Advertisement
Share

Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team: Zoe Prystajko put herself on the map, put away offenses for Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach High School pitcher Zoe Prystajko is the Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team Player of the Year.
Huntington Beach High School pitcher Zoe Prystajko is the Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team Player of the Year.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach softball coach Jeff Forsberg has had the privilege of managing an impressive list of pitchers.

Zoe Prystajko, who just finished her sophomore season for the Oilers, might just top them all.

“In my 17 years at Huntington Beach High School, I have been blessed to be around amazing pitchers, including Amanda Horowitz, Micaela Vierra and Grace Uribe,” Forsberg said. “Zoe has the highest ceiling of them all. She had the beginnings of becoming a pitcher versus a thrower her sophomore year and dominated everyone. She grew up and became a team leader.”

The hard-throwing left-hander blew away the competition with a riseball that consistently missed bats in the upper half of the strike zone.

Huntington Beach pitcher Zoe Prystajko recorded 158 strikeouts over 90 2/3 innings in her sophomore season.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Prystajko knows all too well the success she had with her out pitch, one that led her to some gaudy numbers in the circle for Huntington Beach (21-8, 9-0 in the Surf League). She posted a 0.46 earned-run average, recording 158 strikeouts over 90 2/3 innings.

“I’m hoping for improvement,” Prystajko said when asked if she expected to add velocity as she gets older. “I’m good with my numbers now, but I know there’s always space to grow for that. Speed isn’t the only thing that makes a pitcher great. I think knowing where the ball goes and how to locate it is also important.”

Forsberg also brought up the names of some Huntington Beach pitchers who have gone on to play in college — Horowitz (Boston College), Vierra (Santa Clara) and Uribe (Texas A&M).

The current ace of the Oilers certainly has those aspirations.

Huntington Beach's Zoe Prystajko was named the Most Valuable Pitcher of the Surf League this season.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Definitely playing college level and high-level softball and playing the best teams in the country, like the [Women’s College] World Series, that would be probably one of my highest goals for softball,” Prystajko said.

Prystajko, the Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team Player of the Year, hit .271 with six doubles and three home runs at the plate.

The Huntington Beach offense was not as potent as in years past (the Oilers averaged 4.7 runs per game), but with Prystajko, the Oilers still managed to run the table in the Surf League. Lack of run support did in Huntington Beach in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, as the Oilers fell to visiting Whittier La Serna 2-1 in 11 innings. Prystajko had 15 strikeouts in the contest.

Huntington Beach High School pitcher Zoe Prystajko is the Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team Player of the Year.
Huntington Beach High School pitcher Zoe Prystajko is the Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team Player of the Year.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

For the season, Prystajko had eight double-digit strikeout performances, including a 20-strikeout game in a 1-0 win against Clovis on March 5. She was named the Surf League’s Most Valuable Pitcher and an All-CIF Division 1 honoree.

“Zoe really came into her own in 2022,” Forsberg said. “She really contributed on both sides of the game, but when she pitched, she put the team on her back. The team had utmost confidence in her.

“Losing early in the playoffs has only stimulated our returners for next year, as we have the belief we are one of the top Division 1 teams in CIF and [the] state and can build on last season’s success. With Zoe in the middle and our returners, our future is very bright.”

Fountain Valley's Marissa Sardinas high-fives Rick Aldrich after scoring against San Marino on May 12.
Fountain Valley’s Marissa Sardinas high-fives Rick Aldrich after scoring against San Marino on May 12.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Rick Aldrich

Fountain Valley

Aldrich’s confidence in his team could not have been higher, as he never missed a moment to say how proud he was of the way the Barons were playing for each other. Fountain Valley (23-5-1, 9-0 in the Wave League) rolled to an undefeated Wave League crown and garnered the No. 1 overall seed in the Division 5 playoffs, before being knocked out by San Bernardino Cajon in the semifinals. The Barons got contributions from all over the field, but notably from the pitching circle, as freshman Courtney Kols held rival Newport Harbor to three runs in the teams’ four meetings to unseat the Sailors as league champions.

Fountain Valley's Courtney Kols pitches during a CIF Division 5 quarterfinal game against San Marino on May 12.
Fountain Valley’s Courtney Kols pitches during a CIF Division 5 quarterfinal game against San Marino on May 12.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

FIRST TEAM

Courtney Kols

P | Fountain Valley | Fr.

Why not take every advantage you can get? While the Barons produced more than nine runs per game on offense this season, Kols gave Fountain Valley a chance to win the low-scoring affairs. The freshman right-hander went 17-3 with a 1.88 earned-run average in 26 appearances. Kols attacked the strike zone, as evidenced by her strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Wave League’s Most Valuable Pitcher struck out 82 batters and walked 12 in 138 innings.

Marina's Zoe King (35) high-fives courtesy runner Preslee Brower during a Surf League softball opener against Edison.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Zoe King

C | Marina | Sr.

From her older sister Ryan (Middle Tennessee State) to Zoe (North Dakota State) herself, the Kings manned the backstop for the Vikings for much of the last decade. King earned Surf League first-team honors after contributing a .310 batting average with a team-leading 20 runs driven in. Throughout her time with Marina (10-15, 2-7), King was asked to help pitchers navigate the minefield that is the Surf League with perennial powers like Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos to compete with.

