A co-players of the year award is, in one sense, a cop-out. It is a refusal to decide.
However, this season the Santa Clarita Valley, and more specifically Valencia High School, featured one of Division 1’s best pitchers and one of its best hitters.
Shea O’Leary was as dominant and daunting with her arm as Ally Shipman was with her bat.
It was a two-player wrecking crew. Hence a two-player All-SCV Softball Player of the Year award.
Take Valencia’s March 18 CIF-Southern Section playoff opener against Great Oak of Temecula, for instance.
The Vikings managed only five hits in the game, but O’Leary, a junior, held the Wolfpack to one hit while striking out 12.
Then, in the fifth inning, Shipman blasted a two-run home run the other way to right field to win the game, 2-0.
Asked afterward about pitching to Shipman, Great Oak coach David Mercado said he felt his pitcher could get away with a low, outside pitch with the wind blowing in from right.
Many teams didn’t risk it. Shipman, who didn’t strike out once this year as a junior, walked 33 times.
Some were intentional. Some were all but intentional.
Valencia coach Donna Lee slid her slugger into the leadoff spot so when teams did work around her early in the game, it at least put a runner on with nobody out.
Often that meant a runner at second.
Shipman successfully stole 14 times on 18 attempts. She scored 40 of Valencia’s 145 runs during a season that ended in the Division 1 quarters for the second straight year.
That’s not to say O’Leary wasn’t once again brilliant.
In six innings against Orange Lutheran, she allowed three hits and an unearned run. She struck out four and walked none.
Despite winning Foothill League Pitcher of the Year for the first time and a league title for the second year in a row, O’Leary said she’ll likely remember the final loss more vividly.
“All of us want to (advance through the quarters) so bad,” she said. “We’ve been working hard on and off the field, and hopefully it pays off next year and we win it all. That’s one of our goals for next year.”
The Vikings are certainly poised to make another run. The team graduated only two players.
For Lee, it feels like Shipman and O’Leary, both three-year starters, have been with the program forever at this point.
“Oh, heck yeah,” Lee said. “Any time you have freshmen on varsity and they’re impact players, it does (feel that way), and you’ll have coaches say, ‘They’re still here?’ Yeah, they are still here.”
Here, in this case, is at the top of their game. Shipman, a University of Tennessee commit, batted .613 with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs this season.
O’Leary, a University of Texas recruit, struck out 240 batters in 211 2/3 innings. She owned a 1.22 ERA.
It all leads one to believe next year will be fun.
All-SCV softball first team
Cassidy Cangemi, Golden Valley, junior
Cangemi kept the Grizzlies in just about every game, posting a 2.30 ERA with close to 200 strikeouts. She was also the league’s best two-way player, batting .397 in 68 at-bats. On April 20, she struck out 10 and allowed one earned run in a complete-game loss to Valencia.
Noel Dominguez, Valencia, junior
The shortstop was Valencia’s second most productive hitter, posting a .327 average and driving in 13 runs, on the Vikings’ drive toward a second straight Foothill League title and CIF quarterfinal appearance. She’ll be a key factor as Valencia goes for a three-peat.
Cassidy FitzGerald, Saugus, senior
Losing an ace like Mariah Lopez would be a blow to any team, but Saugus suffered less than most because of the leadership of FitzGerald behind the plate. The gritty, tell-it-like-it-is catcher impacted the game at the plate, too, though, batting .349 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. FitzGerald was an All-CIF Division 1 selection.
Aly Kaneshiro, Hart, freshman
It was an understatement when Hart coach Steve Calendo said before Foothill League play to keep an eye on Kaneshiro. Besides playing well at catcher, she hit .439 with a team-high 48 RBIs and a barehanded catch of a foul ball in the CIF-SS D3 title game that won’t soon be forgotten.
Libbie McMahan, Saugus, freshman
It’s not easy to step onto a varsity softball team in the Foothill League and contribute as a freshman. The task is harder still when you get a late start due to playing varsity basketball. But McMahan was a factor at the plate and in the circle. She hit .390 and posted a 3.54 ERA in 55 1/3 innings.
