Prep Rally: It’s time to celebrate the top 2022 baseball and softball players


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s time to celebrate the top 2022 baseball and softball players in Southern California with the release of The Times’ all-star teams.

Baseball MVP: Gavin Grahovac

Villa Park shortstop Gavin Grahovac.
Villa Park shortstop Gavin Grahovac walks off the field after losing to JSerra.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

One reliable way to project a future major leaguer is by the way they handle adversity in high school. Everyone knows how good junior Gavin Grahovac of Villa Park is at the plate. Then there’s the maturity he has when the game is over.

Villa Park was one swing away from advancing to the Southern Section Division 1 championship game. San Juan Capistrano JSerra decided not to let him do it. He was intentionally walked to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh. Then came a strikeout of the next batter, ending a 4-1 defeat.


Afterward, instead of throwing a bat, making excuses or hiding in the dugout, Grahovac calmly and confidently stood there answering questions and preparing for his next game whenever it would come. He showed a resiliency and a maturity combined with his exceptional skills that will make him Southern California’s top baseball prospect for 2023.

“Things didn’t go our way, but we had a great season and I’m proud of all our players,” he said.

JSerra coach Brett Kay called him “the best player on the planet.” He might not be that, but he had quite a season and is The Times’ baseball player of the year.

Here’s the link to Grahovac’s background.

Here’s the link to the all-star team.

Here’s the link to the coach of the year, Marcus Alvarado of Chatsworth.

Here’s the link to the final 25 baseball rankings.


Here’s the link to all the teams in one story.

Softball MVP: Kiki Estrada

Kiki Estrada from Orange Lutheran is The Times' softball player of the year for 2022.
(Orange Lutheran)

Patience was the virtue Kiki Estrada of Orange Lutheran had to practice again and again this softball season. She was feared so much at the plate that intentional walks came en masse.

“If they weren’t intentional walks, they were intentional unintentional,” quipped Orange Lutheran coach Steve Milkos.

She was considered the No. 1 first baseman in the nation and lifted up teammates with her fielding and hitting. She batted .500 with 34 hits, 32 RBIs and nine home runs. The Arkansas commit is The Times’ softball player of the year.

“She’s a force,” Milkos said.

Here’s the link explaining what made Estrada the player of the year.

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

Here’s the link to the coach of the year, Mike Smith of Eastvale Roosevelt.

Here’s the link to final softball rankings.

JSerra welcomes adaptive PE

Every Wednesday this spring, a couple hours after the final bell echoes through JSerra High’s hallways, the chairs and the rackets come out at the tennis courts.

Keith and Kirk Orahood, twin brothers who’ve coached tennis at JSerra for more than a decade, have come to know the group well. Miles, with the smile. Nellie, the giggly 10-year-old. Gianna, who has a prosthetic leg and is labeled the best athlete in her family.

All have disabilities, impairing their ability to walk. None had played tennis before attending an after-school camp held by the Orahoods. Yet at the end of each half-hour session, they wheel into a circle and hold out their rackets, lifting them to the sky after a chant of “1-2-3, tennis!”

“There’s a little bit of heaven going on on these courts,” Keith Orahood said.

The first step in an initiative to build a multi-sport adaptive athletics program at JSerra, the Orahoods have been running this wheelchair tennis clinic since April 13. The plan, they say, is to turn the school into a “mecca” for adaptive sports in the area.

“This is a population of kids that we have not necessarily served yet,” said Chris Ledyard, JSerra’s athletic director. “When it came to be something that Keith did and it worked so well, it’s like, ‘Wow, let’s start looking at this across the board.’”

Here’s the profile that can help many in Orange County.

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No more Arlis Boardingham

Sophomore quarterback Kingston Tisdell and junior receiver/cornerback Peyton Waters.
Sophomore quarterback Kingston Tisdell and junior receiver/cornerback Peyton Waters will try to lead Birmingham football this season.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There was a changing of the guard last week, the opening of summer football workouts at two-time defending City Section champion Birmingham. For the first time in four years, there was no Arlis Boardingham on the field. The 6-foot-5 four-year starter is off to Florida.

Coach Jim Rose wasn’t in panic mode when asked if there will be life without Boardingham playing receiver and linebacker.

“We survived before he was here, we’ll survive after he was here,” Rose said.

The player identified to become the Patriots’ next big-play weapon is junior Peyton Waters, who has grown to 6 feet 1, 165 pounds, after a productive sophomore season when he became a dangerous receiver and standout cornerback in the playoffs.

“It is a big responsibility,” Waters said of filling the roles Boardingham was so good at performing. “I feel I can handle it.”

The priority for Waters, 16, this summer is to spend hours in the weight room getting stronger.

A look at Waters and other young players who could be leading Birmingham this fall.

Richard Masson returns

Richard Masson just can’t say no to people asking him to coach basketball even if he has retired several times.

He began coaching boys’ basketball in 1975 at L.A. Jordan. He was an assistant to Dave Yanai at Fremont. He spent 22 years as head coach at Carson. He spent two years assisting the girls’ program at North Torrance. He was girls’ coach at Rolling Hills Prep for seven years.

Now he’s coming back as girls’ coach at Carson, which lost several games last season by more than 40 points. Once a Colt, always a Colt.


The seven-on-seven season is in full swing. Thousand Oaks and La Serna won tournaments this past weekend.

At Moorpark College, Thousand Oaks defeated Sierra Canyon in the final. The Lancers still haven’t decided on a starting quarterback, so it was a good way to get everyone motivated.

Newbury Park unveiled freshman quarterback Brady Smigiel, the son of new coach Joe Smigiel.

Hart has junior receiver Shawn Irwin, the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals receiver Trent Irwin.

Notes . . .

Gardena Serra is searching for a new boys’ and girls’ track coach. It is the school where state 100 champion Rodrick Pleasant competes, along with some outstanding girls’ runners that helped the Cavaliers win a state title. . . .

Carlos Hernandez, a senior receiver at Monrovia, has committed to Washington State. . . .

Andrew Patterson is the new football coach at L.A. Marshall. . . .

Toby Manheim, a linebacker at Palisades last season, has transferred to Chaminade for his senior year. . . .

San Dimas softball coach Don Pollard has retired. He spent 24 years as head coach, winning 19 league titles. . . .

Senior guard Mike Price is headed to Corona Centennial. It will be his fourth school. He’ll get to play with Duke-bound Jared McCain and highly recruited Devin Williams. . . .

Quarterback Aidan Chiles of Downey has committed to Oregon State. . . .

Receiver Baylin Brooks of Loyola has committed to San Diego State.

From the archives: Lucas Gordon

Lucas Gordon of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in 2020.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame pitcher Lucas Gordon has become a key player for Texas, which is headed to the college baseball World Series.

He’s the No. 2 pitcher for the Longhorns. He was a standout at Notre Dame and had his senior season cut short in 2020 because of COVID-19. Before it happened, he came through with a memorable performance against Chaminade, retiring 19 straight batters and getting 11 strikeouts.

Here’s an interview with Gordon from 2020 detailing his lost season.

Here’s a 2019 story coming back from elbow surgery.


From the Washington Post, a discussion on how to improve PE.

From Maxpreps, a story on the leader of the national high school sports governing body expressing concerns over NIL.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on an incoming USC offensive lineman who talks and talks.

Tweets you might have missed

Until next time...

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