Cal-Hi Sports (CalHiSports.com) is THE source for California high school sports and is led by Mark Tennis, the co-founder and publisher, who also compiles our Extra Inning Softball Extra Elite Eighty High School Rankings.
Cal-Hi released its list of individual awards for high school softball on Tuesday and, with permission, published below are some of the winners…
Ms. Softball 2019: Kinzie Hansen
It’s not as if Kinzie Hansen of the Norco High softball team was preordained to be the 2019 Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year, but it did prove to be too difficult for anyone else to win the honor after she was selected State Junior of the Year in 2018, State Sophomore of the Year in 2017 and State Freshman of the Year in 2016.
Hansen is indeed the 2019 Ms. Softball for the state and joins a long list of previous winners that includes three others from Norco in just the last eight years. Hansen was especially proud to be joining her former teammate, Taylor Dockins, who was Ms. Softball just two years ago despite battling the effects of cancer treatments.
“She deserves everything that she has gotten, all the honors and awards, and has been an incredible teammate,” Hansen said of Dockins (now at Cal State Fullerton). “To share this feat with her is very cool. It’s a great honor.”
The other two from Norco who have been honorees are Kylie Reed for 2013 and Emily Lockman of 2012. Other previous Ms. Softball winners have included Keilani Ricketts of Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) for 2009, Jordan Taylor of Valencia for 2007 and Lisa Fernandez from St. Joseph of Lakewood for 1989.
“After every year since I started, and especially after Taylor won, I thought that I really wanted to continue the (Norco Ms. Softball) tradition,” said Hansen, who will play next at Oklahoma. “I said that was my goal for this year as a senior. I’m happy, but it was easy playing with these girls. They made it fun.”
To see the All-Time List of Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Players of the Year click HERE and scroll down!
Career stats have been a factor in every Ms. Softball player of the year selection ever made and Hansen’s at Norco have been extremely consistent even though the team annually plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Hansen started out as a freshman batting .426 with seven homers and 37 RBI. She followed that with .456 to go with three homers and 43 RBI as a sophomore and then last year she batted .519 with four homers and 32 RBI (missing six games with injury).
This season, Hansen went for a .467 average with five homers and 36 RBI. Her 172 career hits are good enough for third in school history and to gain entry into the state record book. Her 148 career RBI also tied a school record with teammate Paige Smith even though Smith generally batted right behind her in the batting order.
Looking at Hansen’s stats a little more closely also reveals how she did against the best competition that Norco faced. Hansen batted .527 with five home runs and 27 RBI in the team’s tournament (including the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions and Michelle Carew Classic) and playoff games.
Plus, she hit .556 with 15 RBI in the 12 games against teams that finished in the Top 20 of CalHiSports.com’s final state rankings.
“Last year, I had the highest average of my four years, but a lot of my hits were in the 5-6 hole,” Hansen said. “This year, I was trying to make better contact. Even some of the outs I was making came after making good contact. When players make defensive plays, you can’t do anything about that.”
It takes much more than offensive numbers, though, to be Ms. Softball. Hansen has been one of the most highly rated catching prospects for college that the state has seen in the last 10 years. And it’s her leadership and what she did behind the plate that probably impressed Norco head coach Rick Robinson the most.
“To see how she grew as a player from her freshman to senior year was just amazing,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t just being a leader, but being able to run things through her. We changed our entire sign system in between the third and fourth innings in our CIF (Southern Section) championship game. I don’t know of any player I’ve come across who could do that like her. She was like having a coach on the field.”
In the final three years of Hansen’s career, she helped the Cougars go 33-1 (lost in CIFSS D1 final to Los Alamitos), 28-3 (won CIFSS D1 title) and 32-1 (CIFSS D1 title). They finished No. 2, No. 2 and No. 1 in the final State Top 40.
When Dockins was selected Ms. Softball two years ago, the deliberation process took about two seconds.
This year, it was much different and one of the main reasons for that was the big-time pitching of Hansen’s teammate at Norco, junior Sarah Willis. Robinson was not asked for his opinion on the topic because we’ve learned it’s unfair to put a coach into that position. In fact, when talking to him about Hansen for Ms. Softball, he spent more time making a final pitch for Willis to be State Junior of the Year.
