By Stephen Ramirez
There are times where the La Habra High softball team had the look of an all-star squad.
The Highlanders, with four players signed to NCAA Division I scholarships, were that good this season.
But the shining star was senior Alyssa Palacios, who led the team in hitting to key a run to the Highlanders ninth consecutive Freeway League title.
For her efforts, Palacios is the 2017 Whittier Daily News Softball Player of the Year.
“I’m shocked (to be player of the year),” said Palacios, who will play for the University of Utah next season. “It’s really an honor. I feel excited.
“This is another dream come true. I didn’t think I’d get this one and I did. That’s cool.”
Palacios has been one of the most-productive players on arguably the area’s top team the past two seasons. She hit .393 as a junior in helping the Highlanders reach the CIF Southern Section Division 2 semifinals and followed it by hitting above .400 this season to lead La Habra to a 21-8 record and another Freeway League crown. They also scored wins over Division 1 quarterfinalist Orange Lutheran and Mission Viejo and national No. 1 Los Alamitos.
La Habra advanced two rounds in the Division 1 playoffs.
“I think we had a pretty good year,” said Palacios, who hit above .500 in 10 Freeway League games. “We went out to Laughlin (Nevada) and came in second. That showed us how good we could be and how good we are. It pushed us.
“Sunny Hills got us in league, but that pushed us even more. (The last game) wasn’t our best game, but the girls coming back next year, that will be a lesson they can take with them.”
Palacios will be living a dream by then, playing in the Pac-12 Conference with Utah.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve watched them on TV and I can’t wait for my family to watch me on TV.
“Growing up as a little girl, everyone wanted to play for UCLA and in the Pac-12. I (looked outside of it) and I could see all these other schools. I think Utah is the nicest one of them all, to be honest. That’s my dream.”
Palacios is joined on the all-area team by four of her teammates, three of which will also play Division I softball.
Hannah Johnson, who has been one of the top pitchers in the area the past two seasons, and pitcher-infielder Janelle Rodriguez are going to Big West champion Cal State Fullerton, with outfielder Kira Cauley, arguably one of the fastest runners in the area, going to Big West rival Cal State Northridge. Cauley shined in the all-star season, playing in three games and winning the North MVP in the OC North-South All-Star Game.
The fourth Highlander is junior Savannah Tourville, who is back next season. All five were All-Freeway League, with Palacios league MVP.
Other on the all-area first team include Whittier’s Alyssa Olague, who helped the Cardinals make the playoffs for the first time since 2009; La Mirada’s Madison Bogdanovich, who was Suburban League MVP; Schurr’s Sienna Perez, who was Red Team MVP at the Whittier Rotary All-Star Classic two weeks ago; La Serna’s Astrid Arevalo, who was Del Rio League MVP, and Whittier Christian’s Heather Gallegos, who batted over .500 for the second consecutive season.
CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR
Liza Liddell and Steve Patino, Whittier
The duo helped the Cardinals finish a solid second in the Del Rio League and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Whittier, which swept rival California for the first time and pushed La Serna before losing two one-run games, also upset Mira Costa in the first round of the Division 4 playoffs before losing in the bottom of seventh inning to Beaumont in the second round.
For their efforts, Liddell and Patino are area co-coaches of the year.
“The Whittier softball program has had a ‘black cloud’ over it for a long time,” Patino said. “Our staff changed the losing culture by instilling confidence in our athletes and showing them how to compete, gaining trust from our players, and building strong senior leadership. Combining all these taught these girls how to win.”
Pitcher: Hannah Johnson, La Habra, Sr.
Pitcher: Alyssa Olague, Whittier, Sr.
Pitcher: Ally Udell, Whittier Christian, Sr.
Catcher: Jaclyn Macias, Cal, Sr.
Infielder: Heather Gallegos, Whittier Chr., So.
Infielder: Savannah Tourville, La Habra, Jr.
Infielder: Tatum Anzaldo, St. Paul, So.
Infielder: Madison Bogdanovich, La Mirada, Jr.
Infielder: Aniz Roman, Schurr, Fr.
Outfielder: Victoria Alvarez, Montebello, Sr.
Outfielder: Astrid Arevalo, La Serna, Fr.
Outfielder: Kayla Gutierrez, La Mirada, So.
Outfielder: Nia Carter, St. Paul, So.
Outfielder: Kira Cauley, La Habra, Sr.
Utility: Janelle Rodriguez, La Habra, Sr.
Pitcher: Sienna Perez, Schurr, Sr.
Pitcher: Naomi Dickerson, La Serna, Sr.
Pitcher: Alexis Bermudez, St. Paul, Sr.
Catcher: Camille Marin, St. Paul, Fr.
Infielder: Marissa Montesdeoca, California, Sr.
Infielder: Jasmine Gray, La Serna, So.
Infielder: Marissa Velez, La Mirada, Sr
Infielder: Gabriella Dauber, Whittier Chr., Fr.
Infielder: Allene Darby, Montebello, Jr.
Infielder: Alexis Riviera, El Rancho, Sr.
Outfielder: Cierra Amarillas Salazar, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Sr.
Outfielder: Gianna Alvidrez, La Serna, So.
Outfielder: Victoria Medina, Whittier, Sr.
Utility: Amanda Cabral, California, So.
Utility: Stephanie Jimenez, Santa Fe, Jr.
FINAL TOP TEN
1. La Habra (21-8)
2. La Mirada (22-9-1)
3. La Serna (23-7)
4. Whittier (16-9-1)
5. Schurr (21-4-1)
6. St. Paul (13-9)
7. Montebello (16-11)
8. California (19-12)
9. Whittier Christian (12-15)
10. Santa Fe (14-13)
Camino Real: St. Anthony
Del Rey: St. Joseph
Del Rio: La Serna
Freeway: La Habra
Olympic League: Heritage Christian
Suburban League: Cerritos