NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Austin Steeves from Casa Grande of Petaluma and Jacquelyn Lujan from Orestimba of Newman. Photos: Summer Fowler / Petaluma Argus-Courier & Samantha Schmidt /

One of the things we like to do with this feature is uncover hidden talent that quite often only gets local recognition. This week we have four perfect examples of diamonds in the rough as the funnel narrows and we drive towards the section titles for those sections still in action, and with the CIF Southern and Northern Regional playoffs on the horizon beginning next week. Our travels this week take us to Petaluma and Newman in Northern California, and Rolling Hills Estates and Mission Viejo in Southern California. With that narrowing of the funnel, this also will be the next to last week for Player of the Week features this school year.

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Notes: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email Next week will be the final group of players featured for the 2022-23 school year.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Austin Steeves (Casa Grande, Petaluma) Jr.

The Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section is our destination and to get there all we had to do is cross Highway 101 to the eastern portion of Petaluma to find this week’s Northern California Baseball Player of the Week at Casa Grande High.

The Gauchos have had a lot of players that have excelled over the years, and several have made it to the Major Leagues, most notably Jonny Gomes, and more recently Spencer Torkelson, who was selected as the No. 1 pick by the Detroit Tigers in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Steeves, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior left-handed pitcher who plays centerfield and first base when he’s not on the mound, has a long way to go to get to where some other Gauchos have gone, but the way he’s been performing both this year and last, he could have a chance to make some noise himself if he continues his stellar play to close out this season and again next season in his senior year.

Last week was a perfect example of Austin getting it done for Casa Grande.

With the Gauchos coming off a loss to close out Vine Valley League action after they already had easily secured the league title, he opened the CIF North Coast Section Division II playoffs for the top seed by tossing a complete game three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory over Northgate of Walnut Creek. At the plate, he also drove in the only two earned runs of the game and also stole a base.

So far this season for the 21-5 Gauchos who were on the bubble of the latest State TOP 35 rankings, Steeves is 8-3 with two saves in 14 appearances with a 0.50 ERA and 130 strikeouts and on 15 walks in 70.1 innings pitched. Opposing batters are hitting a paltry .117 against him.

At the plate, Austin is hitting a very respectable .292 after hitting .333 last season when he was also 6-0 on the mound.

Steeves, who has multiple interests from several schools, including Stanford, Cal and Oregon State, has a fastball that tops out at just under 90 miles per hour according to Gauchos head coach Pete Sikora.

When asked if Austin would be his starter on Wednesday in a semifinal match-up at home with No. 5 seed Larkspur Redwood, Sikora had a lightning quick answer: “Of course.”

Yuvan Anthony was the man in command for Peninsula in the CIFSS D5 playoffs. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Baseball Player of the Week

Yuvan Anthony
(Peninsula, Rolling Hills Estates) Jr.

To find the Southern California Baseball Player of the Week we head to the peninsula just south of Torrance and west of Long Beach and land at Palos Verdes Peninsula to honor a pitcher who has been a big part of the success of the Panthers in their run in capturing the CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship.

Last Saturday, and at historic Blair Field in Long Beach, and in a game that was started one hour late, Yuvan was on despite the delay, and although he didn’t strike out a ton of batters, he tossed a four-hitter with four strikeouts, and he got Apple Valley to make outs in a 3-0 shutout that secured a D5 title for the Panthers.

Stats were not available online but according to the Damian Calhoun of the Daily Breeze, Yuvan had a hand in pitching two other playoff games that were decided by two runs or less.

A little research on Anthony’s Twitter handle provided those details.

In a 3-1 quarterfinal win over Liberty of Winchester, Yuvan was the man in that one too after he pitched a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and he didn’t give up an earned run in a 3-1 victory. He also did some relief pitching as well en route to the title to help secure wins.

