers were already leading 7-0 and she had only given up two hits. On Thursday Mariottini got the win in an 11-1 home victory over nearby Gilroy in another short outing when she gave up no hits and departed with Hollister leading 11-0.

On Friday, and against Pacific Coast Athletic League – Gabilan Division arch-rival Notre Dame of Salinas, a program with as rich a history as Hollister, Mariottini went six innings and gave up no hits with seven strikeouts and two walks, and this time the Balers were up 3-0 of an eventual 3-1 victory.

Saturday saw Sophia take the circle for two tournament games down south where she got the win in a 12-2 victory over Arroyo Grande where she departed after a short outing with Hollister holding an 8-0 lead. In the second game, a 9-2 victory over St. Joseph of Santa Maria, Mariottini departed after two innings with one hit and Hollister leading 3-0.

After the ride home Hollister was in action on Monday in a league game against an always solid Everett Alvarez of Salinas, and it’s a good thing head coach Andrew Barragan used his ace wisely in the preceding days, since this time Sophia had to go all the way in a 2-1 victory where she pitched a two-hitter with six strikeouts and two walks.

Hollister was scheduled to play on Tuesday against a visiting Archbishop Mitty of San Jose team ranked No. 8 in the most recent state rankings, but it appears that game was a washout. Hollister is scheduled to travel to Fresno on Thursday to face No. 10 ranked Central, and we’ll be interested to see how Sophia does if that game gets played.

So far for the 9-1 Balers who cracked the bubble in this week’s State TOP 25 rankings, Mariottini is 9-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. She’s the kind of pitcher that lets the defense make the outs and has given up no extra base hit in 156 batters faced.

In a 16-6 final score, Drew Perry knocked in nine of his team’s run with eight coming home on a pair of grand slams. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Drew Perry (Leroy Greene Academy, Sacramento) Jr.

The Natomas neighborhood of Sacramento a few miles northwest of the state capitol and a stone’s throw north of the Sacramento River is the landing spot, and it’s at a charter school named after a beloved local state senator where we find our Northern California Baseball Player of the Week.

The school where we find Perry is Leroy Greene Academy, and while it’s a small school that plays in the small-school Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, our honoree at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds is anything but small in stature, and his powerful bat has etched his name in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book.

In the Lions’ opener last week, an 8-2 victory over Delta of Clarksburg, Drew drew two walks, was hit by a pitch, had a single and scored two runs. Later in the week, and in an 11-0 victory over crosstown Johnson, Perry had two hits including a double.

While those stats are notable, Perry is one of the players we’re counting Monday’s results as part of this week’s honor. On Monday, and in a 16-6 victory over Galt, the junior slugger earned his spot in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book when he launched two grand slams which will get his name imprinted along with 23 others on the Most Grand Slams (Game) list. Besides the two grand salamis, Drew was 4-for-4 with nine RBI, three runs scored, and he got plunked again. Perhaps the most well known of all of the others with two grand slams in one game is the late Dave Henderson of Dos Palos, Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox and more MLB fame.

So far this season for the 3-0 Lions and heading into a Wednesday afternoon game on the road in Grass Valley at Nevada Union, Perry was hitting .778 with the two grand slam home runs, a double, 10 RBI and five runs scored. His slugging and OPS averages also were obviously off the charts at 1.555 and 2.402, respectively.

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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