By Mark Tennis
*** Note: these rankings were compiled last week and were delayed in getting published due to our massive coverage of the Mary Nutter Classic! Some teams may have played since this information was completed…
When compiling this year’s preseason FAB 50 softball rankings over the recent weekend, it really did look like there wasn’t going to be a California team sitting at the top.
That’s the main problem, however, with “preseason” fastpitch high school softball. You can’t do those rankings and truly present them as “preseason” because teams in Florida and Texas start playing so much earlier than even in California.
The two teams we had pegged at the top from Texas and Florida were both state champions last year and both returned a wealth of top players, including No. 1 pitchers.
Both Katy of Texas and Forest of Ocala, Fla., however, have already lost at least one game this spring. True, both could still have tremendous seasons and we think they will. It’s just you can’t consciously start a season with a No. 1 team that has already lost. It doesn’t matter that top pitchers might not have been used. A loss counts.
So with Texas and Florida already getting a bit wild-and-wacky with upsets, the preseason No. 1 FAB 50 ranking for this week went to California preseason No. 1 Pioneer High of San Jose, Calif.
The Mustangs were a contender to be No. 1 in the FAB 50 last season and may have been the winner were it not for a single run allowed in the top of the first inning in what ended up being a 1-0 loss to Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the CIF Central Coast Section Division II championship.
If Pioneer had finished 30-0 instead of 29-1, it’s likely it would have been Pioneer and not Yucaipa (Calif.) that was in that final No. 1 position.
All 50 teams for these preseason rankings have been written up. Keep in mind again that we have collected results from early games in a few states as well and have considered those results in determining this week’s first lineup of the nation’s best teams. Each team’s record from 2015 also is included.
1. Pioneer (San Jose, Calif.) 29-1
Big-time pitcher Holly Azevedo returns to lead head coach Ernie Garcia’s squad. She only gave up one run last year – which was that one run mentioned in the intro – so her final ERA went up to 0.04. Azevedo, who still has two years remaining in high school, also had 256 strikeouts in 177 innings and raised her batting average to .381. A few of Pioneer’s position players from last year have graduated, but a few others are back, including San Jose State-bound infielder Mackenzie Drake.
2. Deer Park (Deer Park, Texas) 29-7
This team began 7-0 after the weekend of Feb. 19-21, which includes a win over Caldwell, which beat preseason nationally ranked Atascocita. A strong cast of returning players from last year is led by Texas A&M recruit Payton McBride, who had a 1.19 ERA pitching and also batted .577. Erin Edmondson also is a top pitcher and batter (.424 average as a sophomore) while sophomore Makayla Chamberlain is another top returning position player. She hit .449 last season.
3. Baker County (Glen St. Mary, Fla.) 24-4
Last year’s Class 5A state champions won their first five games to start the 2016 season. Many are back from that squad and any team that repeats in any of the top divisions in Florida is a mythical national title contender. Pitcher Macy Jackson, junior catcher Madison Kennedy and infielder Dee Washington are among Baker County’s top returnees.
4. Norco (Norco, Calif.) 27-8
This was the team that won last year’s CIF Southern Section Division I title. And while the Cougars are still young with few seniors and may be up-and-down somewhat once again this season, they will have a powerful lineup plus a returning ace pitcher. That pitcher is junior Taylor Dockins, who had a 26-6 mark and a 1.32 ERA last season. Sophomore shortstop Mikayla Allee (committed to Tennessee) and freshman catcher Kinzie Hansen (committed to Oklahoma and No. 1 in the FloSports Softball Class of 2019 Hot 100) are among head coach Rick Robinson’s best players.
5. Katy (Katy, Texas) 36-6
The Tigers are known for their football program that has finished No. 1 in the nation before and this group seems to have the ingredients to do the same in softball. Although an early loss already this spring needs to be overcome, last year’s team sure did with six losses when it won the Class 5A state title. Only four seniors have departed with a returning group that includes junior pitcher Kourtney Coveney, who won 30 games as a sophomore.
6. Newsome (Lithia, Fla.) 22-5
The Wolves were the Class 8A state champions in the Sunshine State last season and were reported at 6-0 after the weekend of Feb. 19-21 to start the 2016 campaign. They have two pitchers – Claire Feldman and Cassidy Davis – who can beat top opponents. They also have one of the state’s best catchers in senior Hannah Pridemore.
7. Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) 22-6-1
There are a reported eight players from Pacifica who have signed or have committed to Division I colleges. This is not unusual but the norm at this school. It’s still been a challenge for the Mariners to reach the top of the CIF Southern Section and California and previous teams there have had stronger returning pitching. Among those back are Arizona-bound catcher Dejah Mulipola plus all-league picks Jaymee Campbell (first base) and Alison Seng (outfield).
8. Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) 24-3
The Dons in our view are a little like No. 1 Pioneer. They lose some key seniors off last year’s team that won their second straight CIF North Coast Section Division I title, but return their dominant player. In Amador’s case, that would be sophomore Danielle Williams. She was the Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year who pitched every game with a 0.98 ERA and also led the team in hitting at .531. Courtney Dinelli is another key returnee. She was fourth best on last year’s team in hits with 24.
9. North Davidson (Lexington, N.C.) 26-7
The Knights were runner-up in last year’s Class 4A state finals, but they were the team that denied Alexander Central’s shot at a possible unbeaten season and national title and have more returning players than state champ Conley. Junior pitcher Carson Pace (21-2, 1.31 ERA) along with infielders Haley Cole, Lydia Berkley and Casey Stanek are all among those back.
10. Eagle (Eagle, Idaho) 30-1
There’s something about the Mustangs that makes you believe their small state status doesn’t make a difference when they’re compared to others. Maybe it’s that senior Bradie Fillmore (15-1, 0.43 ERA plus .598 batting average, 68 RBI) is headed to Cal while junior Autumn Moffat (14-0, 0.68 ERA) is bound for BYU. Receiving production from the top to the bottom of the order last season, Eagle also loses just one senior starter from last year.
11. Atascocita (Humble, Texas) 25-5
The Eagles have started 6-1 and look like they’ll be firmly in the mix for a Class 6A state title all season long. Baylor-bound senior Shelby McGlaun s back in the circle after going 16-3 while also hitting .481 with six home runs. Also back to man the outfield is senior Kaitlyn Washington, who hit .404 with 35 runs batted in and will be headed to Texas. Multiple other Division I bound standouts also return.
12. Forest (Ocala, Fla.) 30-2
With top returning players such as pitcher Morgan White (all-state last year), infielder Kaitlin Peters and junior outfielder Jasmine Hayes, the Wildcats were one of those teams that may have been preseason No. 1 in these rankings if not for an early loss to Columbia of Lake City. Still, if the team ends up something similar or better than 30-2 and wins another Class 6A state title, then the final ranking will again be in the top 10 or even higher.
13. Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 26-9
When you have a big-time player like Tamara Statman graduating, that’s a blow but Horizon still has a lot of talent returning. Statman (Arizona) struck out 279 batters last season with a 1.54 ERA and also hit .509 with 24 RBI. Horizon’s cast of returnees includes senior Gabby Moreno (.455) and junior Makenna Woods, who led the team in homers as a sophomore.
14. Curry (Jasper, Ala.) 44-5
Alabama’s No. 1 team from last season pretty much has to be up there to start this season. Among the returnees is pitcher Ashlee Swindle, an Auburn signer who went 43-5 in the circle last year with 327 strikeouts and a 0.22 ERA.
15. Crown Point (Crown Point, Ind.) 29-3
For having a one-two pitching combo punch, this team from the Hoosier State looks tough to beat. Both Miranda Elish (Oregon) and Alexis Halloway (Notre Dame) are headed to play for major colleges.
16. West Orange (Winter Garden, Fla.) 26-2
This team returns several major honors recipients from last season. It’s a list that includes the ace pitcher, junior Lauren Mathis, plus senior outfielder Jade Caraway and sophomore outfielder Lexi Blair. West Orange does have an early loss in a 7-1 start, however, that prevented an even higher “preseason” ranking.
17. Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) 25-4
At first glance, head coach Steve Miklos arguably has the most returning talent of any team in the CIF Southern Section. The roster includes Stanford-bound Maddie Dwyer, who as a sophomore went 19-4 in the circle with a 1.66 ERA and also batted .439. Another All-State Underclass returnee is senior MacKenzie Boesel, who ripped eight homers last year and had 37 RBI with a .462 average. One newcomer to watch will be freshman outfielder Ciara Briggs, ranked No. 21 in the Class of 2019 National Player Rankings.
