On the field and off, Andi Ramirez was the unquestioned leader of the Simi Valley Royal softball team. She was always easy to find, mostly because she was always doing something to help the Highlanders win.
Whether it was scoring the big run, driving it in, or saving it with her defense, Ramirez was the model of consistency.
The senior shortstop had always performed well in the past, but she galvanized her elite status during her fourth year in the starting lineup.
Ramirez was an obvious choice as The Times' softball player of the year for her contribution to Royal's near-perfect season, which ended with the Highlanders (29-2) winning the Southern Section Division I championship, their first title in the section's toughest-ever playoff field.
She hit safely in 13 of the last 14 games. Royal ended the season with 15 consecutive victories, during which it beat eight teams that had been ranked among The Times' top 25. In five playoff victories, including three by one run, Ramirez batted .529 (nine for 17), scored six runs and drove in three.
In Royal's first trip to a final, Ramirez delivered a leadoff single to center field, stole second and scored on a sacrifice and throwing error. In five minutes, she had manufactured the only run necessary in a 2-0 victory over Valencia.
"I try to lead by my actions," Ramirez said. "It's not necessarily telling the team what to do, but showing them, trying to lead the way."
Said Royal assistant Todd Prieto: "BYU is fortunate to get a lady of that character. She's never negative, a very positive young lady."
Ramirez wasn't an obvious player-of-the-year candidate at the beginning of the season. She had always been steady, but Coach Bill Dishon soon realized that Ramirez had turned into "a monster" at the plate. "She just kind of quietly got it done in the past," he said.
This season, Ramirez roared. Royal scored 178 runs, the most among any Division I team, and Ramirez had a hand in 56 of them, or 31.4%, from the leadoff spot.
She batted .460, scored 39 runs and had 18 runs batted in. An aggressive hitter, she had four doubles, six triples, one home run, a .539 on-base average and 13 stolen bases.
"First of all, you do not want to put her in a clutch situation because she'll come through," said Newbury Park Coach Darrin Carr, whose team was the last to defeat Royal, 4-3, six weeks before the season ended. "Defensively, you don't want to hit the ball anywhere near her.
"You can't put yourself in a situation where Andi's going to hurt you because she will."
And she did.THE TIMES' ALL-STAR SOFTBALL TEAM PJordan Taylor, ValenciaSo.Taylor (18-3) ended the season with 58 consecutive scoreless innings, including the last seven in relief during Valencia's first appearance in a section title game. She struck out 233 in 148 innings, with a 0.57 ERA.PBrittany Weil, Garden Grove PacificaSr.Iowa-bound pitcher was credited with 101 career victories, including a 23-3 mark with 0.35 ERA and 290 strikeouts in 162.1 innings this season. A three-time all-star, she gave up a hit every 3 1/3 innings.CTiffany Huff, SaugusJr.With 33 runs, 31 RBIs and six homers, Huff accounted for 58 of the Centurions' 160 runs. She batted .460, had a slugging percentage of .885 and drew 20 walks as Saugus reached the Division I semifinals. 1BDeAnn Young, CamarilloSr.A repeat all-star, the Oregon State-bound lefty was a source of much anxiety for pitchers. Even though her statistics dipped, she was outstanding by most standards: .374 average, 22 runs and 25 RBIs. IFJennifer Griffin, CaliforniaSr.Smooth-fielding third baseman could be a starter next season for No. 3 Tennessee. She batted .489, with an .803 slugging percentage, and had 34 runs, 27 RBIs, 23 walks and 21 stolen bases.IFNicole Kajitani, CajonJr. The 5-foot-1 middle infielder batted .520 with 30 runs, 26 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Her 16 doubles were one shy of the section record and helped Cajon reach the section semifinals for first time since 1996.IFAndi Ramirez, RoyalSr.Brigham Young-bound shortstop was the guiding force and undisputed leader for the Division I champion. The Times' player of the year batted .460 with 39 runs and 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot.OFKatie Chifcian, RosarySr.Dynamic Dartmouth-bound right fielder was an outstanding clutch hitter, batting .438 and driving in 33 runs for the Royals. She finished with five home runs and 26 runs scored.OFKaitlin Cochran, RosarySr.Two-time all-star batted .500 over four years. The Arizona State-bound center fielder finished in the top five in the Southern Section for career hits, triples and doubles. She batted .560 with 32 runs and nine RBIs. OFMonica Gonzales, WestlakeSr.Speedy Brigham Young-bound center fielder with great arm and range, Gonzales hit safely in 13 of 14 games