The Huntington Beach High softball program has been one of the more consistent ones around, and the bar only continues to go higher.
Last season, the Oilers qualified for the CIF Southern Section postseason for the sixth straight year, but that would be just one feat of many that season.
Huntington Beach shared the Sunset League title with Los Alamitos, the Oilers’ recent perennial rival atop one of the toughest leagues in Southern California high school softball.
Then the Oilers advanced to their first Division 1 quarterfinal, losing by a score of 6-5 in extra innings at top-seeded Norco, which went on to win the championship.
Although shortstop Allee Bunker (Oregon) and third baseman Kelli Kufta (University of San Diego) graduated, the Oilers still have 12 college-committed players on their roster.
Leading the charge will be center fielder Jadelyn Allchin, a Washington commit who slugged 13 doubles, seven home runs and four triples as a junior.
The Oilers also return the co-Sunset League Pitcher of the Year in junior Grace Uribe. The Texas A&M commit posted an 11-5 record with a 1.33 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. She struck out 70 and walked 18 over her 100 innings in the circle.
“We should be able to contend for a league title and beyond,” Oilers coach Jeff Forsberg said. “We feel we have unfinished goals from 2018 after our tough loss to a great team in Norco, but we feel we can compete with anyone. We have deep pitching and senior leadership to push the team.”
After league realignment, Huntington Beach finds itself in a stacked Surf League with Los Alamitos, Edison and Marina. Each team made the playoffs last season, and while it is not out of the realm of possibility this year, only two playoff spots are guaranteed to the four-team league.
Edison remains a threat in any game with Arkansas signee Jenna Bloom and New Mexico commit Talia Hannappel at its disposal as pitchers. Versatile senior Serena Starks (Princeton), who played both shortstop and center field last season, is an impact player with her ability to make contact and run the bases.
Power-hitting pitcher Emily Rush, who was a Dream Team selection as the designated player last year, leads Marina. Cal State Northridge-committed first baseman Shayla Thomas can also swing for the fences.
The formation of the new Wave League puts old Sunset League standbys Newport Harbor and Fountain Valley right back in the hunt for a CIF playoff spot, while Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach will each look to prove their mettle as the newest members of the Sunset Conference.
Sailors coach Melissa Taravella said the Newport Harbor softball program has experienced growth. She said that the team had to make cuts during tryouts for the first time in several years.
Look for the Sailors to be led by corner infielders Leah Freeman and Eliana Gottlieb.
Fountain Valley plans to split its pitching duties between CJ Garcia and Kayla Vidal, although neither has been considered a pitcher to this point in their careers. Second baseman Samantha Araiza was an all-area second-team selection last season.
Corona del Mar is led by Harvard-bound center fielder Amerys Barshtak. Sea Kings coach Jordann Wakabayashi is also excited about a trio of freshmen in Makena Tomlinson, Sydney Walls and Alyssa Mabry, whom she believes could all be playing in the infield at the same time.
Laguna Beach achieved a .500 record last season, but it missed the playoffs. Breakers coach James Crawford expects that to change this year, especially with key players like pitcher Emily Thomas and shortstop Cienna Wunder heading into their senior season.
Second baseman Rhys Campbell was a Dream Team selection for the Breakers last year after hitting .521 as a freshman.
After advancing to the Division 7 quarterfinals last season, Costa Mesa will lean on senior center fielder Katie Belmontes and senior pitcher Haley Wolf to lead the way again.
Estancia will also look to move up the Orange Coast League standings, as league champion Godinez moved to the Golden West League.
Ocean View faces a rebuilding year after the graduation of longtime catcher Po Russ (Rutgers) and Orange County All-Star outfielder Kim MacPherson.
Los Amigos will look to improve upon its fifth-place finish in the Garden Grove League. The Lobos are led by pitcher Alyssa Ledezma, who is also one of the team’s better options at the plate.
Huntington Beach (Division 1), Edison (Division 2), Marina (Division 2) and Laguna Beach (Division 7) have opened the season on the section’s list of teams to watch.