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The Top 20 Player of the Year candidates in Sac-Joaquin Section softball

The Sac-Joaquin Section is home to many of the best softball players on the West Coast.

The CIFSJS softball season is far from over, but it is starting to wrap up. So it's time to start thinking about who in the section had the best individual seasons in 2022. 

The Sac-Joaquin Section has a particularly strong saturation of players who dominate in both the batter's box and the circle, and many more elite all-around softball players. Here's the rundown on which 20 players we think have had the best campaigns this softball season, and some other great players we considered for the list.

Emma Falen – Folsom – SR.

Who's been the best pitcher in Sac-Joaquin Section softball this season? Falen is instantly one of the top candidates as possessor of the best ERA in the section (0.41) despite facing one of its absolute toughest schedules. To have only allowed seven earned runs in 116 innings playing in the SFL constitutes an incredible senior campaign for the UC Riverside signee. She's also already eclipsed 200 strikeouts on the season.

Caroline Grimes – Del Oro – SR.

One of numerous two-way stars on this list, Grimes has been outstanding in both the batter's box and the circle to lead one of the best teams in the section. She's hitting over .400 with four home runs and 26 RBIs for the 23-4 Sierra Foothill League power, and is 14-3 with a 1.73 ERA on 129.1 innings. The UC Davis commit is also averaging well over a strikeout per inning and has a WHIP under 1.00.

Hope Jenkins – St. Francis (Sacramento) – SR.

Jenkins has been both one of the best hitters and best pitchers in the section this season for the D2 heavyweight. The UConn commit is batting over .500 with six home runs, 28 RBIs, and an OPS near 1.500. In the circle, she leads the section in wins with room to spare at 22-3, she's top-five in strikeouts with 274 of them, and she totes a 1.39 ERA with over 160 innings pitched. She was named by 49ers Sac-Hi Sports as the North Sac-Joaquin Section co-Player of the year with her battery-mate. More on that shortly.

Grace Jenkins – St. Francis (Sacramento) – SR.

Hope Jenkins' twin sister Grace Jenkins is the other 49ers Sac-Hi Sports North co-Player of the Year, and another UConn commit. She's hitting .531 with 11 long balls, and has both scored and driven in 34 runs, good for a massive OPS of 1.672, and she's an outstanding defensive catcher who can play numerous other positions as well.

Hazyl Gray – Vanden – SR.

Gray, a Santa Clara commit, has been the ace pitcher and key power hitter on arguably the best team in the section. Even though the Vikings are yet to play their 20th game, Gray has already notched six homers and 32 RBIs. She's batting .466 with an on-base percentage of .551, good for a team-high OPS of 1.465. In the circle she's a perfect 14-0 with a 0.83 ERA and 123 K's in 84 innings. Gray is known for her next-level command as a pitcher and has recently been named the MEL Pitcher of the Year.

Mia Santos – Vanden – SR.

Another MVP candidate on the Division 3 favorite, Santos is batting .617, and has hit safely in 18 of Vanden's 19 games. The Chico State commit has stolen 24 bases and scored 27 times in just 19 games.

Delainey Everett – Oakdale – JR.

A Mississippi State commit and the 49ers Sac-Hi Sports South Player of the Year, Everett has been one of the state's best pitchers and a tremendous power hitter as well. In over 100 innings of work, she's one of only two players in the section with an ERA below 0.50. Her record is 12-2 and she totes a staggeringly low WHIP of 0.69 to go with 190 strikeouts. Additionally, Everett is hitting .450 with an OBP well above .500, 35 RBIs, six home runs, and 23 total extra-base hits.

Amanda Bricker – Oakdale – SR.

Bricker, a Cal Baptist commit, has been another dominant hitter for the 26-2-1 Mustangs. She leads the team in batting average (.506) and on-base percentage (.550) while supplying a lot of power out of the middle infield. Bricker has notched 20 extra-base hits, three of which were homers, and has both driven in and scored at least 30 runs.

Aissa Silva – Elk Grove – JR.

Recently named the 49ers Sac-Hi Sports North Pitcher of the Year, Silva has tossed 154.1 innings across 26 appearances and has a 0.59 ERA despite facing one of the section's toughest schedules. Her record is 18-5, she's thrown two no-hitters, and her 299 strikeouts is the highest single season mark in school history. Silva is also a major contributor for the Thundering Herd in the batter's box, hitting .366 with a .410 OBP and 23 RBIs.

Brielle Wright – Rocklin – SR.

Wright's stats don't explode off the page the way they do for most of the other players on this list, but there should be no debate that the Princeton commit deserves her spot. Not only does Rocklin play one of the toughest schedules in NorCal to begin with, but Wright often rests the few times the Thunder play a non-elite foe. And she still has a 1.83 ERA and 163 K's through 134 innings pitched while also contributing at the plate.

Randi Roelling – Central Catholic – JR.

It's not a stretch to say Roelling has been as dominant as any pitcher in the state this year. She's No. 2 in both the section and the state in strikeouts with 348 of them in 147 innings, which means she averages 2.37 K's/inning. Now throw in a 15-2 record and 0.52 ERA on one of the better teams in the state, and you have one of the best pitchers out there. There was only game in which Roelling didn't record 10 strikeouts, and it was when she only pitched for an inning – and still struck out the side. The Cal commit was named the 49ers Sac-Hi Sports South Pitcher of the Year, and is also a standout hitter/first baseman with a .349 BA and five dingers.

