Riverside County is home to more top-end high school softball talent than any county in the state, and much of that talent will return in 2021.
With an eye on next season — when we’re all hoping California high school softball will resume — here’s a look at the five teams we think will be atop the heap in a loaded Riverside County.
Beaumont was clearly in the mix for a Southern Section Division 2 title after a great 10-0 start in 2020. The Cougars started out mostly blowing out overmatched foes who weren’t upper-division contenders, but did get in a win over a great Esperanza team before the season was canceled. And they’ll have a chance in 2021 to picked up where they left off.
Gone will be ace Julia Shepherd, who is also one of their top hitters. Starting infielders Bree Gardinier and Laura Quintanilla will also be sorely missed. But much of the core will be back.
Jasmine Plascencia was solid in the circle as a freshman in 2019 and great through 12 innings in her sophomore campaign. She will be ready for a bigger role in 2021, and is also one of Beaumont’s better hitters. 1B Jillian Vasquez and 3B/C Irene Martin were arguably their best hitters in 2020, and they’ll both be back. OF KayLee Vasquez, OF Alyssa Warrick, and MIF Priscilla Mora are a few more returning starters, and a number of impact reserves will be back as well.
Murrieta Mesa Rams
Murrieta Mesa was off to a terrific 9-2 start in 2020 despite a tough schedule, and their core only had a few seniors. They lost by one to Valley View, split meetings with Corona Centennial, and beat the likes of Huntington Beach and Ayala. If they can handle the loss of a few big bats, they could emerge as one of the top teams in all of California in 2021.
Senior SS Presligh Pilon was hitting the ball extremely well in 2020, and their infield and lineup will also really miss 3B/1B Lauren Randle and C Hannah McCluney. While that’s a lot to lose, the rest of the team is coming back, including seven rising seniors who were all big parts of their success this past season.
Among the returners are Lacie Ham, one of the best pitchers in SoCal who’s also a threat at the plate. There’s also Sophia Ruiz and Kayln Hill, two of only three Rams to play in all 11 games. 2B Bella Flexen was one of their best hitters in 2020 as well. And returning as a junior will be 3B Jaelyn Eaves, arguably their best hitter in 2020. Throw in a number of other impact returners, and Murrieta Mesa has a chance to be elite.
Picking against Norco softball not being around the top of any regional list would be like picking against water being wet. And while Norco is losing a number of star seniors, they have more than enough returning talent to be one of the top teams in the state.
They’ll lose one of the best pitchers in the country, Sarah Willis, who is also a great hitter. Also gone will be starters OF Allison Beecher, SS/2B Kyleigh Sand, 3B Kylie Emanuel, and 1B/2B Katelyn Olson. Beecher and Sand in particular had arguably been Norco’s two best hitters in 2020.
But returning will be both plenty of star contributors and surely a load of college-caliber talent that has been waiting in the wings. Stevie Hansen, another one of the best pitchers in the country, will be back in the circle for her senior year. Back in the field will be C Delaney Whieldon, OF Abbey Dayton, and infielder Alyssa Hovermale among plenty of others.
There’s a chance that Norco won’t have quite as much firepower next season as the softball world is accustomed to seeing from them. But at worst, they should still be one of the top teams in SoCal.
A program on the rise, Ramona was off to one of their best starts yet in 2020. The Rams were 8-1 and had outscored foes 100-10. Their only loss came narrowly against an elite Alta Loma squad. And they’ll only lose two starters going into 2021.
Next year they’ll be stacked with star juniors and a couple of star seniors. Brianna Lopez was so good in the circle in 2020 that Ramona did not have a need for another pitcher to throw a single pitch. Nine appearances, nine complete games, a perfect game, two other no-hitters, and two more shutouts. Even without a tough schedule, that’s a remarkable stretch.
Among their returning position players are rising juniors SS/OF Alyssa Rebolledo and 1B Katelyn Gifford, who combined to hit over .500 in 2020. With numerous other stars in the field and at the plate coming back, Ramona could make the leap into the area’s premier legion of softball teams in 2021.
Roosevelt was 6-3 with about as tough a schedule as it gets in 2020. Their losses came to Los Alamitos, Saugus, and Bishop Amat, and their wins came against Uplands, Redlands, Los Altos, Claremont, Marina, and Salpointe Catholic (Arizona). They had the potential to go on a deep Division 1 playoff run.
The Mustangs will return much of their core next year despite the loss of a few key seniors. P Alyssa Argomaniz will be gone from the circle and starters Madalie Gomez, Rylie West, and Maddie Thompson will be gone from the lineup. Still, Roosevelt will have another star pitcher, Alyvia Hernandez, and several big bats will back. Among them are Kayla Lion, Keely Townsend, Dakota Carter, Alyssa Townsend, and Ashlee Annett.
Roosevelt’s sophomore class is very strong, which means the Mustangs will be in the mix in 2021 and 2022.
These teams were in consideration for the top five and should be contenders in 2021: Corona Centennial, Santiago (Corona), Temecula Valley