18. O’Connor (Phoenix, Ariz.) 36-7
Last year’s Division I state champions in the Grand Canyon State needs some pitching to step up, but has a ton of other returning players and should be very tough once again. The outfield with senior Justyce McClain and junior Steve McLemore looks especially strong. Also back with all-state recognition already will be sophomores Savanna Avilla (infield) and Madison Westmoreland (catcher/designated hitter).
19. Teas Valley (Asheville, Ohio) 24-9
This team makes the most sense to start off No. 1 in Ohio since it won the Division I state title last season and returns Alyssa Rothwell. She’s the one who threw a one-hitter in the state final and also had the only RBI with a home run. Solid group of others are back as well.
20. Penn (Mishawaka, Ind.) 28-3
Looking to do better this year than last year, which saw their season come to an end in the Class 4A semifinals, the Kingsmen will once again count on the arm of junior Danielle Watson, who was 24-2 with a 1.59 ERA while also helping her own cause hitting .392 with 36 runs batted in. Michigan State-commit junior Katie Quinlan hit .541 with 44 runs scored last season while senior outfielder Addison Pixley is one of several other Division I bound players also back. She hit .427 with 31 RBI and is a commit to Vanderbilt.
21. Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) 25-7
The Griffins have a lot in common with nearby Pacifica in their depth of Division I college talent. Their head coach, Rob Weil, also used to coach at Pacifica. Returning Sunset League MVP Jenna Holcomb also earned All-State Underclass honors in the outfield last season and will be joined in the outfield by all-leaguers Jenna Kean and Alexa Schultz. Three others already with all-league honors are first baseman Cami Sellers, second baseman Caitie Ladd and catcher/shortstop Mary Iakopo.
22. West Forsythe (Clemmons, N.C.) 23-3
This should be another North Carolina squad to watch. Pitcher Brooke Perry is dominating and is headed to Purdue for next season. Also returning are two others with all-state recognition from last year – second baseman Camy Pereira and junior catcher Anna Eppling.
23. Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 30-1
Both Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Palomino are now at Arizona plus many others who had the Diablos sitting at No. 1 in the nation last year until the final game loss to Yucaipa. Still, the cupboard isn’t bare. Camryn Ybarra, an Oregon State recruit, hit nine homers as a junior, while both pitchers, junior Kyra Snyder and Hanna Nilsen, can sling it. They have committed to Louisville and Illinois, respectively.
24. Midway (Waco, Texas) 27-3
The Panthers already have a big win over The Woodlands to start the season but also already have a loss. Still, they look like one of the best for Texas in Class 5A. Pitcher Chandlar Coskrey along with top hitters Taylor Ellis and Rhein Trochim are their top returnees.
25. Coral Springs Charter (Coral Springs, Fla.) 29-0-1
The Class 4A state champions from last season actually have a big game this week against American Heritage of Plantation. They were showing at 7-0 heading into it. Top returning players from last season include junior pitcher Allison Muraskin and senior infielder Kayla Scaperrotta.
26. Lewisville (Lewisville, Texas) 28-7
The Lady Farmers were only 4-2 after their first six outings of this spring, but remain a team to beat in Texas this season. Seven starters are back from last season’s squad that went to the Class 5A state finals. Pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch also is one of the best. She’s signed with LSU.
27. Bishop Carroll (Wichita, Kan.) 25-0
The Golden Eagles were No. 4 in last year’s final rankings and lose some huge seniors, including All-Americans Brittany Finney and Lauren Buchanan. Those back, however, include Jordan Schartz (.635, 28 RBI) and junior Maddie Miller (..493, 34 RBI). Look for Sammy Knoblauch also to perhaps step into a starring role as a pitcher. Bishop Carroll has won five straight state titles and 51 straight games.
28. Sherwood (Sandy Spring, Md.) 22-0
This team last lost a game in 2011 and will have a 64-game winning streak to start 2016. It’s still hard to see a ranking closer to the top 10, however, with the lack of other top national class teams on the schedule. Pitcher Jaime Schmier, who won 20 games last season, should lead the way once again.
29. Oak Park-River Forest (Oak Park, Ill.) 33-4
In looking over the four teams that were in last year’s top divisional state semifinals in Illinois, this one has the best collection of returning players. There were only four seniors, in fact, on last year’s roster. Pitchers Chardonnay Harris and Emily Richardson both did very well last year, combining for 32 wins and 270 strikeouts.
