Prep Rally: Seth Hernandez, Kaniya Bragg are players of the year in baseball, softball

Junior pitcher Seth Hernandez of Corona is The Times' baseball player of the year.
(Nick Koza)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s time to honor the best in high school baseball and softball with The Times’ all-star teams.

Top players, coaches honored

Bell coach Frank Medina
(Craig Weston)

Seth Hernandez of Corona and UCLA-bound Kaniya Bragg of Garden Grove Pacifica are the baseball and softball players of the year as selected by The Times.


Hernandez helped Corona win the Southern Section Division 1 championship as a pitcher and hitter. Bragg led Pacifica to a second straight Southern Section Division 1 softball title. Here’s the link to baseball player of the year story.

Here’s the link to softball player of the year story.

Here’s the link to The Times’ all-star baseball team.

Here’s the link to The Times’ all-star softball team.

The coach of the year in baseball is Frank Medina of Bell. Here’s the link.

The coach of the year in softball and Rudy Aguirre of Carson. Here’s the link.


Here’s the final top 25 baseball rankings.

Here’s the final top 20 softball rankings.

Summer activities

Running back Brice Hawkins of Simi Valley in action on Saturday at the Saugus seven on seven tournament.
(Craig Weston)

Football and basketball activities have begun to pick up steam.

Culver City won the El Rancho seven on seven passing tournament on Saturday, beating Crescenta Valley in the final. Franklin won the consolation bracket. Inglewood won the Western tournament.

Newbury Park won the Saugus tournament even though quarterback Brady Smigiel was missing with a prior commitment. Sophomore Dawson Armstrong filled in well. The Panthers defeated Palmdale in the final.

Seven on seven passing tournaments are happening every weekend. Colony is hosting a tournament Saturday that includes Orange Lutheran and Gardena Serra. St. John Bosco and Simi Valley have big tournaments scheduled for June 29. The Edison tournament is moved a week later than the normal Fourth of July weekend to July 13.

Fairfax is hosting its annual basketball tournament starting June 16-17. Section 7 tournaments will take place in Arizona and California this month.


Harvard-Westlake’s Nikolas Khamenia won a gold medal playing for the USA 18U national team. He averaged 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds and will be back in town to play for the Wolverines this month at Section 7 tournament.

Girls basketball will get a boost with the arrival of 6-foot-6 freshman Sydney Douglas at Etiwanda. She’s the next star in the making.

A new youth sports haven

Doug Kimmelman and his children dig their shovels into the dirt at the May 8 groundbreaking.
(Steve Galluzzo)

On May 8, one of the largest philanthropic investments ever for the youth of Los Angeles broke ground just north of LAX and the $150-million athletic and educational complex will be known as “Lulu’s Place” in memory of Carol Richardson Kimmelman, who was passionate about tennis, teaching and Southern California.

Located at the intersection of 92nd Street and Falmouth Avenue, next door to St. Bernard High, Lulu’s Place will be built on 31 acres of long-vacant land with public sports and recreational facilities, including tennis, basketball and sand volleyball courts, full-length soccer fields, playgrounds, walking paths and a dog park. Construction is estimated to last two years.

Here’s the report.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Notes . . .

Standout guard Joe Sterling is transferring from Crespi to Harvard-Westlake for his junior season. He averaged 20.9 points as a sophomore. . . .

Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba (left) and his son, third baseman Casey Borba, who is now at Texas.
(Nick Koza)

Eric Borba has resigned after 16 years as baseball coach at Orange Lutheran. He will be replaced by co-coach RJ Farrell. Borba guided the Lancers to six Trinity League titles. His son, Casey, plays at Texas. . . .

Junior pitcher Giselle Pantoja of Carson has been selected the City Section player of the year in softball. Here’s the link to All-City team. . . .

Junior pitcher Seth Hernandez of Corona has been selected the Gatorade state baseball player of the year. . . .

Kade Bonam, a starting forward for St. John Bosco, is transferring to Sierra Canyon for his senior year. . . .

James Heller, a baseball player from de Toledo, has committed to pitch for the University of Dayton. He’s the first DI commit from the Jewish school in West Hills. . . .


Ralph Grajeda has resigned as baseball coach at Yucaipa after seven years as head coach. . . .

Nate Turner has resigned as football coach at San Marino. . . .

Mia Moore is the new girls’ basketball coach at El Camino Real, her alma mater. . . .

Chasity Rice, who averaged 6.8 points as a freshman for Mater Dei’s girls’ basketball team, has transferred to defending state champion Etiwanda. . . .

Standout guard Jovani Ruff from Long Beach Poly has committed to Cal. . . .

Camille Buckley is the new girls’ basketball coach at Diamond Bar. . . .

Former La Reina girls’ volleyball coach Christine Yangson is the new head coach at St. Bonaventure. . . .

Freshman guard Kayla Rice from Dana Hills is transferring to JSerra, according to She averaged 20.3 points last season. . . .

Hayden Cronenbold is the new baseball coach at Thousand Oaks. He’s a Thousand Oaks grad who coached at Moorpark College. . . .

Royce Clayton has stepped down as baseball coach at Oaks Christian. . . .

Former Mater Dei defensive coordinator Eric Johnson has joined the football staff at Marina. . . .

Whittier California softball coach Jason Ramirez has resigned to focus on health issues. . . ;

Defensive back Chuck McDonald of Mater Dei has committed to Alabama. . . .

Defensive end Hayden Lowe of Oaks Christian has committed to USC.

Note: Eric Sondheimer will be taking a week off from Prep Rally, then returning June 24 to begin looking at top football players for the coming season.

From the archives: Masaki Matsumoto

Masaki Matsumoto coaching at Bernstein High in 2013.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

During his days as football coach at Bernstein High in Hollywood, Masaki Matsumoto made a huge difference with his players on and off the field. He was one of those unsung Los Angeles Unified School District coaches showing up to work every day and finding ways to help his players get better.

In 2015, he left for Lincoln High in Tacoma and continues to make a difference with private-school philosophies that work for public school. His teams have won seven league titles in nine seasons and compiled a 75-20 record. He still returns to Southern California to take a peek at ideas and concepts from other coaches.

Here’s a story from 2013 on his idea to have his players write letters of love to their parents.


From, a story on Dos Pueblos High honoring its Olympians.

From, a story on former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame star Ella Parker helping Oklahoma win its fourth straight NCAA softball title.

From, a story on Harvard-Westlake basketball standout Nikolas Khamenia.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on blind former Orange Lutheran and USC long snapper Jake Olson and the death of his 14-year-old guide dog.

Tweets you might have missed


Until next time...

Have a question, comment or something you’d like to see in a future Prep Rally newsletter? Email me at, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

Did you get this newsletter forwarded to you? To sign up and get it in your inbox, click here.