With competitive equity driving the seedings and with teams in the CIFSS still deciding to play, it’s not clear where Peninsula will land or will play in the CIF Southern Regional playoffs. If they are in, it’s pretty likely the Panthers’ junior ace will be on the mound when they open the SoCals next week.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Softball Player of the Week

Jacquelyn Lujan (Orestimba, Newman) Sr.

The destination we find ourselves at in search of the Northern California Softball Player of the Week takes us about 25-miles southwest of Modesto and a little less than 5-miles east of I-5 on Highway 33 to Newman. It’s at Orestimba High that we find our award winner and she’s being honored for being a giant killer.

Last week, after a 6-3 quarterfinal win over Marysville by the No. 4 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs, the Warriors’ girls travelled to Sutter, a new member of the CIFSJS, the top seed and at No. 15 overall in the state. The hosts had just gotten done knocking off unbeaten East Nicolaus and had lost only to SoCal D1 powerhouse Huntington Beach.

You can never count your chickens before they’re hatched and that’s exactly what happened to Sutter because Lujan took the circle against the Huskies and pitched a one-hitter with two walks and 12 strikeouts.

There was no score through eight innings, but in the top of the ninth Orestimba erupted for four runs, with Lujan getting a hit and scoring what turned out to be the only run she would need, because from there she went back out into the circle and retired the side for a 4-0 victory in what was one of the biggest upsets in the state this season.

Sutter is now done for the season but Orestimba is not. On Saturday and buoyed by confidence from the win over Sutter two days earlier, Lujan did give up six hits and two walks, but she also fanned 14 and only gave up one earned run in an 8-3 victory over No. 3 seed Wheatland to claim the D5 title.

Now, Orestimba is moving on the CIF Northern Regional playoffs where it will be seeded on Sunday based on competitive equity. With a 21-4 overall record, where they’ll land is anyone’s guess at the time but it probably will be D3 and could be D2.

One thing for certain is Jacquelyn will be in the circle, and she’ll take a 21-4 record and 0.55 ERA with 289 strikeouts, including 15 she had in the win over Marysville, into the first round match-up. Lujan, who will get to add on to what is a school record 289 strikeouts this season and 606 career strikeouts in only three years after COVID wiped out her sophomore season.

The 289 strikeouts is both the No. 3 reported mark in the Sac-Joaquin Section and the state.

On a final note, the Simpson University-committed Lujan also leads Orestimba with a .539 batting average, plus her four home runs, 14 doubles, 27 RBI and 31 runs scored, all lead the team.

Madi McDonnell led Capistrano Valley to the CIFSS D3 title by hitting a homer and getting the pitching win against Corona Santiago. Photo: Tom Connolly / For OC Sports Zone.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Softball Player of the Week

Madi McDonnell
(Capistrano Valley, Mission Viejo) Sr.

Southern Orange County and a stone’s throw east of I-5 in Mission Viejo is our destination, and it’s at Capistrano Valley that we find the Southern California Softball Player of the Week.

McDonnell, a senior pitcher and slugger, has been a big producer all season for the Cougars, but last Saturday at Bill Barber Park’s Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine, she topped things off by earning two game balls for her pitching and her slugging in a 6-1 victory over Santiago of Corona in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship game.

What made it even sweeter for McDonnell and the Capistrano Valley faithful was that it was the first CIF Southern Section softball title in school history.

In the circle, Madi wasn’t overpowering, but she went the distance and pitched a six-hitter and only gave up one run in a 6-1 victory over a Santiago team that was making its eighth CIFSS title game appearance (last winning in 2013).

With bat in hand, McDonnell also had two hits including a solo home run.

Stats for all the games for the 26-6 Capistrano Valley were only posted for a handful of games, but for those games reported Madi has been the top producer in the circle and at the plate.

There are many CIFSS teams opting out of the CIF Southern Regional playoffs so we don’t know if Madi’s season is over or not, but regardless she is getting credit for a memorable championship day she enjoyed with her teammates.

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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