Here’s a quick look at teams to watch in the most important upcoming Easter-related softball and baseball tournaments, what a California team might have looked like in the World Baseball Classic and a check at whether there’s ever been a No. 1 and No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft from California high schools.
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There’s nothing like watching the semifinals of the annual Livermore Stampede softball tournament since they are both going on at the same time on separate, adjacent fields at the Ernie Rodrigues Softball Complex. This year’s semifinals could conceivably be matchups between the top four ranked teams in Northern California as well.
Before we get to that tournament, however, which will be held from April 5 to April 8, there will be several other prestigious, impactful events in both baseball and softball that will be completed.
Here’s a look at the ones we’ll be following the closest, beginning next week and continuing through April 14.
National High School Invitational (Baseball)
A streak of five straight years in which the winner of this USA Baseball-run event held in Cary, N.C., was from Southern California was snapped last season by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas of Parkland, Fla., which went on to finish No. 1 in most final national rankings. Orange Lutheran, which won three straight NHSI crowns from 2017 to 2019 with no tourney taking place in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID, is not in the field this year.
Defending CIF Southern Section champion JSerra and defending CIF Southern California D1 champ Huntington Beach are headed there, along with Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita and Aquinas of San Bernardino. Games begin on Wednesday. Both JSerra and Huntington Beach have gotten out to slow starts this spring, while Santa Margarita has been as high as No. 2 in the state. This is a big step up in competition for Aquinas, but the Falcons have the highly rated prospects that contributed to their invite and they should be fine.
Michelle Carew Classic (Softball)
The 36th year of the Canyon High (Anaheim) hosted event and 22nd in which it has been named in honor of the late Michelle Carew, the daughter of the legendary Rod Carew and who died from a rare form of cancer in 1996, will get going on Wednesday with most of the games played at Peralta Park in Anaheim.
Of the 31 teams going to the Carew this year, 11 appeared in last week’s Cal-Hi Sports State TOP 25 rankings, including No. 1 Norco, No. 2 Los Alamitos, No. 4 St. Francis of Mountain View and No. 5 Murrieta Mesa of Murrieta. Norco just lost its first game on Saturday of this week to league rival Santiago (Corona), so it will be looking to bounce back with a big tourney win. The Cougars have already won a big tourney this season as they topped Los Alamitos in the final game of the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions held in Bullhead City, Ariz.
This will be the final year that retiring former Canyon of Anaheim head coach Lance Eddy will be serving as tourney director.
Boras Classic North (Baseball)
As in most years, the Boras Classic will have a north and a south tournament on different weeks and then the two winners will play on April 29 for the Boras Classic state title. There is still no CIF state championship, but now that there are actual CIF NorCal and SoCal regional playoffs the significance of the Boras Classic state title is diminished. Still, there are top-ranked teams in both brackets as teams look to get themselves ready for section and CIF regional playoffs plus all of the many competitive league championships.
It would be impossible for any tourney really to change its seedings once they are determined, but for the Boras Classic North there will be an opening game on Tuesday, April 4 between Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (the Alameda News Group No. 1 ranked team) and defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champion Whitney of Rocklin (team that beat De La Salle last week but has a loss to Franklin of Elk Grove).
That Franklin team, which had risen into the top 10 of the state last week, also will be gunning for the Boras Classic North title. Unbeaten Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa, Bellarmine Prep of the West Catholic Athletic League, highly-regarded Woodcreek of Roseville and defending CIF Central Section D1 champ Stockdale of Bakersfield also are in the bracket.
National Classic (Baseball)
COVID didn’t kill this long-running nationally-known event, which will be held for the 33rd season. The first games will be Monday, April 3 with a title game on Thursday, April 6 at Ameriage Park in Fullerton.
This year’s field includes the highest ranked team from Northern California in last week’s State TOP 25, Valley Christian of San Jose, along with one of the highest in Southern California, Villa Park. Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove, out to a hot start in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, will open up against the host school, El Dorado of Placentia.
Cypress, Clovis, Foothill of Tustin and Servite of Anaheim from the Trinity League also add a lot of quality and depth to the field of entrants.
San Diego Downtown Lions Club Tournament (Baseball)
This one also is known as the Mike Morrow Lions Club tourney in San Diego and has been going on since 1951. It’s called the oldest one in the state and while we know of one or two that are older, none of them are still going on. This one also brings together just about every team from the CIF San Diego Section mixed in with others from elsewhere in California.
Elk Grove of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and El Camino Real of Woodland Hills (LA City Section) are two top teams from outside of San Diego that often come down to play in the Lions tourney and both will be in it again this season.
The round-robin formatted games will be held on Monday through Wednesday, April 3 to April 5 with the championship games on Thursday, April 6. All sites for the finals are TBA.
Livermore Stampede (Softball)
While a lot of the baseball tournaments are run from the beginning of a week, such as from April 3 to April 6 or April 11 to April 14, softball events are more about the weekend. In California, for example, we’ll have back-to-back weekends with the top two tournaments as it will be the Michelle Carew Classic up first from March 29 to April 1 and then the Stampede from April 5 to April 8.
St. Francis of Mountain View, the end of season No. 1 team in the state in 2022, will be in both tournaments once again. The Lancers lost in the Stampede semifinals last year to Sheldon of Sacramento (a loss they later avenged). Defending champion Granada of Livermore also will be back and has the type of team that could repeat, although the Matadors recently dropped a league game to Foothill of Pleasanton (which also will be at the Stampede). Whitney of Rocklin, which has been No. 1 in the Sacramento metro area and has started 5-0, also will be at the Stampede along with Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, which is also unbeaten so far and looked at as the main rival this year to St. Francis in the CIF Central Coast Section.
