For the second straight year, a team from the CIF Central Coast Section has nabbed the highest honor for California prep softball by gaining the 2023 State Team of the Year selection. This time, though, it’s not St. Francis of Mountain View, but instead it is the squad that topped the Lancers first for a section title and then on Saturday for the CIF NorCal D1 crown.
For more on all five of our State Teams of the Year (by divisions) in softball,
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There has been state history associated with the Hollister High softball team prior to this season. From 2006 to 2013, the Haybalers won eight consecutive CIF Central Coast Section titles, which is the second longest section title streak in the state record book.
The history that the girls have made for 2023, however, is even bigger. After the team won the CIF Northern California D1 title last Saturday at home with a 1-0 victory in nine innings over St. Francis of Mountain View, it is time this week to make it official. Hollister is the 2023 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year.
St. Francis was not only the defending champion of the CIF NorCal D1 title, but the Lancers also were State Team of the Year for 2022 as well. Prior to that, however, there wasn’t a CCS school that was able to finish No. 1 in the state in softball since Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in 2009.
Both St. Francis and Mitty also posted wins over Hollister earlier this season, but the Haybalers (30-3) avenged both losses in the CCS Open Division playoffs and then edged the Lancers for a second time last Saturday. The other big nugget is that Hollister, a school that was founded in 1875 and is the primary high school for San Benito County near Monterey, has never had a team end No. 1 in the state before in any sport.
“One of our top two goals for the season was just to beat Mitty and St. Francis in the Open Division,” said Hollister head coach Andrew Barragan on Monday when he called to receive the news of his team’s No. 1 selection. “We weren’t thinking about NorCal and didn’t really even know how it would work.”
Well, it all worked out well for the ‘Balers. Not only did they have a regular season win over the eventual CIF Central Section D1 champions from Central of Fresno, but there were several teams from Southern California, particularly Los Alamitos and Norco, that didn’t win the CIF Southern Section Division I title. The team that did win the CIFSS D1 title, Pacifica of Garden Grove, also was considered for the No. 1 state ranking in recent weeks, but its eight losses overall was deemed too much compared to Hollister’s ledger. Strength of schedule is important, but it doesn’t overcome everything from everywhere.
In last Saturday’s NorCal final at Hollister, it was a pitcher’s duel between Sophia Mariottini of the Haybalers and Kate Munnerlyn of St. Francis. This was unlike the CCS final when Mariottini was a machine in getting outs (mostly pop ups), but the Lancers’ pitching wasn’t up to its normal standards in a 4-0 win for Hollister.
Munnerlyn, who was taken out of the CCS final when the score was just 1-0, blanked the Haybalers into the ninth inning. Mariottini had a two-hitter through nine innings and didn’t have to keep pitching into the 10th. The Haybalers won it, 1-0, on a single by Dominique Oliviera, a pinch runner bunted to second and then it was an infield error that enabled that runner, Kyla Hignel, to come around and score.
“We knew it was going to be a revenge game for them, so we were doing our best not to have a let down,” Barragan said. “It was a little of a let down against Oak Ridge (in the first NorCal regional game), but we won and we knew that Whitney (in the NorCal semis) has two great pitchers and there wasn’t a letdown after that. Everything came together.”
Barragan was an assistant coach under previous head coach Scott Smith, who was the one in charge when the Haybalers won those eight straight section titles.
“Those were all in Division I, but all of them also were based on enrollment so we never had to go through Mitty or St. Francis (which were in lower divisions),” said Barragan, who has been the head coach since 2016. “Scott and I still talk all the time and we just did last night.”
Setting up a schedule that included one stretch of 11 games in 16 days in several tournaments was going to put the team in front of top competition from throughout the state. There was one slip up, a loss to Foothill of Tustin, but that was it. There also was a 3-2 loss to Mitty and a 10-2 loss to St. Francis but both were avenged later on.
“We felt okay after the first loss to Mitty since it was a couple of little breakdowns that led to it,” Barragan said. “The first St. Francis game (10-2 loss) was a setback, but we just used that as a measuring stick as to where we needed to go. We knew we would have to eventually go through that two-headed monster to win it at the end.”
Mariottini, who also was one of the team’s top hitters, will be the squad’s leading postseason honors candidate for all-state honors. Hollister also has one of the state’s leading junior shortstops in Mia Philips (Cal commit) and one of the state’s leading freshmen in hard-hitting first baseman Taylor Faga (multiple Pac-12 offers). The team’s leading hitter for average was sophomore Grace Peffley while junior Lily Bermudez (Cal Poly SLO) led the team in steals and has played for Mexico’s U-16 national team. Barragan also singled out Oliveira, the team’s junior catcher, as the team’s most inspirational player.
“These girls are just flying high right now,” Barragan said. “They feel and they know that they just did something special. It’s more of a sisterhood that we’ve not had here for a long time.”
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
SOFTBALL STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2023 – Hollister (30-3)
2022 – Mountain View St. Francis (31-2)
2021 – Anaheim Esperanza (22-2)*
2020 – No Selection
2019 – Norco (31-1)
2018 – San Marcos (28-2)
2017 – Los Alamitos (27-3)
2016 – Mission Viejo (27-4)
2015 – Yucaipa (31-3)
2014 – Mission Viejo (26-1)
2013 – Corona Santiago (31-5)
2012 – Norco (31-2)
2011 – Corona Santiago (28-5)
2010 – Chino Hills Ayala (29-5)
2009 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (32-0)
2008 – Sacramento Sheldon (32-2)
2007 – Valencia (32-1)
2006 – Oakley Freedom (25-0)
2005 – Simi Valley Royal (29-2)
2004 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2003 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – San Diego Mira Mesa (31-1)
2001 – Fresno Bullard (36-1)
2000 – Tustin Foothill (33-2)
1999 – Fresno Bullard (38-1-1)
1998 – Clovis Buchanan (35-2)
1997 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-1-1)
1996 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (30-1)
1995 – Huntington Beach Marina (24-5)
1994 – Clovis (31-3) (plus 2 wins by default)
1993 – Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Stockton Lincoln (35-3)
1991 – Stockton Lincoln (29-3)
1990 – Roseville (37-2)
1989 – Lakewood St. Joseph (26-1)
1988 – Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (21-6)
1987 – Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1985 – Huntington Beach Ocean View (32-0)
1984 – Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Lodi (27-2)
1982 – San Diego Madison (20-0)
1981 – Santa Maria Righetti (25-1)
1980 – Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Downey Warren (18-1)
1974 – El Segundo (undefeated)
*Forfeit loss not included.