About Steve Ramirez

Steve Ramirez has covered prep sports for San Gabriel Valley Newspapers since 1989.

Baseball: Del Rio League race tightens as Cal defeats first-place Santa Fe

California’s Jacob Sharp (19) is congratulated by teammates after scoring in their Del Rio League baseball game at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs on Friday April 21, 2017. California defeated Santa Fe 7-4. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)


By Stephen Ramirez
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> California High School’s quest for a sixth consecutive Del Rio League baseball crown is still alive and well.The Condors drew their line in the sand by rallying back from a tough loss on Wednesday to score a 7-4 victory over first-pace Santa Fe on Friday.Gilly Rodriguez had a key two-run double in the second inning and Gilbert Lopez gave up one run in five innings to lead California (13-7, 6-3), which stayed within a game of the Chiefs. Raul Ramirez had three hits for Santa Fe (11-11, 7-2), which faces a home-and-home series with La Serna (12-12-1, 6-3) next week. The Lancers lost to Whittier to stay tied for second with California.

“I think more importantly to us as a ball club, we showed we have the capability to beat anyone in this league,” California coach Tony Nieto said. “Regardless of (what the standings show), we still have six games left. It was more important for our ball club to understand that we can beat anybody.”
California, which lost 5-0 to Santa Fe on Wednesday, jumped on the Chiefs early on Friday, leading 5-0 after two innings. The Condors took a 2-0 lead in the first. Jacob Sharp and Brandon Acosta (two hits, two runs) singled with one out. Sharp then stole third before scoring on an error. Acosta came home on a squeeze bunt by Lopez.
Jordan Zuniga led off the second with a single before scoring on a fielder’s choice and throwing error. Rodriguez doubled in two runs for a 5-0 advantage.
“That at-bat, I was just trying to go the other way with it,” Rodriguez said. “He hung the curve ball, and I went (to right field) and got a double.”
Lopez kept Santa Fe at bay early, allowing just one unearned run in five innings. He gave up five hits and struck out three.
California made it 6-0 in the third on a single by Lopez and a balk before going up 7-0 on a hit-by-pitch, a stolen base and error in the fifth.
But Santa Fe, which scored five runs late to win on Wednesday, refused to quit. Ramirez hit a two-out triple to make it 7-1 in the fifth before the Chiefs made it 7-3 in the sixth on a RBI single by Ruben Romero and an error.
Ramirez hit a double in the seventh before a fielding error made it 7-4. But Anthony Salazar induced Nathaniel Davalos to fly out to end the game.
“We gave in a little bit early with letting (being in first) get to us. We came in a little too laid back,” Santa Fe coach Pierre Romo said. “It affected us and we got down on ourselves. But we continued to fight.
“We took the (season series 2-1). It’s not a great day, but we’re still in a good place. That’s what we are looking at.”

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Softball: La Habra routs Fullerton to stay perfect in Freeway League

La Habra players greet Maritza Diaz (1) after hitting a home run in the second inning as they play Fullerton in their Freeway League girls softball game at La Habra High School in La Habra on Thursday April 20, 2017. La Habra defeated Fullerton 12-0. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)


By Stephen Ramirez
LA HABRA >> La Habra High School has been rated one of the top 20 softball teams in the state all season and Thursday they lived up to that billing.Janelle Rodriguez hit two home runs and Hannah Johnson threw four shutout innings to lead host La Habra to a 12-0 victory over Fullerton in a Freeway League game that was stopped in the fifth inning because of the 10-run rule.Maritza Diaz, Anissa Alatorre and Johnson also hit home runs for the Highlanders (14-6, 4-0), who are ranked No. 20 in the state by MaxPreps.com, No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and No. 1 in the area.Kira Cauley, Rodriguez, Diaz and Savannah Tourville had two hits each for La Habra. Alyssa Brundage and Ceci Lopez had singles for Fullerton (10-10, 2-2).
“We just had to be patient today,” said Rodriguez, who was the 2016 Whittier Daily News Player of the Year. “We talked about not being anxious at all. It was our main goal today.