“Sarah is one of the greatest players I’ve been around,” Hansen said. “Me and her have just clicked. If you would have picked her, I would not have been disappointed. She’s an amazing athlete.”
Hansen and Willis were not the only players battling at the top of the Ms. Softball pecking order. There also was junior Nicole May from Foothill of Pleasanton. She led that team to a 28-0 record with impressive hitting and pitching numbers and already has been the Gatorade State Player of the Year.
Believe it or not, but a three-way tie would not have been that crazy, except that in the history of Cal-Hi Sports (40 years) there has never been a tie for a team ranking or player honor.
The other three finalists for Ms. Softball for this year as announced two weeks ago were Maya Brady of Westlake Village Oaks Christian (a teammate of Hansen’s on the OC Batbusters travel team), Lexi Sosa of Chula Vista Mater Dei Catholic and Lexi Webb of Oakdale.
May also plays for the OC Batbusters despite being from Northern California and will be a teammate of Hansen’s at Oklahoma, which just lost to UCLA in the NCAA College Softball World Series final.
“UCLA and Oklahoma have such huge fan bases and right now a lot of us players just get big ol’ laugh when they’re playing each other,” Hansen said. “But I love the pressure and love it when a lot of people are watching. I’m really excited to see what kind of woman I turn into in college and what kind of player I become. My goal is to keep excelling as a freshman (at OU) next season.”
“From the day (Kinzie) walked on our campus, she’s been one of the top 10 recruits in the country,” Robinson said. “But she’s never been satisfied. She’s always asking, ‘How can I get better from something?'”
California Junior, Sophomore and Freshman of the Year Winners
The choices for State Junior Player of the Year, Sophomore Player of the Year and Freshman Player of the Year were equally difficult as for Ms. Softball. There’s not a no-brainer of the bunch.
CALIFORNIA JUNIOR of the YEAR:
Nicole May (Foothill, Pleasanton)
As explained in the overall writeup for Ms. Softball, both May and Norco’s Sarah Willis were very strong contenders to be chosen for that honor. It then became the difficult task of paring it down one more time between May and Willis for the juniors.
Two years ago, May was the State Freshman of the Year after leading Foothill to the CIF North Coast Section Division I title. Last season, Willis was the State Sophomore of the Year when Norco took the title in the CIFSS D1 playoffs while May’s team lost in its section final to Pleasanton Amador Valley and 2019 national college freshman of the year Danielle Williams (now at Northwestern).
Both girls were on title teams this season so the selection was even more hard to figure out. May, who already has been named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, had the superior stats to Willis.
But, of course, Willis and her team played a much more difficult schedule, especially down the stretch in the CIFSS D1 playoffs. How much to weigh the difficulty of that Norco schedule?
Some easily could have said it was so overwhelming to what Foothill and May faced that it was the difference. We ended up determining that what May did was just a touch more impressive (and Foothill did beat two CIF section title teams).
In leading Foothill to its 28-0 record (best in NCS history), No. 2 final state ranking and No. 4 final national ranking (ExtraInningSoftball.com), May went 24-0 in the circle with a 0.32 ERA plus 246 strikeouts in 151 innings. She also batted .463 (second on the team) with five homers and 27 RBI. In the team’s NCS title game 2-0 triumph over state-ranked Heritage of Brentwood (25-3), May pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts and hit a two-run homer to account for only two runs of the contest.
May, who has committed to Oklahoma and was No. 5 in the most recent ExtraInningSoftball.com Class of 2020 national player rankings, is just the fourth State Junior of the Year from the NCS. The last one was Johanna Grauer of Amador Valley for 2013.
The other two have been Dianne Kinney of Santa Rosa Montgomery (1979) and Marcy Panuco from James Logan of Union City (1996).
Last 10 State Juniors of the Year: 2018 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2017 – Megan Faraimo (San Diego Cathedral Catholic); 2016 – Camryn Ybarra (Mission Viejo); 2015 – Mia Camuso (Redding Shasta); 2014 – Taylor McQuillin (Mission Viejo); 2013 – Johanna Grauer (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2012 – Gabrielle Maurice (Modesto Beyer); 2011 – Melissa Taukieaho (Etiwanda); 2010 – Lauren Chamberlain (Lake Forest El Toro); 2009 – Taylor Edwards (Murrieta Vista Murrieta)
CALIFORNIA SOPHOMORE of the YEAR:
Savannah Pola (Godinez, Santa Ana)
Savannah and older sister Keana led Godinez to the CIFSS Division 4 championship and a 26-4 record. Keana, headed to Nebraska, already has been named the CIFSS D4 player of the year and had a terrific four-year career. For this season, however, it easily could be argued that Savannah, a sophomore committed to UCLA and considered by many among the top five Class of 2021 college prospects in the nation, had the better performance.