against top-25 opponents. She batted .465, scored 24 runs, had 22 steals and six RBIs. UTBriana Santos, Mater DeiSr.Pacific-bound pitcher (18-5, 1.08 ERA), first baseman and outfielder led Monarchs to Division I semifinals as she batted .374 with 39 RBIs and, when a courtesy runner wasn't used, nine runs — four on homers. Coach of the Year: Melissa Chavez, El DoradoTook over the program at mid-season after previous coach was arrested and guided it to the Division II finals despite defections by two starters. She also was honored in 2002 after guiding Golden Hawks to unexpected title before resigning to begin a family. THE TIMES' ALL-REGION TEAMS Central CityPChachera Brantley, CrenshawJr.PChristina Salazar, MarshallSr.CErica Kula, Eagle RockSr. 1BMelissa O'Connor, Eagle RockJr. IFChanel Brantley, CrenshawSo.IFMelissa Gomez, BellSo.IFErica Najera, FranklinJr.OFErin Anderson, DorseySr.OFValerie Gochez-Frasch, MarshallJr.OFCelyda Jaramillo, FranklinJr. UTJessica Villegas, BravoJr. Player of the Year: Chachera Brantley, CrenshawPitcher of the Year: Christina Salazar, MarshallCoach of the Year: Frank Price, CrenshawDesert/MountainPMarissa Araujo, IndioJr.PHelen Pena, HemetJr.CJennifer Grutz, La QuintaJr.IFAngel Freeman, HesperiaSr.IFStephanie McCauley, SerranoSr. IFLorraine Sanchez, Indio Sr.IFErinn Webb, HemetJr.OFDeidre Chatigny, BeaumontJr.OFKrystal Navarro, SultanaJr.OFAshley Oliveira, SultanaJr. UTAllison Clark, HesperiaSo.Player of the Year: Marissa Araujo, IndioPitcher of the Year: Helen Pena, HemetCoach of the Year: Darrin Norman, HemetInland EmpirePBrittney Bargar, CoronaSr.PSarah Vertelka, Rancho CucamongaJr.CBrittany Minder, Valley ViewSo.1BNikki Lowe, NorcoSr.IFNicole Kajitani, CajonJr.IFLindsey Ubrun, Riverside PolySr.IFKim Waleszonia, FontanaSr.OFEmily Hillis, Murrieta ValleySr.OFMonica Montez, CoronaJr.OFTiffany Wright, SantiagoSr.UTVernae Sevilla, Rancho CucamongaJr.Player of the Year: Nicole Kajitani, CajonPitcher of the Year: Brittney Bargar, CoronaCoach of the Year: Mike Smith, Chino HillsOrange CountyPTaylor Peyton, RosaryJr.PBrittany Weil, PacificaSr.CRosey Neill, Laguna HillsJr.1BKrista Seeman, WoodbridgeJr.IFMonica Harrison, PacificaSo.IFLinda Kohan, WestminsterSr.IFKelly Melone, LoaraSr.OFKatie Chifcian, RosarySr.OFKaitlin Cochran, RosarySr.OFAshley Weber, Mater DeiSr.UTBriana Santos, Mater DeiSr.Player of the Year: Kaitlin Cochran, RosaryPitcher of the Year: Brittany Weil, PacificaCoach of the Year: Melissa Chavez, El DoradoSan Fernando ValleyPMegan Miller, El Camino RealJr.PJordan Taylor, ValenciaSo. CTiffany Huff, SaugusJr. 1BBreanne Javier, ValenciaSr.IFLaura Kratochvil, AlemanySr.IFWhitney Lowe, ValenciaSr. IFEmily Sudick, HartJr.OFSarah Garcia, AlemanyJr.OFVictoria Kemp, SaugusSo.OFDaryn Rose, El Camino RealSr. UTKim Weinstein, ChaminadeSr.Player of the Year: Tiffany Huff, SaugusPitcher of the Year: Jordan Taylor, ValenciaCoach of the Year: Lori Chandler, ECRSan Gabriel ValleyPMel Gomez, Western ChristianSr.PJenna Schactner, Flintridge PrepSr.CJessica Purcell, NogalesSo.1BCaitlyn Jackson, Pomona CatholicJr.IFNikki Dominguez, Bishop AmatSo.IFLindsay O'Neil, Charter OakSr.IFKym Silagyi, Pomona CatholicSr.OFAudrey Andrade, GlendaleSr.OFVicky Sotelo, West CovinaSr.OFKanani Warren, WalnutJr.UTAngie Quiocho, WalnutJr.Player of the Year: Kim Silagyi, Pomona CatholicPitcher of the Year: Mel Gomez, Western Chr.Coach of the Year: Kerrie Hensley, RosemeadSouth Bay/WestsidePMonica Alnes, PeninsulaSr.PTaylor Petty, San PedroFr.CDarcy Pagnini, Mira CostaSr.1BAmanda Taualii, North TorranceJr.IFKat Delpit, PeninsulaSr.IFChristina Schallig, CarsonJr.IFStephanie Tam, San PedroSr.OFLandon Nillson, TorranceJr.OFPriscilla Satete, BanningSo.OFKeiko Uraguchi, PeninsulaJr.UTPerelini Koria, San PedroFr.Player of the Year: Darcy Pagnini, Mira CostaPitcher of the Year: Monica Alnes, PeninsulaCoach of the Year: Tony Dobra, San PedroSoutheast/South CoastPSadie Barton, ParamountSr.PKara Harper, MillikanSr.CMelissa Roth, Long Beach PolyJr.1BMonique Fuiava, WarrenSo. IFAkemi Fleming, MillikanSr.IFJennifer Griffin, CaliforniaSr.IFChris Ramos, LakewoodSr. OFNikki Johansen, La MiradaSr. OFDanielle Linke, La SernaSr.OFPatricia Paine, MillikanSr.UTLauren Lupinetti, LakewoodSr.Player of the Year: Jennifer Griffin, California Pitcher of the Year: Kara Harper, MillikanCoach of the Year: Bill Barton, ParamountVentura/North CoastPTami Weston, VenturaSr. PKimi Wong, Dos PueblosJr. CCaitlin Bailey, Newbury ParkSr.1BDeAnn Young, CamarilloSr. IFDevon Hofland, RoyalSr.IFAndi Ramirez, RoyalSr.IFTaylor Schlopy, Oaks ChristianSo. OFMonica Gonzales, WestlakeSr.OFKris Lesovsky, RoyalSo. OFSamantha Takeshita, Thou. OaksFr.UTMegan Shie, WestlakeSr. Player of the Year: Andi Ramirez, RoyalPitcher of the Year: Kimi Wong, Dos PueblosCoach of the Year: Bill Dishon, Royal