Fountain Valley's Makenzie Butt gestures to her teammates after hitting a two-run home run against Barstow on May 5.
Fountain Valley’s Makenzie Butt gestures to her teammates after hitting a two-run home run against Barstow on May 5.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Makenzie Butt

1B | Fountain Valley | So.

A team is often considered well off if it is strong up the middle, but the Barons likely had no complaints about their strength at the corner infield spots. Third baseman Veronica Moore and Butt were the twin towers that saw Fountain Valley slug its way to the top seed in Division 5. Butt, a first-team all-Wave League performer, authored a pair of two-home run performancesagainst Barstow and San Marino — in the postseason. She led the Barons with a .540 batting average, 35 runs scored and 33 runs batted in. The sophomore had 10 doubles and seven homers.

Ocean View's Sienna Erskine makes the catch against Upland Western Christian in the CIF Division 5 final on June 18, 2021.
Ocean View’s Sienna Erskine makes the catch against Upland Western Christian in the CIF Division 5 final on June 18, 2021.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Sienna Erskine

2B | Ocean View | So.

Erskine returned to handle defensive duties at a pivotal middle infield spot, and she also led the Seahawks at the plate with a .437 batting average. She had nine doubles, one triple and seven stolen bases to put herself in scoring position for her teammates. Ocean View (6-16, 2-8 in the Golden West League) missed out on the playoffs and a chance to defend its CIF Division 5 championship from the previous season. The sophomore was a first-team all-league selection.

Fountain Valley's Makenzie Butt gets a hug from Veronica Moore after hitting a solo home run against San Marino on May 12.
Fountain Valley’s Makenzie Butt gets a hug from Veronica Moore after hitting a solo home run against San Marino on May 12.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Veronica Moore

3B | Fountain Valley | Jr.

To loosely borrow from Britney Spears, the order of the day was “Gimme Moore” as the Barons’ third baseman helped lead a team that averaged more than nine runs per game. Moore, the Wave League MVP, hit .426 with a team-best 36 runs batted in, leading the Barons to their first league title since 2001. She scored 34 runs, hammering out 13 doubles, two triples and seven home runs while also handling defensive duties from the hot corner.

Huntington Beach's Jaylene Duarte makes a throw to first during a Surf League game against Los Alamitos on March 22.
Huntington Beach’s Jaylene Duarte makes a throw to first during a Surf League game against Los Alamitos on March 22.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Jaylene Duarte

SS | Huntington Beach | Sr.

The light-hitting Oilers had less power than in previous seasons, but Huntington Beach still managed to run the table in the Surf League behind its pitching and defense. Duarte, a star with a strong arm, committed three errors in 56 chances from the left side of the infield, while also turning three double plays. Duarte, a Surf League first-team honoree, matched Prystajko for the team lead in home runs with three. She hit .338 with 19 runs scored and 17 runs batted in.

Huntington Beach's Sophia Knight scores on a single by Jaylene Duarte in a Surf League game against Marina on April 19.
Huntington Beach’s Sophia Knight scores on a single by Jaylene Duarte in a Surf League game against Marina on April 19.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Sophia Knight

OF | Huntington Beach | Jr.

The first thing that comes to mind with Knight is speed, a necessary asset to play center field successfully. Whether the ball was hit into the gap, or the wind was playing tricks on a pop fly, Knight was there to clean it up. Knight paced the Oilers with 19 extra-base hits (13 doubles, four triples, two home runs). A Surf League co-MVP (shared with Los Alamitos’ Taylor Johnson), Knight had 46 hits out of the leadoff spot, batting .484 with 28 runs, 20 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

Morgan Drotter

OF | Huntington Beach | Fr.

With Prystajko looking to retire hitters up in the strike zone, the Oilers could expect contact in the air. Drotter flagged down the fly balls sent to left field, and she matched Knight with two outfield assists. The freshman recorded 59 putouts without committing an error. She hit .347 with three doubles and 13 RBIs.

McKayla Cotton

P/DP | Newport Harbor | Sr.

A four-year varsity starter, Cotton enjoyed a decorated career, helping the Sailors win Wave League titles in 2019 and 2021 and capping it off with a deep playoff run. Newport Harbor (19-7, 6-3) reached the Division 4 quarterfinals, behind Cotton’s 16 strikeouts over two complete-game performances against Twentynine Palms and Lompoc in the first two rounds. Cotton, who committed to Avila University in Kansas City, hit .400 with 22 runs scored and 19 runs batted in. She was a first-team all-Wave League selection.

SECOND TEAM

Position, Name, School, Year

P/SS Kaitlyn Reynolds, Edison, Sr.

P/3B Jaydin McClure, Estancia, Fr.

P/1B Caidlyn Lowry, Costa Mesa, Jr.

C Brooke Bonny, Fountain Valley, Sr.

C/3B McKenna Zehnder, Huntington Beach, Sr.

1B/3B Haylee Orozco, Marina, Sr.

1B Makena Tomlinson, Corona del Mar, Sr.

2B Kira Velasco, Fountain Valley, So.

3B Emma McCraw, Huntington Beach, Sr.

SS Sydney Walls, Corona del Mar, Sr.

OF Chase Dionio, Newport Harbor, Sr.

UT Dru Stinson, Newport Harbor, Sr.

::

Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.

For more sports stories, visit latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/sports or follow us on Twitter @DailyPilotSport.


Advertisement