“We had to stay back. (Fullerton’s) defense had to work a little bit harder today.”
La Habra put it away early, leading 7-0 after scoring two runs in the first and five in the second.
Rodriguez, who had four RBIs, highlighted the early uprising with a three-run home run in the second for the seven-run lead.
She led off a four-run fourth with her second home run for a 9-0 lead.
“(Both pitches) were right there,” Rodriguez said of her two home runs. “I had to jump on them. I wanted to get more runs for my team and keep the inning going.”
Alatorre capped the scoring with a two-run home run for a 12-0 lead in the fourth. Alyssa Palacios also had a triple in the inning. She went 1 for 2, with a sacrifice fly in the first.
Johnson, who gave up one hit and struck out three in four innings, was perfect through three. She got the first two outs in the fourth before Brundage singled to left.
Elena Valenzuela and Rodriguez got the final four outs.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” La Habra coach Steve Harrington said. “Fullerton is a good team; their coach does a good job with them. I would say we just caught them on a bad time.”

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La Mirada defeats Bishop Amat for first Boras Classic win


By Stephen Ramirez
SANTA ANA >>
It wasn’t for a CIF Southern Section title or even a league crown, but it still was a pretty big milestone for the La Mirada High School baseball team to hang its hat on.Freshman Jared Jones threw six shutout innings and senior shortstop Kevin Kendall had two hits and stole two bases to help La Mirada to its first win in the Boras Classic with a 4-1 victory over traditional power Bishop Amat in a consolation-round game at Mater Dei High.
Joseph McNealey also had a two-run single and Eugene Jeon had an RBI for the Matadores (16-3). Jayson Gonzalez had single and scored a run for the Lancers (14-6), who lost their second consecutive game after winning 10 in a row, including last week’s National Classic in Fullerton.
La Mirada, ranked No. 1 by the Whittier Daily News, will face Aliso Niguel, which defeated Damien 6-2, in a consolation semifinal at noon at Mater Dei Thursday. Bishop Amat, ranked No. 1 by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, will face Damien Thursday at 9 a.m., also at Mater Dei.
“We were disappointed we didn’t get a win (Tuesday),” said La Mirada coach Jim Zurn, whose Matadores opened the tournament with a 5-1 loss to Mater Dei. “But Bishop Amat, with (its) history, is a really good team. We came out and played a really good game. (Jones) gave us a good start, and we knew he would.
“(It’s) our first-ever win in the Boras Classic for our program. It’s very monumental for our school and our city.”
Jones limited Amat to five hits and struck out six to improve to 3-1. He got in trouble just once, but quickly pitched his way out it.
The Lancers, trailing 3-0 in the fifth, loaded the bases with one out following back-to-back singles by Jesus Maldonado and AJ Barraza and a walk to Gonzalez. But Jones struck out Ben Hurst and induced Richard Castro to pop out.
“I don’t think about it,” Jones said. “I just go into the stretch and try to block it out and see what happens.”
La Mirada scored the only runs it would need in the fourth when it took a 3-0 lead. Kendall, a UCLA signee who is considered one of the top shortstops in Southern California, led off with a double. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when a pop up by Jeon was dropped.
Emilio Morales followed with a walk and Nathan Sena singled. McNealey then dropped a two-run single down the left-field line for a 3-0 advantage.
“I really liked the way we swung the bats today,” Zurn said. “We made some things happen with our legs to force the issue and we got some big two-out, clutch hits.”
Amat scored its only run in the seventh. Gonzalez walked with two outs, stole second before scoring on a single by Castro.
“We were just flat,” Bishop Amat coach Joe Hoggatt said. “This is two games in a row that we’ve played flat. Not to take anything away (from La Mirada). We (played under) a lot of emotion last week (in winning the National Classic). We can make every excuse known to man, but the bottom line is you have to come out and play.
“We haven’t met that challenge. But these are all good things for us. They are learning experiences.”

