St. Francis MV, Norco Co-Champs

Usually it’s the tourney champion that gets the top photo, but when it’s co-champions like Norco and St. Francis at the Michelle Carew Classic it’s not easy. Both of these photos also were presented uncropped within the wrapup story below. Photos: Harold Abend.

This year’s Michelle Carew Classic had four of the top five teams from the state and six of the top 10, but rain wiped out Saturday’s schedule so there was no No. 1 vs No. 2 championship in the Gold Bracket. There were still big developments as No. 1 Pacifica (Garden Grove) lost twice, the host school from Canyon (Anaheim) did very well and No. 2 St. Francis (Mountain View) and No. 3 Norco earned co-championships.

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on All regular season weekly and final state rankings, however, are available only to our Gold Club members as well as our state stat star of the week honor rolls. Some of our the eventual all-state teams also will be for Gold Club members only. To check out getting a Gold Club membership to see all of these features plus all of our updated state record lists, and more, CLICK HERE.

The 26th Annual Michelle Carew Classic that now retired tournament director Lance Eddy started in 1984 as the Canyon Tournament of Champions, had no shortage of upsets, but despite previous Cal-Hi Sports No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove only going 1-2 and not qualifying for the championship Gold Bracket, it was No. 2 St. Francis of Mountain View and No. 3 Norco winning Co-Championships of an altered format due to weather that had 12 teams ranked in the previous State Top 35 gracing the field of 29 total teams.

St. Francis (11-0) got the only run it needed in its Co-Championship title game 2-0 victory over upstart and upset minded host Canyon (Anaheim) in the first inning. Sophomore Jaime Oakland, the daughter of St. Francis head coach Mike Oakland, hit what for normal players would be a single but with her speed the Lancers’ centerfielder easily stretched it into a double. A wild pitch moved Oakland to third where senior Rebecca Quinn drove her in with a sacrifice fly to left field.

The CIF NorCal champion from 2022 and runner-up from 2023 got its second run in a bit of a bizarre fashion. Boise State-bound senior slugger and pitcher Shannon Keighran walked to lead off the bottom of the second. She advanced to second on a single by junior Hayden Hummel. Freshman Payton Tsao then sacrificed the pair to second and third. Junior Ava Bulanti was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. Junior Isabella Sandoval stepped to the plate and drove in a run after she got plunked as a second-straight batter by Brown-committed Canyon junior pitcher Jordan Simmons.

From there it was a pitcher’s duel between Simmons and Texas A&M-committed Kate Munnerlyn, and the way the Lancers senior left-hander has been pitching this season, and in the two-plus games she pitched at the Carew Classic, having Munnerlyn in the circle has been a definite difference maker.

Canyon actually had two runners on base in the top of the first inning in what would turn out to be its biggest threat of the game. Sophomore Mia Saenz singled to lead things off but Munnerlyn got the next two batters on a strikeout and a comebacker. Munnerlyn then hit junior Jade Diaz to put runners on first and second, but she retired the side on a fly to right.

Canyon would get a leadoff single in the second by senior Kendall Nevin and a leadoff walk in the third by Saenz, but each time Munnerlyn knuckled down and got the next three batters each time, with five of the six outs coming on strikeouts.

From the fourth through the sixth inning Munnerlyn only gave up a base on balls. Nevin would get a two-out double in the top of the seventh that had the standing room only crowd of local Comanches’ fans buzzing, but Munnerlyn fanned pinch hitter Greta Doherty to end the game.

Players, coaches and family members of the St. Francis (Mountain View) softball team had a strong showing at this year’s Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim. Photo: Harold Abend.

Munnerlyn ended up tossing a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts, two walks and the hit batter, and it came against a Cal-Hi Sports No. 31 Canyon that had sent shock waves through the rankings and the California softball pecking order when Simmons silenced the bats of Pacifica in a 2-1 victory that punched the Comanches’ ticket to the Gold bracket and sent Pacifica to the Silver.

Munnerlyn ended up pitching in three of the four games St. Francis played and won at the Carew Classic.

