One day after the first two days of the 2023 MLB Draft, we’re honored to present this elite first team of 30 players who headline the 41st year of the Cal-Hi Sports all-state baseball teams. State Player of the Year Trent Caraway of JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) is joined by one teammate on this team. Santa Margarita, De La Salle, Franklin of Elk Grove and Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks also have two on first team. We also have a second team and a third team in a separate post.
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Congratulations to these players who’ve been named first team overall for the 41st edition of the Cal-Hi Sports all-state baseball honors program:
FIRST TEAM OVERALL CATCHERS
Colin Brown (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) Sr.
He’s not one of those from the Mission League with a scholarship to a place like USC or UCLA, but Brown’s leadership of the Knights was such that he was the one named MVP of the league and him behind the plate was a huge reason why the pitchers on the staff were so dominant. Brown, who is headed to Holy Cross, also was one of the leading hitters on offense with 31 hits, 20 RBI and a .333 average.
Connor Harrison (De La Salle, Concord) Sr.
The younger but bigger brother of 2019 first team all-state pitcher Kyle Harrison had a monster senior season and now ends his career with the same accolade. Connor, known as Bear, seamlessly replaced last year’s first team all-state catcher for the Spartans, Anthony Martinez, and was selected as the Bay Area News Group Player of the Year. In helping DLS win its second straight CIF NorCal D1 title and its sixth straight CIF North Coast Section crown, Harrison led the team with 36 RBI. He also batted .404 with three homers and nine doubles. He has just signed a commitment to play next at St. Mary’s.
Ryder Helfrick (Clayton Valley, Concord) Sr.
A member of the USA U14 national team from 2019, Helfrick is a player from the NorCal ranks who has been tracked by scouts since he stepped onto the field at Clayton Valley as a freshman. He had a very strong senior season, helped the Ugly Eagles reach the NCS D1 finals and he was MVP for the Diablo Athletic League Foothill Division. The first team All-Bay Area pick also batted .510 with five homers and 24 RBI. Ryder has signed to play at Arkansas.
Luke Lavin (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) Sr.
The left-handed hitting catcher for the Eagles got a lot of hype in the preseason as one of the best players in SoCal and lived up to it. He was a constant presence behind the plate for the CIF SoCal D1 champions (2nd in the CIFSS) and is adding first team all-state to other honors such as All-CIFSS D1 and All-Orange County. Lavin, who has signed with Stanford, finished with 33 hits (.327 average), four homers and 24 RBI.
FIRST TEAM OVERALL PITCHERS
Nic Abraham (Franklin, Elk Grove) Jr.
Our friend Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee said that Abraham’s pitching was just as important a factor in Franklin’s rise to the top of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section as Nolan Stevens’ all-around play and he ended up choosing the two of them as Sac Bee All-Metro Co-Players of the Year. Abraham, uncommitted, pitched 72 innings and had a 10-0 record. He also had a 0.78 ERA and 70 strikeouts with just 12 walks. The opposition batting average against him also was just .178.
Matt Champion (JSerra, SJ Capistrano) Jr.
The depth of the team at JSerra is incredible with dozens of players capable of delivering big moments at any time. State Player of the Year Trent Caraway was the team’s obvious all-state pick, but it’s a mix after that. For the Lions’ other first team all-state spot (they had to have at least two if Santa Margarita and De La Salle were getting two) is going to Champion, who was the team’s top pitcher. Still with one year to go in the program, Matt ended up 8-1 and a 1.65 ERA. He also had 59 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. He has committed to NCAA champion LSU.
Collin Clarke (Santa Margarita, Rancho Santa Margarita) Sr.
He took one of the most tough-luck losses in a big game we’ve ever heard about, but that didn’t diminish the season that Collin had for the Eagles. That loss was the one by 1-0 in eight innings to JSerra in the CIFSS D1 final, but in that game Clarke shined with no hits allowed from the second inning into the eighth. He also pitched six shutout innings against Rancho Bernardo of San Diego in the CIF SoCal D1 semifinals. For the season, Clarke (who has signed with Oregon) went 10-2 with a 1.41 ERA (four shutouts) plus 85 strikeouts in 79 innings. He already has been named Orange County Pitcher of the Year.