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Whittier’s Alyssa Olague signs with Cal State Dominguez Hills


By Stephen Ramirez
WHITTIER >>
Whittier High School’s Alyssa Olague has dedicated nearly every waking hour to softball. Tuesday, softball paid her back.Olague, one of the top players in area, signed to play at nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills in a ceremony at the Whittier school.It’s the completion of a dream when she was a little girl and first saw softball icon Jennie Finch play on television.
“It means everything,” Olague said. “I can remember as a little girl and watched Jennie Finch pitch and said, ‘I want to be just like her.’ My dad took me in the back yard and said, ‘We’re going to learn how to pitch.’ He didn’t know, so we looked on Youtube and found out ways to pitch.
“I’ve been through so much, with injuries and other things. It means so much to say it was all worth it.”
Olague, who was honorable mention All-Whittier Daily News last season, is 5-4 with a 2.90 ERA in helping the Cardinals to a 10-5-1 record, including 2-0 in the Del Rio League heading into a showdown against La Serna on Tuesday. She is hitting .263 with four RBIs and four doubles.
She will be able to bring that production to CS Dominguez Hills, which competes in the CCAA.
“It wasn’t really a hard decision,” Olague said. “I went to one of their games and talked to the coach. I saw the girls play, I’ve seen the campus and fell in love with it. I just knew this is where I wanted to go.”
It also helped being close to Whittier, which will allow here family and friends to see her play on a regular basis.
“I love it,” Olague said. “My parents have always been there for me. When I’m pitching I just love my parents being there, being supportive and cheering me on.
“I want them to experience it with me. It’s great.”

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All-Area Girls Basketball: El Rancho’s Amy Navarro is 2017 Player of the Year

Amy Navarro from El Rancho High School was selected as the Whittier Daily News All Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year on Monday April 10, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)


PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Amy Navarro, El Rancho, Senior

El Rancho High School enjoyed arguably its finest season in girls basketblal in 2017.
The Dons, who have dominated the Del Rio League each of the past three seasons, had a school-record 26 wins and advanced to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals for the first time.
Senior Amy Navarro was a pivotal force in that success, both as a scorer and defender, but also from a leadership role.
For her efforts, Navarro is the 2017 Whittier Daily News girls basketball Player of the Year.

“This year was amazing,” Navarro said. “It felt great, like knowing your hard work paid off. It was great to experience (setting the quarterfinal milestone) with my teammates. It’s a great feeling.”
But one well-deserved.
The senior was one of the area’s most-balanced players, averaging a team-best 11.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
El Rancho coach Randy Shigezane credited Navarro’s work ethic for her success.
“She’s been a fantastic player,” Shigezane said of the 6-foot Navarro. “I’ve been a coach for 30 years and she’s easily one of the most-improved players I’ve coached in a four-year span at the high school level.
“I told her as a freshman that she could change our program, because we don’t typically get players her size. I told her it was just going to be up to how hard she worked, and clearly by how she played this year it was something we can’t replace. She’s been a perfect player for us, (both) on the court and leading the team. She’s been fantastic.”
The numbers show her improvement. Navarro went from 3.5 ppg as a sophomore to 10.2 last season and 11.6 this winter.
“It really just came down to how much I really wanted to improve,” Navarro said.
The senior, who was co-Del Rio League MVP with fellow senior Brittany Corona, had her biggest games down the stretch, including averaging close to 13 points a game over the final seven and scoring in double figures in all three playoff games.
El Rancho, which won an early-season showdown against area power St. Paul in December, followed up its perfect Del Rio League campaign with playoff victories over Westminster (54-47) and Antelope Valley (46-43) to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.
The Dons season ended with a 58-41 loss to Bishop Montgomery.
“This was a great year and a good experience,” Navarro said. “It was awesome, especially being with my teammates and experiencing it with my best friends.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Randy Shigezane, El Rancho

Shigezane, in his 12th season at the Pico Rivera school, the past nine as head coach, has built the Dons into an area power. El Rancho has won five consecutive Del Rio League crowns under his watch, including the past three outright.
The Dons have won their past 28 league games.
This season was arguably the best in school history. El Rancho went 26-5, including 10-0 in winning the Del Rio League, and advanced to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time.
“No girls or boys team had ever been to the quarterfinals before,” Shigezane said. “This was a huge accomplishment for us this year. The girls were obviously disappointed they didn’t win (against Bishop Montgomery), but certainly doing something no one here has ever done, it was an unbelievable year. It was special.”
FIRST TEAM
Guard: Meghann Henderson, Sonora, Sr.

