In addition to overall No. 1 and Division 1 No. 1 JSerra, others that can say they are mythical state champions for 2023 are Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (D2), Central Catholic of Modesto (D3), Castaic (D4) and Ripon Christian (D5).
For more on the 2023 State Team of the Year announcement,
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Congratulations to these five baseball teams for being added to the list of all-time state teams of the year according to our traditional Cal-Hi Sports five-division format:
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano)
Adding even more excitement for the Lions and their fans in the last two weeks has been the return to the Minnesota Twins of former Lion and 2017 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year Royce Lewis. He has come back from a knee injury that had sidelined him for almost a year. Lewis also was the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Since his return, he’d had two homers in his first 25 at-bats until a scary collision at first base on Sunday in which he ended up landing on his head. Lewis wasn’t seriously injured on the play.
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa)
The final candidates for this honor consisted of the Cardinals (who basically were moved up from the CIF North Coast Section D3 playoffs to the NorCal D1 bracket) and CIF SoCal D2 champion Calabasas (24-10). It should be noted that CIF NorCal D2 winner St. Ignatius of San Francisco is from the same D1 league as Valley Christian of San Jose, St. Francis of Mountain View and many others.
Since Cardinal Newman (28-2) clearly showed it could hang with the top squads in the highest division of the NorCal playoffs and has never been higher than D2 in state baseball rankings, it also became an easy choice for the Cardinals to be the D2 State Team of the Year. With just one loss in the regular season (it was to league rival Windsor and was quickly avenged), the team’s first NorCal D1 game last week against CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 runner-up Whitney of Rocklin was a 2-1 triumph. That was the same score when Cardinal Newman played top seed Valley Christian of San Jose in the semifinals but it was a 2-1 loss. On three different occasions in the game the Cardinals left a runner on third base.
Head coach Derek DeBenedetti used his top two pitchers in the similar 2-1 games with Landen Rota going six innings against Whitney and Mason Lerma keeping the Cardinals close to Valley Christian for six innings. Brady Boyd accounted for the only run in the loss with a homer.
This is Cardinal Newman’s first-ever state team of the year selection for baseball. The team finished No. 4 in the final D2 rankings for last season. The last NCS team to end No. 1 in D2 was Alameda in 2018.
Central Catholic (Modesto)
When we often do a boys-girls hoops or baseball-softball combination of honors at the same time, the template of the one done first is used for the one done second. For D3 baseball, nothing changed from softball since Central Catholic has won both. Unlike softball, though, the Raiders have ended No. 1 in the state in their division before. In fact, this is the sixth time in school history it has happened. The other five are for 2002, 2003 and 2006 in Division V and 2007 and 2008 in Division IV. This is the first for D3.
The Raiders won the NorCal D3 championship and capped a 23-8-1 season with a 5-2 win last Saturday over Oakmont of Roseville. Adrian Garcia pitched six shutout innings and had a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts until others gave up the two runs in the seventh. A 5-0 lead by that point was also built by home runs from Joel Roberts (2 for 3, 3 RBI) and T.P. Wentworth. Reported state home run leader Braxton Thomas of Central Catholic (he ended with 14 for the season) didn’t hit one in this game. Wentworth, a junior who is slated to be the starting quarterback in football for the third season this fall, is one of the top 10 baseball prospects in the state for the Class of 2024.
Canyon of Anaheim (23-12), which won the CIF SoCal D3 title, also was seriously considered.
This was a tricky team to place in a division since it’s from a new school that just graduated its first senior class. While the Coyotes were D6 for the CIF Southern Section and D5 for the CIF SoCal regional playoffs, they also are from the same league as well-known baseball schools like Hart of Newhall, Valencia and West Ranch of Valencia. It’s D4 therefore for us and besides to win a section title and a regional title in just the second-ever varsity season deserves some accolades.
In last Saturday’s SoCal D5 final, Castaic (27-7-1) took on a Ganesha of Pomona team that was 20-0 and was the last unbeaten team standing in the state. The Giants also have put together historically great totals for run differential and shutouts, but in this game they met their match and lost, 7-6, to the Coyotes.
The game went to extra innings and it was a heart-breaking way to lose for the Giants. In the bottom of the ninth and trailing 6-5, the Coyotes loaded the bases with one out. Tyler Hawn then hit a comebacker to the mound in which the Ganesha pitcher first went to home for the force out. In trying to get the double play at first base, however, the ball was thrown away by the catcher, which caused the tying and winning runs to score.
Matthew Airhart led Castaic at the plate by going 3-for-5 with one RBI and he also made a run-saving diving catch in the outfield. Aaron Gonzalez, the team’s leader for hits and RBI for the season, also had a pair of doubles. Hawn, who started the sequence by not striking out in the ninth and getting contact on the ball, was the team’s leader for innings pitched.
CIF NorCal D4 winner Sutter (26-5-1) probably would have been behind Ganesha had it won the game against Castaic, but was strongly considered for the final No. 1 ranking.
There were no teams that qualified for the CIF SoCal regional playoffs that we would place as D5 for our divisional state rankings (all schools large or medium) and the NorCal D5 champion, Lowell of San Francisco, can’t be small schools, either. This therefore became a choice between the RC, which lost to Lowell 7-6 in the semifinals, and University Prep of San Francisco, which lost to Lowell 4-0 in the final. The team that beat University Prep in the CIF North Coast Section playoffs, Athenian of Danville (10-15), also would be D5, but was sent up to D4 for the NorCal playoffs and lost to Sutter.
It’s not that the Knights were seeded higher than University to begin the playoffs that got them the nod and their first-ever state team of the year honor in baseball. They finished 23-8 with one less loss than University, they avenged all three of their losses to other small schools with later wins (the others were all to large schools) and they beat a Turlock Christian team to win in their CIF Sac-Joaquin Section final, 11-3, that was led by a player, Gavin Farinha, who has set a state record for career no-hitters. Farinha pitched in the loss, but most of the runs did appear to come after he left the game.
After winning the section title, Ripon Christian topped Firebaugh in the NorCal regionals before taking the loss to Lowell. In the win over Turlock Christian, multi-sport standout Eli Terpsma led the Knights by throwing a one-hitter with seven strikeouts in five innings. He also went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI. Terpsma also played leading roles on RC teams that won section titles in football and basketball.