Justin Lee (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) Sr.
Notre Dame’s pitching staff rang up 11 shutouts and helped the team to the No. 1 state ranking entering the CIFSS playoffs. Lee was the top guy on the staff and has already been named L.A. Times Player of the Year and L.A. Daily News Pitcher of the Year. Headed to UCLA, Justin finished 9-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 12 starts. He also had 102 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings and only 34 hits were registered against him.
Joshua Morano (Granada, Livermore) Sr.
The University of Arizona recruit seemed to be that one pitcher in the East Bay Athletic League and in the CIF North Coast Section that no one seemed to want to face. He tossed three shutouts and finished 8-2 with a 0.53 ERA. Morano also had 94 strikeouts in 66 innings.
Ethan Schiefelbein (Corona) Jr.
JSerra head coach Brett Kay said he felt it was good fortune that his team and not then No. 1 state-ranked Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) had to face Ethan in a CIFSS D1 playoff game. Schiefelbein pitched against the Knights and while he didn’t get the win he only allowed one run in six innings in a game that Corona was able to pull out, 2-1, in 10 innings. Ethan had earlier pitched a two-hitter with nine strikeouts in a CIFSS D1 playoff win over Rancho Cucamonga. For the season, the Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year went 7-1 with a 0.64 ERA. He also had 94 strikeouts in 55 innings. He has committed to UCLA.
Cole Schoenwetter (San Marcos, Santa Barbara) Sr.
There has been a lot of power pitchers coming out of the Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo county area in recent years and Cole is up there with the bestmof them. He led the Royals to the CIFSS D3 semifinals and a 23-8 record this season. Schoenwetter ended the year with a 6-1 pitching record and 0.91 ERA. He also had an impressive 108 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings pitched. Cole has signed with UC Santa Barbara but in the MLB Draft he went at No. 87 in the third round on Monday to the Minnesota Twins.
Joey Volchko (Redwood, Visalia) Sr.
We could have put Joey on as multi-purpose since he hit .510 in East Yosemite League games, but he’s one of those 6-foot-5, 205-pound pitchers who can flat out bring the heat. He also had a 0.26 ERA for the Rangers. Already named All-State Medium Schools, Joey now adds a first team slot. He has signed a letter of intent with Stanford, which usually makes it hard for an MLB team to pick him and then sign him in the draft. His younger brother, Jack, will be a sophomore at Redwood next season.
FIRST TEAM OVERALL INFIELD
J.P. Acosta (Buchanan, Clovis) Sr.
The Bears didn’t quite have their usual number of standouts as they had in their previous four or five seasons, but they clearly had one of the best in the CIF Central Section. J.P. ended not only as Player of the Year in the loaded Tri-River Athletic Conference, but also was the Fresno Bee’s Player of the Year. He had 122 career hits to rank among the best in Buchanan history. This year’s team had its share of losses, but still went to the D1 section finals. Acosta will play next at Long Beach State.
Eric Bitonti (Aquinas, San Bernardino) Sr.
While he couldn’t be selected as the State Medium Schools Player of the Year for a second straight season since Aquinas was moved up to a much higher division in the CIFSS playoffs, Bitonti is first team all-state for a second straight time. His overall stats as a senior were not available, but he wasn’t Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year so he wasn’t considered as a finalist for State Player of the Year. Regardless, he still had a huge career at Aquinas. He was projected to be a high MLB Draft pick and went on Monday in the third round at No. 87 overall to the Milwaukee Brewers. Eric also has signed with Oregon.
Gabe Camacho (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad) Sr.