Henderson has been a key cog for the Raiders, who have advanced to at least the quarterfinals each of the past three seasons, including making the divisional finals in 2016. She averaged 19.5 points per game this season in helping Sonora go 22-8 and advance to the quarterfinals. Henderson, who is on the all-area team for the third consecutive season, was All-Freeway League and All-CIF-SS Division IAA.
Guard: Lainie James, Sonora, Sr.
James is on the all-area first team for the third consecutive season and a key part of a Raiders team that has advanced to at least the quarterfinals the past three seasons. The senior averaged 18.3 points per game, including making 45 3-pointers. She was All-Freeway League.
Guard: Emma Zener, La Habra, Sr.
Zener is one of five players to make all-area the past three seasons. The senior, who helped La Habra to an 18-10 record, is one of the better shooters in the area and put in 71 3-pointers this winter while averaging 11 points per game. She was All-Freeway League.
Guard: Brittany Corona, El Rancho, Sr.
Corona has been a key player for the Dons and part of four Del Rio League championship teams. She averaged 11.1 points per game in helping El Rancho to a 26-5 record and advance to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time in school history. She also made 55 3-pointers. Corona was co-MVP of the Del Rio League with teammate Amy Navarro.
Forward: Na’Lon Smith, St. Paul, Sr.
Smith was one of the bright spots for what was a disappointing season for Swordsmen, who missed the playoffs after winning a 4AA title in 2016. She combined athleticism with shooting ability to be one of the top scorers in the area. Smith, who was 2016 WDN Player of the Year, was first team All-Del Rey League.
Forward: Paris Rivera, California, Sr.
Rivera was a key part in leading the Condors to their best season in program history, which included advancing to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time. She provided an inside presence for California, averaging 13.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The senior was first team All-Del Rio League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4AA.
Forward: Marissa Mora, Pioneer, Jr.
Mora helped the Titans to a spot in the CIF-SS Division 4A quarterfinals. She was a force inside for Pioneer, scoring 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mora was first team All-Del Rio League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4A.
Forward: Lily Perkins, Cantwell, Sr.
Perkins is on the all-area team for the third consecutive season. She averaged double-figures in scoring to help the Cardinals reach the second round of the fourth consecutive season. Perkins, who will attend Eastern Washington on a basketball scholarship, combined athleticism with scoring finesse to become one of the area’s best the past four seasons. She was All-Del Rey League.
Center: Kyannie Brown, Montebello, Sr.
Brown enjoyed a monster season in helping the Oilers go 18-8 and reach the CIF-SS playoffs. She was a force on the offensive side, scoring 13 points and 13 rebounds per game. She was productive against quality opponents, averaging 20 points against top competition, including scoring 17 points in a 54-48 loss to Viewpoint in the first round of the playoffs. She was Almont League MVP, a rare feat for a player from a non-championship team.
Center: Christa Evans, Whittier Christian., Sr.
Evans helped Whittier Christian reach the 4AA quarterfinals. She’s been a top player for the Heralds in previous seasons and really stepped up in 2017, averaging 13.2 points and 10.7 rebounds a game for Whittier Christian, which went 20-10. She was first team All-Olympic League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4AA.
SECOND TEAM
Guard: Elizabeth Yoshitake, Sonora, So.
Guard, Susy Regalado, El Rancho, Jr.
Guard: Nicole Robles, California, So.
Guard: Valeria Lizarraga, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Sr.
Guard: Alisia Trejo, Montebello, Jr.
Guard: Joleen Corona, Whittier Christian, Fr.
Forward: Raylene Cosio, Pioneer, So.
Forward: Alyssa Lomeili, Whittier, Sr.
Center: Hannah Mc Arthur, La Habra, Sr.
Center: Lauryn Jordan, La Mirada, Sr.
FINAL TOP TEN
1. Sonora (22-8)
2. El Rancho (26-5)
3. California (19-8)
4. Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary (15-15)
5. Whittier Christian (20-10)
6. Pioneer (19-12)
7. Montebello (18-8)
8. La Habra (18-10)
9. St. Paul (11-16)
10. Whittier (12-16)
LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
Almont: Keppel
Del Rey: Serra
Del Rio: El Rancho
Freeway: Troy
Olympic: Village Christian
Suburban: Cerritos, Mayfair

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