Southern California is ground zero for the best high school softball players in the nation, and the 2020 season figures to be similar to 2018 and 2019 with one big question: How do you beat Norco?
In particular, teams must figure out how to deal with Sarah Willis, the winning pitcher for Norco in the last two Southern Section Division 1 championship games. The senior is coming off a season in which she went 22-1 with an 0.82 earned-run average and batted .350 with four home runs for a 31-1 team.
“She’s a beast,” Orange Lutheran shortstop Victoria Fragoso said.
“She’s an amazing athlete,” Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Scott Brashear said.
Willis has signed with Washington, and Norco coach Rick Robinson only needs to make sure there’s a good supporting staff to keep the Cougars on top. Sophomore Abby Dayton can provide help at the plate. As a freshman, she had 34 hits.
Trinity League softball standouts. pic.twitter.com/Vw1uU8AE3B— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) February 11, 2020
The Trinity League should offer several competitors. Orange Lutheran lost to Norco three times last season and graduated some key players, but Brigham Young signee Taryn Lennon will take on an increased pitching load. She is 16-4 in her varsity career.
Mater Dei returns three pitchers, led by Syracuse signee Jolie Gustave. Shortstop Marlene Friedman, who signed with Arkansas, is one of three softball-playing sisters. The oldest, Donna, is at Virginia. The youngest, Meredith, is a freshman at Mater Dei.
Santa Margarita has seven returning starters, led by infielder Angie Yellen, a junior who committed to Washington and is the sister of former Mission Viejo quarterback Joey Yellen.
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame could be a rising team with the arrival of freshman Ella Parker, a top hitter and the niece of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Chino Hills, Los Alamitos, Cerritos Gahr and Corona Santiago are among the teams to watch in Division 1. Huntington Beach will be tough with pitcher Grace Uribe, who committed to Texas A&M. Woodland Hills Louisville has pitcher Grace Luderer, who led her team to the Division 5 title as a sophomore.
In the City Section, Chatsworth was an upset victim last season but could make a quick comeback behind pitcher Ava Justman, who signed with Wisconsin. Also back are All-City players Jasmine Wehn at third base and Isabella Paganini at first base. The Chancellors added junior Rebekah Durazo, a catcher who committed to Long Beach State.
Woodland Hills El Camino Real and Granada Hills have picked up important transfers, and San Pedro should come out of the Marine League ready to make a title run. Brianna Talamates hit .554 for the Pirates with three home runs last season.