For most hits in a season, in fact, Savannah had one of the highest totals in CIFSS history with 64. She also led the Grizzlies in batting (.577), runs scored (49) and she had four homers with 30 RBI. Keana batted .449 with two homers, 35 hits, 35 RBI.
Savannah also is on track for some ridiculous career totals. When she first started at Godinez as a freshman last year, she batted .701 with 61 hits, three homers, 21 RBI and 55 runs scored.
The last State Sophomore of the Year from Orange County was Alyssa Palomino of Mission Viejo in 2013. The previous one before that was Courtney Fossatti from Foothill of Tustin for 1999.
It still was not easy to go with Pola. Last year’s State Freshman of the Year, Cydney Sanders of San Marcos, didn’t play on the same type of team this season as when the Knights were No. 1 in the state in 2018. Still, they went 16-13, won the CIF San Diego Section D1 title and Sanders hit 13 more homers to go with the 14 she had as a freshman. Sanders, who also batted .494 (she hit .516 the year before), can finish her prep career with well above 50 homers.
Last 10 State Sophomores of the Year: 2018 – Sarah Willis (Norco); 2017 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2016 – Vanessa Strong (Oakley Freedom); 2015 – Holly Azevedo (San Jose Pioneer); 2014 – Katie Kibby (Vacaville); 2013 – Alyssa Palomino (Mission Viejo); 2012 – Johanna Grauer (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2011 – Gabrielle Maurice (Modesto Beyer); 2010 – Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley Royal); 2009 – Ally Carda (Elk Grove Pleasant Grove).
CALIFORNIA FRESHMAN of the YEAR:
Ramsey Suarez (Great Oak, Temecula)
Both of the primary pair we were looking at most closely among the freshmen are (like many other top recruits in the state) already committed to UCLA.
Suarez was a standout all season for a Great Oak squad that reached the CIFSS D1 championship game and finished No. 3 in the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings. She was the only freshman on the prestigious All-Inland Empire team as selected by the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Great Oak was a team of many offensive weapons, but Suarez stood out with a .465 average with 37 runs scored, 35 RBI and nine homers. One of her homers came in a big moment during Great Oak’s win over Gahr of Cerritos in the CIFSS D1 semifinals. In the title game loss to Norco, Ramsey had one of the three hits against Ms. Softball finalist Sarah Willis. She also batted .556 and had a .650 on base mark during Southwestern League play, which is not exactly weak competition.
In addition to Suarez, we also could have just as easily gone with Megan Grant from Aragon of San Mateo for this honor. Grant was the top reported freshman home run hitter in the state with 13 and also batted .500 with 51 RBI for an Aragon team that went 22-6 and beat Watsonville 6-1 for the CIF Central Coast Section Division 1 title.
This is the category in which Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Kinzie Hansen was selected for in 2016. There have been many from the Inland Empire to get it, but the last ones before Hansen were Taylon Snow of Chino Hills (if you count Chino Hills as Inland Empire) in 2014 and Tatum Edwards of Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) for 2007.
Last 10 State Freshmen of the Year: 2018 – Cydney Sanders (San Marcos); 2017 – Nicole May (Pleasanton Foothill); 2016 – Kinzie Hansen (Norco); 2015 – Danielle Williams (Pleasanton Amador Valley); 2014 – Taylon Snow (Chino Hills); 2013 – Zoe Marrott (Moraga Campolindo); 2012 – Amanda Lorenz (Moorpark); 2011 – Tera Blanco (Huntington Beach Marina); 2010 – Ali Aguilar (Orangevale Casa Roble); 2009 – Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley Royal); 2008 – Dani Gilmore (Woodland Hills El Camino Real).
For information on Medium & Small Schools Player of the Year, click HERE.