He had to have been a top contender for San Diego Section Player of the Year as the No. 1 guy from an LCC squad that repeated as Open Division champions plus went to the finals of the CIF SoCal D1 playoffs. Camacho went on this team as an infielder, but could have been multi-purpose. As a batter, he had a .346 average with 15 doubles, 19 RBI and two homers. On the mound, Camacho was one of the Mavericks’ aces. He went 6-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 48 1/3 innings. Gabe will play next at Pacific.
Trent Caraway (JSerra, SJ Capistrano) Sr.
There was just no way to deny Trent from joining the 120-year list of State Players of the Year after the season that he had for the state No. 1 Lions. He had perhaps the best hitting season in the history of the Trinity League and when it was time to finalize Mr. Baseball he had already collected CIF Southern Section and Orange County top honors. Caraway has signed with Oregon State.
Gavin Grahovac (Villa Park) Sr.
Last year’s first team all-state pick and 2022 State Junior Player of the Year probably wasn’t that happy with how his senior season played out. The Spartans didn’t get that far in the CIFSS D1 playoffs and his numbers were lower, but his talent didn’t go anywhere and he is still a great player in our book. For the season, the All-Orange County, Crestview League MVP and All-CIFSS D1 pick batted .350 and slugged five homers. He has signed with Texas A&M.
Bryce Rainer (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City) Jr.
One of the top Class of 2024 prospects in the nation, Bryce has been named State Freshman, State Sophomore and State Junior of the Year so this all-state nod is a no-brainer. He didn’t pitch this season, but continued to rake the ball at the plate at a high level. He ended with a .436 batting average with three homers, 34 hits, nine doubles and 19 RBI. He has committed to Texas.
Kevin Takeuchi (Rancho Bernardo, San Diego) Sr.
As the home runs kept piling up, Takeuchi became more and more of a player of the year candidate in the CIF San Diego Section. In also helping the Broncos reach the CIF SoCal D1 semifinals, he became an even stronger candidate and he indeed earned the honor. Kevin ended among the reported state leaders in homers with 13. He also hit .530 with 13 doubles and 41 RBI. He has signed with USC.
Ralph Velazquez (Huntington Beach) Sr.
For the career he had with the Oilers and for some of the big home runs he’s hit (including the one we saw last year that gave his team a win in the CIF SoCal D1 final over JSerra), we were thinking we might be able to pick him as State Player of the Year over Trent Caraway. Since no one else in SoCal we follow did that, however, that wasn’t possible. Still, it was a great season for the Oilers’ slugger. He was picked at the MLB Draft on Sunday over any other high schoolers from the state at No. 23 overall in the first round by the Cleveland Guardians. Ralph ended with six homers and 23 RBI and he had a .402 batting average. Velazquez has signed with Arizona State, but probably will not go there and sign with the Guardians.
FIRST TEAM OVERALL OUTFIELD
Tyler Allen (Whitney, Rocklin) Sr.
The Wildcats had a great senior class with several all-state candidates, but Tyler is the one who was MVP of the Sierra Foothill League and he was named Sac Bee Large School All-Metro Player of the Year. He helped the team win the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 title as a junior and came back as a senior for a run that ended in the title game. Known also as a tremendous fielder, Allen led Whitney this season with 25 steals. He batted .402 with 45 hits, 32 runs, 26 RBI, nine doubles and four triples.
Jackson Freeman (Tesoro, Las Flores) Sr.
He was on the all-state medium schools first team last year, but wasn’t on it this time since Tesoro moved up in the CIFSS playoffs. Freeman instead nabs a spot on first team. He already has been All-Orange County first team and All-L.A. Times first team. Jackson’s 12 home runs are not on MaxPreps, but would be third highest in the state. He also hit for a .389 average and had 32 RBI. Freeman also is an outstanding student who will be playing next at Northwestern.
Tanner Griffith (De La Salle, Concord) Sr.