Jackie Lujan – Orestimba – JR.

Lujan has led the charge for one of the best teams in Division 4 both offensively and in the circle. She's one of the best contact hitters in the CIFSJS with a .623 batting average, and has 33 RBIs and an OPS above 1.400. Lujan has also thrown over 100 innings with an ERA of just 1.06 and 182 strikeouts.

Andrea Lira – St. Mary's (Stockton) – SR.

With one of the scariest combinations of contact and speed in the section, Lira is batting .568 with an OBP north of .600 and an OPS close to 1.500. She has 54 hits on the season, and 20 of them have been doubles. Throw in a whopping 34 stolen bags, and the Nevada commit has scored 36 runs.

Tayler Biehl – Vista Del Lago – SR.

Biehl's batting line is extraordinary. She's hitting .561 and has walked 13 times, giving her an on-base percentage of .642. She's already racked up 22 extra-base hits, seven of which were long balls, and with a slugging percentage of 1.166, she has an astronomical OPS of 1.809. The Arizona signee has also registered 32 RBIs, 18 stolen bases, and 38 runs scored on the year.

Ana Niles – Ponderosa – JR.

Niles was a lynchpin at pitcher and a key hitter/third baseman as well for the 22-4-1 Bruins, a top-five team in Division 3. She went 14-1 with a 1.09 ERA in 90 innings, and batted .363 with four home runs and 25 RBIs to finish with a 1.053 OPS.

Dakota Kennedy – Sheldon – SR.

The term "five-tool player" is so burnt out in baseball/softball that it's rarely used these days. But it's hard not to evoke the phrase to describe Kennedy, an Arizona signee who's among the top-ranked outfield prospects in the country. She's batting .455 and has walked 19 times to tote an on-base percentage of .564. She's hit nine doubles, two triples, and 10 home runs, good for an OPS above 1.500, and has driven in 37 runs. Kennedy has also stolen 14 bases and scored 48 times for arguably the best team in the section, and is a star in the field to boot.

Reina Zermeno – Sheldon – SR.

While Zermeno has been an arguable top-20 player in the section all season, her last four games over eight days in particular have put her near the top of the MVP conversation. On the season, she's hitting .521 with a .587 OBP and 24 extra-base hits, six of which are home runs. Zermeno also has 35 RBIs and 40 runs scored on the season, and she's a major contributor defensively at first base, a position often reserved for big hitters without much defensive prowess. As for that aforementioned stretch of her last four games, two of which were playoff games, Zermeno hit 12-15 with three homers, eight total extra-base hits, and 10 RBIs.

Brianna Humphrees – Dixon – SR.

With 10 home runs, 42 RBIs, and a slugging percentage above 1.200, Humphrees has been one of the best power hitters in the CIFSJS this season. She's doing it while also hitting for contact at an elite level, batting .588 for an astronomical OPS of 1.817. Humphrees is also one of the section's best basketball players and a water polo star, but will focus on softball at the next level and is committed to San Diego Christian College.

Ava Hernandez – Big Valley Christian – SO.

While she's the only player featured in our top 20 who doesn't play one of the tougher schedules in the section, Hernandez has been so dominant for the 19-6 Lions that she still makes the cut. Pitching almost every inning (150.1) all season for BVC, she's 18-5 with a 0.88 ERA and one of the state's leaders in strikeouts (292). Hernandez is also hitting .525 with an OBP near .600, a 1.334 OPS, 13 stolen bases, 23 RBIs, and 33 runs scored.

Peja Goold – Lincoln (Stockton) – SR.

A Tennessee - Chattanooga commit with one of the filthiest arrays of off-speed pitches in California, Goold is 15-3 with a 0.90 ERA for a team that's currently in the D1 semifinals. In 124 innings of work, she's racked up 252 K's, good for an average of more than two strikeouts per inning. And those numbers come despite her taking time off the circle (and moving to third base) sometimes when Lincoln faces lesser competition. Goold is a key contributor on offense as well, and is batting .333 with six doubles, five homers, and 28 RBIs.


Kailey Estes – Gregori – SO.

Cali Cole – Stone Ridge Christian – SO.

Shelby Shanks – Bear Creek – SR.

Malaya Johnson – Roseville – SR.

Felesha LePenske – Dixon – SO.

Lexi Coyle – Dixon – SR.

Hailey Scott – Folsom – SR.

Kendal Manley – Del Oro – SR.

Olivia Robison – Del Oro – SR.

Haylee Engelbrecht – Del Oro – SR.

Danielle Hunter – Lincoln (Stockton) – JR.

Sammy Smith – Vista Del Lago – SR.

Charlize Cai – Vista Del Lago – SO.

Raegan Everett – Oakdale – SO.

Jaylee Ojo – Sheldon – JR.

Breanna Romero – Sheldon – SR.

D'Auna Johnson – Sheldon – SR.

Imani Black – Sheldon – SR.

Jenissa Conway – Marysville – JR.

Bailie Clark – Calaveras – SR.