AREA’S BEST: La Habra High’s Maleena Esparza is the Whittier Daily News’ Softball Player of the Year June 12, 2012. (Leo Jarzomb/Staff Photographer)
DAILY NEWS ALL-AREA SOFTBALL TEAM
Player of the Year: Maleena Esparza, La Habra, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Frank McCarroll, La Habra
Pitcher: Vanessa Ciocatto, La Habra, Jr.
Pitcher: Trisha Trujillo, California, So.
Catcher: Lisa Perez, La Mirada, Sr.
Infield: Breana West, St. Paul, Sr.
Infield: AJ Carrasco, La Serna, Sr.
Infield: Mandie Perez, Whittier Christian, Sr.
Infield: Shanin Thomas, La Habra, Sr.
Outfield: Annie Dipillo, La Mirada, So.
Outfield: Valerie Aguilar, Montebello, Sr.
Utility: Krystal Gutierrez, St. Paul, So.
Pitcher: Evelyn Hernandez, Montebello, So.
Infield: Amanda Akles, La Habra, Fr.
Infield: Christina Pantages, California, Sr.
Infield: Mercedes Gasparovic, La Mirada, Jr.
Infield: Hope Moreno, La Habra, So.
Outfield: Jacklyn Zacarias, Schurr, Jr.
Outfield: Taylor Pierce, La Habra, So.
Outfield: Emily Sanchez, Schurr, Jr.
Utility: Katelyn Wagner, Whittier Christian, So.
By Steve Ramirez, SGVN
LA HABRA — La Habra High School made a bit of history this past season.
A big part of that success, which featured the Highlanders’ first trip to the CIF-Southern Section softball semifinals in 30 years, centered around senior Maleena Esparza.
For her efforts, Esparza is the Daily News Softball Player of the Year. It’s the second consecutive season that the shortstop has received the award.
She is joined on the All-Area team by three of her teammates – infielder Shanin Thomas, outfielder Racquel Manzo and pitcher Vanessa Ciocatto. Also selected to the first team are La Mirada’s Lisa Perez (catcher) and Annie Dipillo (outfield); St. Paul’s Breana West (infield) and Krystal Gutierrez (utility); California’s Trisha Trujillo (pitcher); Montebello’s Valerie Aguilar (outfield); La Serna’s AJ Carrasco (infield) and Whittier Christian’s Mandie Perez (infield).
La Habra’s Frank McCarroll is Coach of the Year.
But this season, like 2011, was the Year of Esparza, who in addition to being the Highlanders’ top run producer ranked among the area’s leaders in several offensive categories.
“Maleena showed why she was (2011) Player of the Year,” McCarroll said earlier this season. “She always came up with the big hit when we needed it.”
Esparza hit .545, which ranked second in the area, and had an area-best 12 home runs. The senior also had 35 RBIs and 44 runs scored. Her on-base percentage was .610.
Esparza was an All-Freeway League and All-CIF-SS Division 4 selection.
The Highlanders went 23-9 and advanced to the divisional final four for the first time since 1982, while also putting behind the heartbreak of a loss in the quarterfinals in 2011.
“I think we got as far as we did because we wanted it,” Esparza said. “We worked real hard. We wanted to go further than we did last year. We did it, but it was not far enough.
“Everyone on the team was a leader for every single girl. We had a good bond. We were all friends, no drama. We all got along. It was good.”
McCarroll earned Coach of the Year honors after leading La Habra to its best season in 30 years, which also included winning a piece of its fourth consecutive Freeway League title.
The Highlanders’ season ended with a 5-4 loss to Kaiser in the semifinals.
“It came down to just having the high-caliber kids we have in our program,” McCarroll said. “We had some great senior leadership. Our freshmen came through and played like seniors.
“It was disappointing that we lost, but we had a great year. I’ve been around (the football team) during their winning run, and last year we started to set that trend going, getting to the quarterfinals. But it’s because of the kids. We were lucky to have this success because of them.”
In addition to Esparza, key ingredients for the Highlanders were the talents of Thomas, Manzo and Ciocatto.
Thomas, who had some key hits during the Highlanders’ playoff run, hit .443 with 26 RBIs. She also scored 34 runs. Manzo was part of La Habra’s solid freshman class, hitting .437 with 34 RBIs and 21 runs. Ciocatto was solid in the circle. She went 22-7 with a 2.21 ERA.
Perez and Dipillo keyed La Mirada’s run to the CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinals.
Perez earned All-CIF-SS honors after hitting .364 with 21 RBIs and 25 runs runs scored. Dipillo hit .370 with 23 RBIs and scored 20 runs.
St. Paul featured one of the area’s better hitting teams, and in that regard the Swordsmen were led by West and Gutierrez.
West hit .450 with 30 RBIs. She also had four home runs and scored 22 runs. Gutierrez hit .506 with 32 RBIs. She also scored 32 runs.
Whittier Christian’s Mandie Perez was arguably the top hitter in the area. She earned All-CIF-SS Division 4 accolades after hitting an area-best .638. She also had 35 RBIs and scored 28 runs for the Heralds, who finished second in the Olympic League.
California’s Trujillo was arguably the area’s most dominant pitcher, going 15-8 with a 2.28 ERA. She led the area with 117 strikeouts.
Carrasco, who was All-CIF-SS in Division 3, was MVP of the Del Rio League. She hit .571, had 24 RBIs and scored 20 runs.
Aguilar keyed Montebello to a share of the Almont League title with rival Schurr. She earned All-CIF-SS Division 5 honors after hitting .483 with 44 RBIs and scoring 33 runs.