In the first game on Friday, Munnerlyn came on in relief of Keighran with St. Francis clinging to a 1-0 lead over No. 13 ranked Mission Viejo and pitched masterfully to get the save. She came on in the top of the sixth and struck out the first two batters and got the third out on a pop to short. Then, she closed things out in the seventh with two grounders sandwiched around a pop to short.

After hitting her first home run of the season in the Lancers’ first game that helped stake Keighran to a 2-0 lead over Chula Vista Otay Ranch in what turned out to be a 7-2 victory, Munnerlyn turned in the most impressive single game performance in the Carew Classic and based on the level of competition it may very well be the most impressive performance of the season so far in the entire state.

Facing a Roosevelt of Eastvale team that is a little down this year, but is still a high quality opponent that was the 2021-22 CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion, Munnerlyn was lights out. In a 2-0 victory she pitched a two-hitter with 17 strikeouts and one walk. At one point between the first and fifth innings, Munnerlyn struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced and fanned six straight twice.

When it came time to name Most Valuable Pitcher, and in this case the top player at the Carew Classic as agreed upon by tournament staff and every analyst that covered the tournament, Munnerlyn not only was hands down a unanimous choice, but her performance in arguably the top softball tournament in the nation, would appear to stamp her as one of the early favorites for Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.

“It’s the best feeling to prove my talent and show it off to everyone,” Munnerlyn remarked. “I’ve been working hard every day during practice and clearly it’s showing off on the field. I’ve definitely grown since freshman year.”

After making some noise in each of the first two years St. Francis had played in the Carew Classic, the Lancers finally won the big one and thus became only the second team besides the 2014 Amador Valley of Pleasanton team led by Johanna Grauer to win the prestigious tournament.

“It’s truly a great feeling being able to show our abilities to the entire state,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve always known we had the skill, so being able to prove it was a feeling like no other.”

“I mean, all we had to prove was our talent and we are a good team,” Munnerlyn continued. “It was just a good representation of NorCal and Saint Francis High school. We came here to play and win and get some redemption from the past two years.”

Canyon (15-4) went 3-1 in the Carew Classic with a 4-2 victory over Yucaipa, the 2-1 win versus Pacifica, and a 6-4 victory against Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) that got the Comanches the match-up with St. Francis.

Co-Champs A Familiar Powerhouse As Well

Perennial SoCal powerhouse Norco (16-3) came into the Carew Classic with a 12-3 record at No. 3 in the state one week after dropping to No. 8 in the rankings after a questionable 3-2 tournament loss two weeks ago to JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) to go with losses to Chino Hills and Pacifica. However, the Cougars took care of business at the Carew Classic with a 7-4 victory over Cerritos Gahr, and a 10-2 win versus Great Oak of Temecula, both in Pool play. Then in the Gold Bracket they were a 5-1 winner over Sheldon High of Eugene (Ore.) in the quarterfinals and then in the Co-Championship game Norco held off No. 19 ranked El Modena of Orange in a 4-2 victory.

Norco took a 1-0 lead in the first on a double from junior Dakota Potter that drove in junior Tamryn Shorter, who had singled to lead off the inning.

A pair of errors and a wild pitch by Norco freshman pitcher Coral Williams led to two runs in the fourth inning and the Cougars were facing a 2-1 deficit.

Senior Kaley Cook doubled and scored in the fifth and scored to tie things at 2-2, and then came through again in the sixth was a single that drove in two for the game’s final tallies.

After the shaky fourth for Williams, she bore down and retired the next nine straight Vanguards batters to close out the game.

In a Carew Classic where pitching seemed to be what propelled the top teams to victory, Norco had its bats come alive in the victory over Great Oak. Shorter was 2-for-3 with a two-run home run, a walk, stolen base, three RBI and two runs scored. Senior Madyson Aguilera had a home run, and Cook was 2-for-3 with a double, walk, stolen base, two RBI and two runs scored.

