More Softball State Teams of Year

Capital Christian of Sacramento (left) has earned the D3 & D4 State Team of Year honor for the last two seasons. Players from D4 No. 1 team Sutter are shown at right after they capped 30-0 season. Photos: @GoCCSAthletics / Twitter & Olivia Bauer / Sutter HS.

In addition to overall final No. 1 and Division 1 No. 1 Pacifica of Garden Grove, others that can say they are mythical state champions for 2024 are Gahr of Cerritos (D2), Capital Christian of Sacramento (D3), Sutter (D4) and Big Valley Christian of Modesto (D5).

For more on the 2024 State Team of the Year announcement,

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Congratulations to these five softball 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:

Division I
Pacifica (Garden Grove)

There have been State Teams of the Year from Pacifica that were not D1 and not in the D1 playoffs in the CIF Southern Section. Competitive equity factors in recent years, however, have made those scenarios more and more difficult and that will virtually become impossible after next season when the CIFSS goes to a 100 percent competitive equity model to conduct its playoffs.

Gahr of Cerritos players surround CIFSS D2 title trophy. Photo: Harold Abend.

Division II
Gahr (Cerritos)

We felt the CIFSS D2 champions had clinched this honor after the first round of the CIF NorCal and CIF SoCal regional playoffs. They weren’t in it due to opting out.

Two teams that at the start of the regional playoffs that we considered D2 and were ranked higher than Gahr — Casa Grande of Petaluma and St. Joseph of Santa Maria — both lost. Then there was CIFSS D2 semifinalist Valley View of Moreno Valley knocking off CIF San Diego Section Open Division champ Poway on the same day.

Gahr was a team in the CIFSS D2 playoffs that similar to Amador Valley in the north and JSerra in D1 just got hot at the right time. Head coach Rey Sanchez’s squad began the run with a 10-2 rout of El Toro. Then came a 4-3 victory over Tesoro of Las Flores, a 9-0 triumph over Rio Mesa of Oxnard in the quarterfinals and a 7-2 win against Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the semifinals.

Sentiment wasn’t on Gahr’s side when it played California of Whittier in the section final. That team came in at 28-3 and looking to win a CIFSS title for head coach Jason Ramirez, who is in his second year of living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The Condors also had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh and were one out away with no Gahr runners on base from winning the title in the bottom of the inning. The Gladiators then came alive. Larissa Flores reached base on a walk and then with two strikes Natalia Hill singled for runners at first and third. Still with two outs, Marley Cortez stepped up and put her named into the Gahr record book under the word “clutch” by ripping a double into the gap. Flores scored the tying run and Hill scored the winning run.

Hill, who will play next at Nebraska, was Gahr’s leading player. She finished the year with a .556 batting average and led the team in hits and RBI.

This is Gahr’s first-ever state team of the year selection in softball. In 1986, which was just the second year in which we did state division rankings, the Gladiators went 23-1 and won the top divisional title in the CIFSS. They were No. 2 in the final 4A state rankings behind unbeaten El Camino Real of Woodland Hills.

Division III
Capital Christian (Sacramento)

We haven’t yet completed all of the final state rankings, but one big move at the end for sure has to be elevating CIF NorCal D2 champion Capital Christian. The Cougars, who were State Team of the Year last season for D4 after they won the CIF NorCal D3 championship, bounced back from a loss to Oakdale in their section final in a big way last week.

The week began with a 11-1 win over Pleasant Valley of Chico, which also avenged one of the team’s three losses and came against a Vikings’ team that was top seed in the bracket. Oakdale, meanwhile, suffered a loss to Salinas. Capital Christian then went to Salinas and notched a 3-0 win over the Cowboys. That set up a trip to defending champion Willow Glen of San Jose last Saturday, which was won by the Cougars and by a 6-0 score.

Capital Christian (25-3-1) happens to have one of the top-ranked sophomores in the nation in pitcher-hitter Ayla Tuua. She was on her “A” game vs Willow Glen and shut down the Rams on two hits with nine strikeouts. Tuua also got the scoring going with an RBI double in the top of the first. Walks, a passed ball, an error and a batter hit by pitch pushed two more runs home and that ended up all that Tuua would need.

Also with a win on the road at Hollister near the end of the regular season, Capital Christian’s NorCal title meant the team has to jump up in front of unbeaten Sutter for the final rankings. We had Sutter listed at No. 1 in D3 last week, but instead of dropping the Huskies behind Capital Christian when they didn’t lose it became possible to switch the Huskies to Division IV where they’ve been No. 1 in the state before. Capital Christian can then more smoothly finish on top and with a second straight State Team of the Year honor, but this time in D3 instead of D4.

