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The Top 25 Player of the Year Candidates in Central Coast Section softball

A handful of the top softball players on the West Coast play high school ball in the CIFCCS.

With the CIFCCS softball playoffs over with, here's a look at who we think are the top 25 MVP candidates in the section heading into Regionals.

Jess Oakland – Saint Francis (Mountain View) – SR.

Jess Oakland

When the section champion has arguably the most dominant hitter in the state, that's where the MVP conversation has to start. Oakland, a Minnesota-bound shortstop, has hit 19 home runs with an OPS above 2.100 on arguably the best team in California for the second straight season. She is the reigning SBLive Central Coast Section Athlete of the Year, and has recently been named the 2022 WCAL Player of the Year. Oakland also has career-highs this season in RBIs (63) and OBP (.685), with the former being the highest mark in the CIFCCS. Heading into the last week of the season, it would be an understatement to call her the frontrunner to soon be named the section's Player of the Year.

Sydney Stewart – Saint Francis (Mountain View) – SR.

More than one Lancer is in the discussion of the very best hitter in the section. Stewart followed up a career year in 2021 with an even better one as a senior, setting personal highs in BA (.569), OBP (.683), hits (41), RBIs (48), and home runs (13). This season, she has an OPS of 1.947 and a new career-high in runs scored as well with 32 of them. That makes the Washington commit one of the better-hitting catchers in the entire Class of 2022.

Shannon Keighran – Saint Francis (Mountain View) – SO.

Yet another full-fledged MVP candidate on the 28-2 Open Division champion, Keighran is hitting .552 with six long balls and 25 RBIs in just 58 at-bats. That gives her the third-best OPS on the team at 1.492, and she's also the WCAL Pitcher of the Year to boot. Keighran allowed only 10 earned runs all season going 14-1 in 73 innings, good for a 0.96 ERA to go with 110 strikeouts.

Numerous other Lancers have been arguable top-10 or top-20 players in the CIFCCS this season – Lexi O'Gorman, Carly Cummings, and Chloe Cummings, among others. 

Taryn Kern – Archbishop Mitty – SR.

Kern, an Indiana commit, was about as good as it gets at the plate for the Open Division finalists. She led the 26-4 Monarchs with 13 home runs, 11 doubles, a 1.109 slugging percentage, a 1.706 OPS, and 39 runs scored. She not only produced at an elite level on a great team, but was particularly effective in the clutch to boot.

Mitty has a handful more players among the very best in the section, including sluggers Elon Butler and Corri Hicks and pitchers Ava Markert and Kelly Zybura.

Samantha Rocha – Notre Dame (Salinas) – SR.

Rocha was a consistent workhorse all season in the circle for the No. 3 team in the section. Through the first round of the playoffs, she was 11-4 with a 1.56 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 112.1 innings. She's also a threat at the plate, hitting .286 with a home run and 11 RBIs in 49 at-bats.

Samantha Rey – Notre Dame (Salinas) – JR.

One of the most well-rounded offensive threats in the section, Rey led the Spirits with a .589 batting average, eight homers, 19 total extra-base hits, a slugging percentage of over 1.000, a 1.646 OPS, and 28 RBIs. The Central Florida commit also led the team with 15 stolen bases to score a team-high 36 runs.

Olivia DiNardo – Aragon – SR.

The Arizona signee has had one of the best seasons at the plate in NorCal to lead the Dons to the Open Division semifinals, and also the third seed in the Division 2 Regionals. DiNardo is hitting .609 and is top-five in the section in OBP at .709, and leads Aragon in just about every other offensive category as well: nine home runs, 14 doubles, 38 RBIs, 35 runs scored, and an astronomical OPS of 1.990.

Megan Grant – Aragon – SR.

While her season totals are a bit deflated from missing the first five games of the season, the UCLA commit and USA national team member remained one of the best softball players in NorCal as a senior. She hit .535 with an on-base percentage of .685, and her SLG of well over 1.000 gave her a massive 1.730 OPS. Grant is also a defensive Swiss Army knife with the ability to play middle infield, outfield, and even catcher.

Brooke Tran – Aragon – JR.

An underrated factor in Aragon's big season, Tran tossed 77.2 innings and came out with a 1.17 ERA and 101 strikeouts. Factor out one bad night in a league game against Carlmont that Aragon still won, and she had an ERA under 0.50. Tran was also a force on offense, batting .444 and scoring 26 runs.

Seryna Esparza – San Benito – SR.

Esparza, a first baseman, led an Open Division playoff squad with a .512 batting average, 1.425 OPS, 33 RBIs, and 29 runs scored. She also hit six homers and a team-high 11 doubles.

Anna Bean – Los Gatos – JR.

Bean was one of the top two-way players in the section to lead the Wildcats to a 22-4 record and Open Division playoff birth. In the circle, she went 14-1 with a 1.05 ERA and 120 K's in 86.1 innings. She also led Los Gatos in essentially every statistical category of hitting, finishing with a .443 BA, .506 OBP, .911 SLG, 1.417 OPS, nine homers, and 39 RBIs.