Shorter was named the Most Valuable Player and Cook and Williams were named all tournament.

In all the years we’ve followed Norco High softball there are always terrific senior leaders. This year, these four — Isabel Lopez, Ariel Reyes, Madyson Aguilera and Kaley Cook — are shown after team gained co-championship at Michelle Carew Classic. Photo: Harold Abend.

Teams expected to compete for the Carew Classic title besides St. Francis, Norco and Pacifica were No. 5 ranked Orange Lutheran, No. 7 Los Alamitos and No. 8 Huntington Beach.

Orange Lutheran (14-3) was a 7-0 winner over Oxnard Rio Mesa with Notre Dame-bound senior Brianne Weiss pitching a no-hitter with 19 strikeouts and just a base on balls separating her from a perfect game. Weiss did not pitch in the second game on Wednesday against Vista Murrieta and the Lancers came up on the short end of a 5-1 final.

Orange Lutheran head coach Steve Miklos sent Weiss out to the circle on Thursday against Pacifica with a spot in the Silver Bracket Co-Championship game at stake. Weiss wasn’t at her best but she was facing a Pacifica team smarting from its loss to Canyon. She only gave up two hits and struck out seven, but Weiss walked eight. In the end it was the bat of senior Zara Mineo-Schrank that came through in a 5-1 victory that was timed-out after five innings. Mineo-Schrank finished 2-for-2 with two doubles and three runs batted in.

Los Alamitos (15-5) started out with a solid 5-0 victory over Corona Santiago, but after getting edged 4-3 by El Modena the roof caved in after a 10-6 loss to defending CIF San Diego Section Open Division and CIF Southern Regional Division I champion Poway.

Huntington Beach (12-4) did not pitch Stanford-bound senior Zoe Prystajko so it was no surprise when it lost 8-0 to No. 27 ranked Long Beach Millikan. The Oilers came back to beat No. 30 Esperanza (Anaheim) 6-1 and they were an 8-3 winner over Nevada Centennial of Las Vegas, but they ended up 2-2 after a 7-1 loss to Rio Mesa.

Because expected rains that came to fruition wiped out action on Saturday, first-year tournament director J.R. Bennett, along with help from Eddy, completely re-did the schedule to compress Pool play into two days beginning on Wednesday as usual but ending on Thursday rather than extending into Friday. Gold and Silver bracket play was all done on Friday.

The one big exception in a tournament that usually guaranteed teams a minimum of four games with five for the teams making it to the bracket championships, was everything was cut back to four games with teams going 1-2 not getting a second game on Friday due to the limitations of available fields.

With the revised format, the eight teams that won their pools advanced to the quarterfinals. St. Francis was one of two teams along with Pacifica to not play on Wednesday and punched its ticket with two wins on Thursday.

The only downer about this year’s Carew was there was no real championship game, and unfortunately that meant no match-up between St. Francis and Norco. That would really turn out to be unfortunate if the two teams were to win major championships at the end of the season.

“What an outstanding tournament with all top level teams, a great environment to play on and a playoff atmosphere,” St. Francis Coach Oakland remarked. “We would have liked to play Norco but we got to see elite level pitching in the tournament and that made us better.”

“It’s not the same St. Francis as a couple of years ago but we would have liked to get a shot at playing them,” said Norco head coach Rick Robinson, whose team has won eight previous Carew titles.

Norco now has a few days off before opening Big VIII play with visiting Santiago.

St. Francis will take its two-headed monster, Munnerlyn and Keighran, plus crew, into the Livermore Stampede next week where it will be a big favorite and opens on Thursday with Freedom of Oakley.

Oakland was pragmatic and honest of his assessment at this stage of the season and heading into the Stampede.

“Kate and Shannon give us a chance to win every time they are in the circle,” Oakland said. “Our offense needs to improve but with the pitching we saw at the Carew that will help us improve as the season progresses.”

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

Enjoy this article?

Find out how you can get access to more exclusive content, one-of-a-kind California high school sports content!

Learn More

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


    Latest News

    Insider Blog