Jaclyn Napoli, West Ranch, senior
Napoli has played all over the diamond in her time with West Ranch. In 2017, she held down the shortstop position while propelling the Wildcats with her production at the plate. The senior hit .398 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs. She slugged a team-high .741.
Kylie Norwood, Hart, senior
What Norwood did with the bat was special (she led the Southern Section across all divisions with 64 hits, and she drove in 41 runs). But the non-pitcher’s willingness to step in the circle for an offensively-loaded team, might have been the most impressive part of her senior campaign.
Melissa Spencer, Canyon, junior
Spencer has proven to be one of the Foothill League’s most consistent batters over her three-year varsity career. A starter each season, she’s never batted below .346, and 2017 saw her reach a new personal-best .423. She drove in 25 runs this year with 10 extra base hits. She made only four errors at shortstop all year and was 6-for-6 on stolen-base attempts.
Abby Sweet, Hart, senior
One Foothill League coach put it best when they recalled Sweet wearing a smile last season even as the Indians struggled. This year, as Hart took flight, Sweet remained the team’s leader. She played a clean, at times stellar, third base and hit .415 with five home runs, 29 RBIs and 52 runs scored. Her walk-off home run lifted Hart past Patriot of Riverside and into its first semifinal since 2009.
All-SCV softball second team
Andrea Cespedes, Hart, senior
If it’s possible to fly under the radar while batting .471, the phrase might apply to Cespedes. But she was a crucial part of Hart’s run to the CIF-SS D3 title game. Cespedes drove in 29 runs and saved a handful with her defense, especially in the postseason.
Jessica Cordola, Saugus, junior
Cordola provided the pop for the second-place Centurions. The third baseman posted a slash line of a .400 batting average, a .427 on-base percentage and a team-high .718 slugging percentage. She hit seven home runs and drove in 24 runs.
Jordyn Gasper, Hart, junior
It’s amazing that Hart had enough room in its batting order for all these sluggers. Gasper hit .438 with 25 RBIs and 31 runs scored. She also covered a lot of ground in center field.
Brooke Marquez, Hart, sophomore
Injury limited the Indians shortstop to just 19 games, but she made the most of them. Marquez hit .480 with 13 doubles and 19 RBIs. She had 36 hits and led the team in slugging with a .720 mark.
Sophia Medellin, Golden Valley, sophomore
Golden Valley coach Daniel Soto praised Medellin before Foothill League play for improved plate discipline. By year’s end, she’d walked a robust 20 times. She also swung it, batting .400 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.
Kelia Paragas, Valencia, junior
Paragas tore her ACL the summer before her junior campaign, but she looked fully recovered as she played a solid left field and gave Valencia production near the top of the order.
Leslie Reynaga, Saugus, sophomore
Reynaga fractured her nose when she took a line drive to the face on April 13, but she returned to the circle less than two weeks later. On the year, she posted a 3.48 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.
Kalei Sorensen, West Ranch, senior
It feels like the Sorensen twins have played for West Ranch forever. In their final prep campaign, Kalei provided pop in the middle of the Wildcats’ order. She hit .412 with 10 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs.
Kennedi Sorensen, West Ranch, senior
Sorensen only played in 18 games due to an injury. But she finished the year with a .429 average, her biggest hits seemingly coming in the biggest games. She had three hits off Valencia’s Shea O’Leary.
Canyon – Jessica Goodspeed, senior
Golden Valley – Nicole Smart, sophomore
Hart – Arianna Ramos, senior
Saugus – Clarissa Ellwein, sophomore
Valencia – Kyla Hardy, junior
West Ranch – Sara Olson, sophomore
Einstein – Beatriz Panduro, sophomore
SCCS – Hailey Aguilar, senior
SCVi – Dianna Cardoza
Trinity – Sarah Howell, senior