30. Lakewood (Hebron, Ohio) 32-2
There were only three seniors on the roster last season when Lakewood made a run for the Division I state title that came up one win short. Leading the cast of top returnees is Courtney Vierstra, who pitched a one-hitter in last year’s state semifinals and finished 24-2 with a 0.89 ERA.
31. Grand Terrace (Grand Terrace, Calif.) 26-4
We’re starting off this team lower in the rankings than others since the schedule wasn’t strengthened and it plays in a lower CIF Southern Section division. Still, the Titans are loaded with everyone back except one player. Pitcher Melanie Olmos (23-4, 1.46. .429 hitter) and junior infielder Eliyah Flores (13 HRs, .495) are both going to Oklahoma while junior infielder Alyssa Martinez (.400) is committed to Ole Miss.
32. Pearland (Pearland, Texas) 23-7
There are a reported eight Division I scholarship players on the roster for the Lady Oilers. The group includes towering pitcher Alyssa Denham (Louisiana Lafayette recruit). Pearland does have an early loss to Keller, another top Texas squad. Keller was not put into the preseason FAB 50 since it was only 4-3 after its first seven games.
33. McCracken County (Paducah, Ky.) 37-3
Entering this season as the defending Class 3A state champions with a 29-game winning streak, this team should once again be the team to beat in Kentucky with a trio of outstanding pitchers led by Georgetown-bound senior Audrey Dodd (17-1, 0.97) and Louisian Tech-bound senior Jenny Chapman (three perfect games). Hannah Ridolfi also returns with 74 RBI over the last two seasons.
34. St. Mary’s Ryken (Leonardtown, Md.) 23-1
This team was in the FAB 50 for most of last season and has a top returning group of players. Fordham-bound Madison Aughinbaugh is back with a 22-1 pitching record plus 212 strikeouts and a .575 batting average. Another to watch is junior Katie Prebble (.460, 10 doubles, 22 RBI).
35. Sam Houston (Lake Charles, La.) 27-1
It would be hard to not have the Broncos as the preseason favorite to defend their Class 5A state championship as last season’s Miss Softball State Player of the Year, Tanner Wright, returns for her senior season set to pitch every game once again. The Southeastern Louisiana signer had an ERA of 0.75 last season while striking out 190 in 169 innings while also hitting .375 with 17 runs batted in. Also back is all-state shortstop Padyn Williams, who hit .420 during her sophomore season.
36. O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 25-3
Legendary head coach Tommy Orndorff won his 700th game last season and the squad also won its 20th state title in the last 22 years. A very strong group of players return, led by junior Patty Maye Ohanian, who goes to California in the summers to play club ball. She hit .594 last year with nine homers and 57 RBI. Also watch for first baseman Olivia Giaquinto and sophomore pitcher/infielder Kathryn Sandercock.
37. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) 25-2-1
A traditional powerhouse in Florida, head coach Marty Cooper’s girls already have a big win this season over West Orange (26-2 last season). Senior pitcher Madison Canby is one of just three seniors on the squad. It’s a team that lost a lot from last season, but the younger players may be stepping up.
38. Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) 29-1
Legendary head coach Monte Sherrill is now at Pfeiffer University, but it’s still too hard to resist keeping his program in the FAB 50. New coach Darrell Adkins has a lot of holes to fill, too. Still, players like outfielder Tianna Butts, first baseman Taylor Payne and catcher Makenzie Pennell should keep the wins coming.
39. Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 23-9
If you like a team that has experienced, talented seniors, then the Eagles are for you. Both Vanessa Taukeiaho and Megan Stevens hit above .450 last year and both hit 11 homers. Pitcher Briana Wheeler (17-3, 1.31) also is back along with Hailey Freeman (.447, 35 RBI).
40. Keystone (La Grange, Ohio) 26-6
Head coach Jim Piazza should have one of the top teams in the Midwest once again. His team reached the D2 semifinals last season, but returns junior pitcher Lauren Shaw along with all-state Purdue-bound infielder Summer Constable, who hit .535 last season with 33 RBI. Catcher Destiny Weber was an all-state player two years ago and is returning for her senior season after missing last season with a back injury.
41. Baylor School (Chattanooga, Tenn.) 25-3
The Red Raiders won their fourth state title in five years last season (D2 Class AA) and will feature sophomore Cheyenne Lindsey in the leadoff role. She’s already committed to Florida and batted .564 last season with 35 runs scored and 24 RBI. They also return pitcher Kayla Hughes, who has been all-state already twice.