The other player besides Connor “Bear” Harrison from the back-to-back CIF NorCal D1 champions who has been getting top honors in the Bay Area has been Griffith, who was the Spartans’ leadoff hitter and has been one of the top outfielders defensively in the state. Tanner, who will play next at St. Mary’s, batted .435 against the team’s strong opposition and also had four homers, 33 RBI and 14 doubles.
FIRST TEAM OVERALL MULTI-PURPOSE (Hit & Pitch)
Michael Castaneda (Valley Christian, San Jose) Sr.
The last image of Castaneda on the field for the Warriors unfortunately was him being helped off the field in the CIF NorCal D1 final vs De La Salle after being hit in the face during a bunt attempt. He was at his best in the CIF Central Coast Section D1 final (6-0 win over Hollister) with a three-hitter and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings plus he went 1-for-3 at the plate with two RBI. For the season, the WCAL pitcher of the year finished 12-1 with a 1.18 ERA. He also batted .385 with 30 RBI. Castaneda will play next at Northern Kentucky.
Ryan Featherston (Stockdale, Bakersfield) Sr.
As a junior, Ryan was all-state underclass with great numbers as a pitcher and hitter with the pitching being more impressive at 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA and a .311 batting average (23 hits). This year, the batting was just as impressive. Featherston hit .355 on 33 hits and he had 26 RBI. He also went 7-2 as a pitcher with a 1.27 ERA. His strikeouts also were higher with 103 this year in 71 2/3 innings. Ryan has signed with the University of Oregon.
Chad Gurnea (Pacifica, Garden Grove) Sr.
The Cal State Fullerton signer had a huge season for the Mariners as he was Empire League MVP (same league as Cypress). He could have been first team all-state as a pitcher with an 8-2 record and 0.31 ERA. Chad also had 99 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. We went with him because he had some big outings at the plate. Gurnea’s season stats showed him with a .282 average (.387 in league) with 20 hits, two homers and 15 RBI.
Nolan Stevens (Franklin, Elk Grove) Sr.
Along with Ralph Velazquez, Nolan also was considered a finalist to be State Player of the Year. He’s been a four-year varsity standout for the Wildcats and he led them to their first CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 title. He also had several of his best outings down the stretch, including 13 strikeouts in six innings plus 3-for-4 with a homer in a playoff win vs Lincoln of Stockton. For the season at the plate, Stevens batted .369 with 41 hits, nine doubles, four homers, 24 RBI, 35 runs scored and 10 steals. As a pitcher, his innings were limited a bit getting him ready for college and the MLB Draft, but in 39 innings he went 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA and 62 strikeouts. He has signed with Mississippi State.
Landon Stump (Live Oak, Morgan Hill) Sr.
Stump and the Acorns made it to the CCS Open Division semifinals this season and he’s now a first team all-state pick. Primarily known as a pitcher, Landon had 86 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings with a 1.28 ERA. He also has been one of the leading hitters in his league for the last two seasons and had 10 RBI in one two-game series. Stump has signed with UCLA.
Toby Twist (Bakersfield Christian) Sr.
Already named as our Medium Schools State Player of the Year, Toby adds first team all-state to his many honors. He led the Eagles to the CIF Central Coast Section D2 title plus a 27-8 record. As a pitcher, Twist racked up a 10-1 record with a 1.46 ERA. He also had two five-inning no-hitters and 126 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings. As a batter, Twist had 35 hits, 31 RBI, nine doubles, five homers and a .357 average. He has signed with Oregon.
Diego Velazquez (Crespi, Encino) Soph.
As the L.A. Daily News Player of the Year and State Sophomore Player of the Year, Diego kind of has to add a first team all-state line to his resume as well. He led Crespi to the CIFSS D2 title with his bat and arm. At the plate, Velazquez batted .354 with 35 hits, 28 runs scored, 18 steals and led the Celts in homers, doubles and triples. On the mound, he finished 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA and had 47 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings. One of his pitching wins came against Harvard-Westlake. Diego has committed to USC.