Surprises highlight Prep League softball awards

There were certainly a few surprises that took place during the Prep League softball season and those unexpected successes were highlighted within the league's awards.

Flintridge Prep, Mayfield School, Pasadena Poly and Westridge each earned acclaim that included Cubs junior catcher Mireya Hernandez taking home the most valuable player award and Panthers senior hurler Heather Choi being named the league's pitcher of the year.

"The goal every year is to win league and I thought we could do it," Panthers Coach Santee Vallejo said. "But our biggest question to start was pitching and, at the end, pitching was a strength."

Choi proved a pleasant surprise, finishing second among league players in wins with an 11-4 record and a 2.66 earned run average.

"I wasn't trying to be the best pitcher, I just wanted to win," Choi said. "That's what is most rewarding, winning a league title."

Poly finished 15-6 overall, shared the league title with Rio Hondo Prep and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs.

Besides Choi, Panthers senior third baseman Julia Tsai (.435 batting average with 30 hits, 22 runs, 19 RBIs and four doubles) and sophomore right fielder Natalie Treister (.412 average with three homers and 22 RBIs) were named to the first team.

Even though the two-time defending champion Cubs ceded their crown, Hernandez still secured an elite prize.

"I actually had no idea I won until now," said Hernandez, when interviewed over the phone. "I was told at the team banquet that I was 'the MVP' but I thought that meant for the team and not league. This is a real blessing."

Hernandez finished first among league players in homers (four) and RBI (34), second in batting average (.506) and third in slugging percentage (.831) for the third-place Cubs (13-11).

Hernandez is joined by junior hurler Jessica Parada, who was 7-8, but boasted a 1.32 ERA, while batting .475 with 29 runs, 22 RBIs and 38 hits.

Westridge, which finished fourth in league with an 8-9 record and a Division VI wild-card victory, earned one first-team selection in sophomore pitcher Jackie Pai (8-3, 1.35 ERA).

"She really kept us in several games this year," Tigers Coach Kelly Korras said. "It's great to know she'll be back."

Freshman catcher Alex Clark (.422 batting average with 27 hits, 18 RBIs, 16 runs, six doubles, two homers and a .962 fielding percentage) and sophomore shortstop Natalie Edwards (.500 batting average, 30 hits, 19 RBIs, 18 runs, six doubles) earned second-team nods for Poly.

Mayfield sophomore center fielder Imani Mitchell (.409 batting average, 32 runs, 27 hits and 19 RBIs), who finished second among league players with 19 stolen bases, was tabbed to the second team along with junior Claire Penney (.444 batting average, 32 hits, 21 RBIs, 17 runs) and freshman pitcher Lauren Romo (7-8 record and a 4.41 ERA and a .367 batting average with 18 runs and 13 RBIs).

Westridge merited three second-team selections in sophomore third baseman Sydney Estrada (.455 batting average with 11 RBIs and nine doubles), sophomore center fielder Erin Golden (.274 average and 11 RBI) and senior shortstop Brenda Soto (.3681 14 RBI and two triples).

Though Flintridge Prep struggled, sophomore third baseman Chelsea Johnson and senior catcher Rachel Simon were each selected to the first team.

Johnson put up some mind-boggling numbers that included an .882 slugging percentage and a .559 batting average (19 for 34). She also hit two home runs, drove in 13 RBI, scored 13 runs, stole 13 bases and socked five doubles.

Simon, a first baseman, batted .459 (17 for 37) with three doubles and 12 runs batted in.

"[Johnson] provided a great presence at the plate," said Rebels Coach Julie Jaime, whose team finished 3-16 and sixth in league. "She grew defensively, too.

"With Rachel, she semi-volunteered to be our catcher and her honor was well-deserved."

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