42. East Union (Manteca, Calif.) 30-3
This is a team similar to Grand Terrace in California that has a lot to like, but lacks strength of schedule and doesn’t compete in a top sectional playoff division. All except all-state outfielder Cherish Burks (now at Oregon) are back from last season. Both pitchers – Delaney Pamplin and Mikayla Bongi – along with sluggers Sam Owen (.643, nine HRs, 62 RBI) and Alexis Erich (10 HRs, .644, 59 RBI) lead the list of returnees.
43. Reed (Sparks, Nev.) 37-2
Coming off a season that saw the Raiders capture their first state championship since 1998, it would be hard to not have them be favorites to repeat led by last year’s Gatorade State Player of the Year Julia Jensen. As a sophomore, Jensen went 34-2 with a 0.80 ERA and 346 strikeouts in 211 innings. Committed to Nevada, she also led the offense by hitting .477 with a team-high 43 runs batted in and seven home runs. Among other key returners is a pair of Nevada-bound utility players – senior Kenzi Goins (.403, 53 runs scored) and junior Jessica Sellers (.504, 53 runs scored).
44. Cienega (Vail, Ariz.) 26-8
Last year’s Division II state champs from Arizona have a returning ace pitcher in New Mexico State-bound Kayla Green. Among the position players, Cienega has strength back as well. That group is led by sophomore Miranda Carley (hit .489 last year), junior Tori Brown (.451) and seniore Taylor Lambert (.400).
45. Tahoma (Kent, Wash.) 21-1*
Washington’s defending Class 5A state champs have a lot back, including pitcher Carley Nance, who posted a 1.71 ERA last season. Two others with all-state credential already on their resume are infielder Mia Corbin (.568) and infielder Delany Nelson (39 RBI).
46. Yucaipa (Yucaipa, Calif.) 31-3
Head coach David Kivett loses most of the top players from last year’s roster that got the Thunderbirds to No. 1 in the final FAB 50 national rankings. All-State catcher Kelly Martinez does return along with solid infielders Megan Martin and Mallorie Cross.
47. Parkland (Allentown, Pa.) 27-1
Last year’s Class AAAA state champions were youthful and have to be regarded as a strong favorite in the Keystone State. Class AAAA Player of the Year Aubrie Fitzinger (27-1 in the circle) is among those back along with second team all-state first baseman Chelsea Morgan, a sophomore.
48. Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.) 30-5
A sudden coaching change just within the last month has this team scrambling, but it was one of the very best in Arizona last year and has some players to watch. Junior pitcher Giselle Juarez is one of the state’s best while RBI leader Taylor Kaye, an outfielder, also is back.
49. Westview (Portland, Ore.) 29-3
The Wildcats were the runner-up in Oregon’s top division last year, but have the most back among any of the state’s top contenders. Pitcher Abby Greer struck out 313 batters and had a 0.88 ERA. Sophomore Kelsey Day also is back after hitting six home runs.
50. Oakleaf (Orange Park, Fla.) 17-13
Head coach Christina Thompson’s girls frankly weren’t in the preseason FAB 50, but had to get a listing after winning their first nine games. Among the wins were those against Gainesville (24-2 last year) and Clay (22-6 last season). Watch for Oakleaf to get a big jump in the first regular season rankings
*Indicates team had forfeit losses last season.
TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
- Alhambra (Martinez, Calif.) 25-3
- Alvin (Alvin, Texas) 22-8
- Brazoswood (Clute, Texas) 28-8
- Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.) 27-8
- Clay (Green Cove Springs, Fla.) 22-6
- Conley (Greenville, N.C.) 27-3
- Dickson County (Dickson, Tenn.) 43-6-1
- Dutchtown (Geismar, La.) 26-9
- Elyria (Elyria, Ohio) 24-3
- Enumclaw (Enumclaw, Wash.) 23-2
- Gainesville (Gainesville, Fla.) 24-2
- Marist (Chicago, Ill.) 35-5
- Pinnacle (Phoenix, Ariz.) 25-10
- Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) 24-7
- Southington (Southington, Conn.) 24-0
- Tate (Cantonment, Fla.) 27-4
- The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas) 30-4*
- Washington Township (N.J.) 31-1