The Times’ All-Star softball team: Tony Arduino is coach of the year

Coach Tony Arduino of Graden Grove Pacifica High is photographed near the team's dugout.
Coach Tony Arduino made lineup changes late in the softball season that helped Garden Grove Pacifica win the Southern Section Division 1 championship.
(Nick Koza)
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Tony Arduino is not a yeller. At least, by his own admission. The Pacifica Garden Grove High coach has a bright smile, is a teacher for two decades, a youth instructor beloved by many softball players, some of whom showed up at Pacifica’s championship game May 19 to cheer for the Mariners and scream out “Tony!”

Yet after his team lost 8-3 to Cypress on April 11, dropping the early-season Orange County favorite to 13-7 and a second-place finish in its own league, he took his players into center field and lit into them.

It was there where the Mariners’ rallying cry of “we’re not that good” was born, and where Arduino felt their fortunes changed. They lost one game the rest of the season, to Los Alamitos, and knocked off everyone from Los Al to Oaks Christian to Norco in the Southern Section Division 1 final to win a title.


“Losing a few games just taught us that, first of all, we’re not that good, and we need to be better,” Arduino said.

For steering Pacifica’s course straight and knocking off higher-ranked opponents throughout a magical playoff run, Arduino is The Times’ softball coach of the year.

The Mariners played from behind at some point in every game of their playoff run. But they persevered behind Arduino, who made some radical lineup changes before the playoffs by moving catcher Delaina Ma’ae to the outfield and pitcher Brynne Nally to the top of the batting order.

Justin Lee and Anahi Arreola are The Times’ baseball and softball players of the year for 2023. Check out the rest of the All-Star teams here.

June 11, 2023

The shuffling helped unlock Pacifica’s lineup and string together at-bats up and down the order, leading to a 15-9 victory in the title game over favorite Norco.

If you’d have told Arduino at the start of the playoffs that his players would be getting fitted for rings, he wouldn’t have believed it. But in the end, they were that good.

“We finally kinda woke up,” he said.