Boras Classic South (Baseball)
One good reason for the Boras Classic South being held one week later than many of the other events, such as the NHSI or the National Classic, is that it’s easier for it to pile up a truly impressive list of teams looking to collect some prized hardware. The first games of the Boras Classic South will be on Monday, April 11.
Current state No. 1 Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, defending CIF Southern Section D1 champ JSerra and defending CIF SoCal D1 regional champ Huntington Beach headline the field. Orange Lutheran, Santa Margarita and Mater Dei of Santa Ana (leading the Trinity League entering last week) also will be competing. Other teams include Villa Park (defending champion), Norco, Corona and a La Mirada team that already has three no-hitters this season.
The championship game of the Boras Classic South will be April 14 at JSerra.
World Baseball Classic:
California Team Would Be Loaded
The conclusion of the World Baseball Classic last week was epic even though the USA team was clipped in the championship by Japan, 3-2, on a strikeout by Shohei Ohtani of his L.A. Angels’ teammate Mike Trout.
It might be just as fun if a team of players from California also was entered in a future World Baseball Classic. It would surely be competitive with any other nation would be better than all-stars from any other state.
Based on preseason fantasy rankings and using players who participated in the World Baseball Classic and those who did not, here would be a roster of such a California-only squad (all listed with their high schools):
C – Travis d’Arnaud (Lakewood)
1B – Freddie Freeman (El Modena, Orange)
2B – Jeff McNiel (Simi Valley)
SS – Marcus Semien (St. Mary’s, Berkeley)
SS – Brandon Crawford (Foothill, Pleasanton)
3B – Nolan Arenado (El Toro, Forest Lake)
3B – Matt Chapman (El Toro, Forest Lake)
OF – Steven Kwan (Washington, Fremont)
OF – Christian Yelich (Westlake, Westlake Village)
OF – Aaron Judge (Linden)
OF – Andrew Vaughn (Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa)
OF – Mitch Haniger (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)
DH – Giancarlo Stanton (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks)
DH – Joc Pederson (Palo Alto)
SP – Gerrit Cole (Lutheran, Orange)
SP – Corbin Burnes (Centennial, Bakersfield)
SP – Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City)
SP – Logan Webb (Rocklin)
SP – Joe Musgrove (Grossmont, El Cajon)
RP – Scott Barlow (Golden Valley, Santa Clarita)
RP – Dylan Floro (Buhach Colony, Atwater)
FOR A LOOK AT THE CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-STATE ALL-DECADE TEAM FOR THE 2010s (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.
NFL Draft Drama Builds Around
Two California Quarterbacks
When the Carolina Panthers recently traded up to land the No. 1 pick for next month’s NFL Draft, the move was made obviously for them to choose a quarterback. But which one?
In early stages of the draft’s speculation surrounding the No. 1 selection (just after the Super Bowl) and when the Chicago Bears had the pick, it wasn’t completely clear that it would be traded. The Bears seem happy with their QB, Justin Fields, but could have kept their pick and used it for a dominant player from another position. They can still do that with the trade and can add even more potentially top players from additional picks.
Now that the Panthers are sitting at No. 1, they do need a quarterback. The early stages also had Mater Dei of Santa Ana’s Bryce Young as the most likely No. 1 pick, but in just the last week after Alabama’s Pro Day and one at Ohio State the most consensus among those who do draft rankings is that Ohio State and Rancho Cucamonga grad C.J. Stroud has moved up to the top.
For those of us who have followed the careers of Young and Stroud since they were in their early years of high school, it’s just odd to see Stroud ranked higher. Young has just been higher for all of these years, including college. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just different.
The team with the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Houston Texans, also want and need a quarterback. This creates the very real possibility that the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the upcoming draft will both be from California high schools. Has that ever happened before?
The short answer is yes, but only once and it was more than 50 years ago in 1969 when running back O.J. Simpson (San Francisco Galileo) was No. 1 by the Buffalo Bills and then followed at No. 2 by offensive lineman George Kunz (Los Angeles Loyola) by the Atlanta Falcons.
FOR A LOOK AT EVERY FIRST ROUND NFL DRAFT SELECTION FROM A CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.
There was also a draft in which two California QBs went at No. 1 and No. 3. That was two years later in 1971 with Jim Plunkett (San Jose James Lick) at No. 1 by the New England Patriots and then Dan Pastorini (San Jose Bellarmine) at No. 3 by the Houston Oilers. California also had the No. 1 and No. 3 picks in the 1975 draft, but they were not both QBs. That was QB Steve Bartkowski (Santa Clara Buchser) at No. 1 by the Atlanta Falcons and OL Ken Huff (Coronado) at No. 3 by the Baltimore Colts.
The last time we had a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft was QB Jared Goff (Kentfield Marin Catholic) by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. The last time there was an Orange County QB chosen No. 1 overall was Carson Palmer (Santa Margarita) in 2003 by the Cincinnati Bengals. The highest ever drafted player from the Inland Empire so far (and counting Chaffey of Ontario as from the Inland Empire) would be offensive line legend Anthony Munoz at No. 3 overall in 1980 (also by the Bengals).
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