With Tuua and others projected back next year, the Cougars may have enough to take a shot at even bigger glory. Invites to the top tourneys, such as the Livermore Stampede and Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim, should be in the mail.

Division IV

It’s not an ideal situation when one classifies a team in one division and then switches it the next week. Sorry, but it’s easily the best move when the alternative is to drop a team that just completed a 30-0 season (tied for the fourth best record in state history).

Sutter is the team in question and was listed No. 1 last week in D3. The Huskies (from Sutter County and just near the famous Sutter Buttes) are not going to drop for the overall state rankings, but Capital Christian (also D3) is going to have to come up higher. Sutter instead will be D4 State Team of the Year. They also were D4 State Team of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2018 and 2021 and their enrollment plus CIF section division (5) also makes it justifiable to be D4.

The top teams that were under consideration last week to be on top in D4, Bakersfield Christian and Imperial, also made the move to Sutter dropping down easier since both lost. The Huskies will finish No. 1 in the division over an unbeaten, record-setting team from Ganesha of Pomona that opted out of the SoCal playoffs.

Sutter’s team this year made some history of its own. Head coach Stefanie Danna’s team went into the CIF NorCal D3 playoffs at 27-0 after winning the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D5 title. In the CIF pairings, though, SJS D4 champ Dixon was seeded higher, thereby pushing the Huskies down to the fourth seed. They won in their first game of the week, 5-3, over University Prep of Redding and then edged top seed and CIF North Coast Section D1 runner-up College Park, 3-2. Dixon was up next in last Saturday’s final and it was a rout. Madison Schamanski connected for a grand slam in the 13-2 win. She also ended 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a double. Alexa Carino also homered and had a double. Guinaiya Ayuyu-Garcia added two doubles and two RBI and Megan O’Neal also doubled twice. Olivia Bauer pitched for the Huskies and capped a great prep career with a four-hitter (eight strikeouts).

In the Cal-Hi Sports state records, Sutter’s team from 2009 that went 34-0 is listed first in the category of best one-season win-loss record. This year’s team will go on in a tie for third at 30-0 with Lincoln of Stockton (30-0 in 1987). The two teams in a tie for second at 32-0 are Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (2009) and Ocean View of Huntington Beach (1985). Sutter also had a 24-0 unbeaten team in 2021 that also makes it on that all-time list but near the bottom.

Ava Hernandez has been the pitching ace for Big Valley Christian. Photo:

In addition to the D4 state team of the year honors for 2008, 2009, 2018, 2021 and 2024, the Huskies also were ranked on top of the D3 heap two years ago in 2022. That’s a lot of winning.

Division V
Big Valley Christian (Modesto)

Speaking of a small school powerhouse in softball like Sutter, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section has another one at an even smaller level of enrollment and competitive equity. That’s the Lions of Big Valley Christian, which are D5 State Team of the Year for the second time in three years.

The Lions were No. 2 in our D5 run-through early last week, but No. 1 Hesperia Christian lost in its regional semifinal to Coastal Academy of Oceanside. Big Valley Christian rolled over Leigh of San Jose, 10-2, in the semis and then mercy-ruled Christopher of Gilroy, 10-0 in five innings, to win the NorCal D5 title.

Morgan Merzon, who is the daughter of legendary retired Oakdale football coach Trent Merzon, led BVC in the final by hitting two homers, including a grand slam, and had five RBI. Ava Hernandez struck out 10 in the five innings with a two-hitter and also had three RBI at the plate.

The toughest part of selecting head coach Eric Layman’s team for the honor was building a case for why the CIF SJS D7 champions should be higher ranked than the D6 section champions from LeGrand (who were 23-3-2 and lost to St. Helena in the NorCal D4 playoffs). One reason is having two wins over Stone Ridge Christian (which beat LeGrand once in two games) and the other is a schedule that included a 1-0 loss to SJS D3 champion Oakdale and a win over Trans Valley League champion Ripon.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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One Comment

  1. Wilbur Jordan
    Posted June 4, 2024 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you can explain why the CIF plays anymore games after the regional champions are determined? The next series of games make no sense. Your two top teams of the year Pacifica and Gahr didn’t even play. College Park had bye? A good team like Whitney F a game?
    I have my usual complaints about the so called Competitive Equity rankings from you and Max Preps that are flawed and confusing.

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