Kokoro Sagae – Santa Teresa – SR.

Sagae led a deep Saints (22-6) lineup with nine long balls, 24 total extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 31 runs scored, .989 SLG, and 1.463 OPS. She hit .474 as well to help Santa Teresa make the Open Division playoffs.

Kassandra Soria and Evangelina Chavarria also received consideration.

Jacqueline Solomon – Cupertino – SR.

Solomon gets the slight nod on a 21-4 Pioneers team with four offensive stars who put up almost identical numbers. She batted .508 and led the team in OBP (.619), OPS (1.373), and runs scored (35), and she also contributed 27 RBIs and three home runs for the Open Division playoff selection.

Grace Townsend, Faith Martinez, and Alyssa Delgado were the other three Cupertino candidates.

Sarissa Block – Carlmont – SR.

The CSU East Bay commit was the top hitter and a big contributor in the circle and on defense for the Division 3 champion. Through the end of the regular season, Block hit .557 with five home runs, 23 total extra-base hits, 25 RBIs, 27 runs scored, and an OPS of 1.566. Additionally, while she's an outfielder by trade, she also led the team in pitching wins.

Emma Fales – Branham – JR.

Fales was one of the two-way players in the section, and was named the 49ers Cal-Hi Sports Pitcher of the Year for the section. She had a 15-7 record and 1.28 ERA in 141.2 innings, plus a .407 BA, 25 RBIs, and 16 extra-base hits for an OPS of 1.101.

Ella Myers – Monterey – FR.

As just a freshman, Myers has established herself as one of the top softball players in the Central Coast Section to lead the Dores on a dominant Division 2 championship run and a Division IV Regional playoffs appearance. She leads Monterey with 11 home runs, 37 RBIs, 34 runs scored, a .434 batting average, a .510 OBP, a slugging percentage of exactly 1.000, and a 1.510 OPS. She's been the team's top player in the circle as well, holding a record of 13-5 with a 2.84 ERA and 138 K's through 111 innings.

Rylee Gomez – Watsonville – SR.

Playing one of the tougher schedules in the section, the Saint Mary's commit hit .480 with nine home runs, 36 RBIs, and an OPS above 1.500.

Nohemi Livingston – Capuchino – JR.

Livingston helped lead Capuchino to the Division 2 finals both hitting and pitching. She batted .395 with 25 RBIs, a 1.231 OPS, and a team-high seven home runs, and was a workhorse in the circle with a 17-6 record and 2.40 ERA in over 160 innings.

Her battery-mate, C/INF and super freshman Avery Motroni, was another strong candidate for the Mustangs.

Ahmiya Noriega – Silver Creek – SR.

Despite facing one of the tougher schedules in the season, Noriega was one of the most dominant hitters in the section to help power the Raiders to the Division 1 semifinals. A slapper and speed threat who can also hit for serious power, the San Jose State signee hit .547 with nine homers, 17 total extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, and an OPS above 1.600, and also swiped 23 bases on her way to scoring 36 runs.

Two-way force Maleah Lopez was another star for Silver Creek.

Ainsley Waddell – Sequoia – JR.

The UCSB commit was as about dominant as it gets as far as two-way players go in the Central Coast Section for a good D1 playoff team. Waddell hit .471 with four dingers and a 1.351 OPS, and went 17-5 with a 0.98 ERA and 213 K's  in 150.2 innings.

Victoria Castillo – Everett Alvarez – SR.

Castillo had a monster season at the plate to help lead the Eagles to a 24-3 record and Division 1 title. She hit .571 with five homers and 19 total extra-bases hits, good for an OPS of 1.714.

Haley Ocumen – Willow Glen – FR.

Ocumen made waves as a freshman for 25-3 Willow Glen, a Division 1 playoff team. She batted .557 with 35 RBIs and 24 extra-base hits for a team-high 1.696 OPS, and scored 41 runs as well.

Faamai Ulu and McKenna Campbell were also outstanding for the Rams.

Madeline Le – Milpitas – JR.

Le helped lead Milpitas to a Division 1 playoff birth hitting .577 with nine homers, 28 RBIs, a massive 1.153 slugging percentage, and a 1.775 OPS.

Taija Warren, one of the top run-scoring threats in the section, was another candidate for the Trojans.

Tauhja Williams – Valley Christian – SR.

Despite playing a WCAL schedule, Williams batted .544 with an OPS above 1.300.

Alexa Couto – Notre Dame (Belmont) – JR.

Couto helped guide Notre Dame to the Division 1 finals hitting .492 with eight homers, 31 RBIs, a SLG above 1.100, and a 1.679 OPS. She also stole 16 bases on her way to scoring 39 runs.

Malaina Alifano also received consideration for the Tigers.