Modesto-area high schools finish spring seasons in championship games, sign new recruits
The Big Valley Christian High School softball team advanced to its second straight Division VII section title game after beating Foresthill 10-0 in the quarterfinals and narrowly escaping Buckingham Charter in the semifinals, 4-2. Just like last season, the Lions went up against Central California Athletic Alliance rival Stone Ridge Christian with a blue banner on the line.
The Lions entered the season as defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII and NorCal Division V champions after going 22-6 in 2022. They returned the majority of their team including ace Ava Hernandez, who finished last season sixth in California in strikeouts, according to MaxPreps, and won 21 games with a 0.99 ERA.
Hernandez suffered a high ankle sprain in a league game against Millennium midway through the 2023 season, meaning Kailey Rivera and Madyx Mitchell inherited everyday pitching duties.
The Lions still finished the regular season with 11 wins and earned the CCAA’s last playoff spot. They were awarded the second overall seed in Division VII and won their first two home playoff games.
“Ava went down … in the middle of the year with an injury and we had two freshman pitchers that have been doing a great job,” said Lions coach Eric Layman. “It was a totally different ballgame, but the girl stayed up and we made it all the way here.”
The Lions’ win streak ended at three Saturday, May 20, at Cosumnes River College as the Knights from Merced beat Big Valley 10-0 in six innings to secure the Division VII title.
The Knights came up with 10 hits, with three doubles, three triples and a home run while holding the Lions to five hits. Rivera struck out five batters in 3.2 innings pitched. Cali Cole pitched a shutout for Stone Ridge with nine strikeouts.
“They had our number today,” Layman said after the game. “She pitched a great game, can’t take anything away from that and they hit the ball. That’s why you play sports — some days you come out on top, some days you don’t.”
The Lions finished the season with a 13-8 overall record and a 5-3 league record.
Central Catholic honors high school seniors at Next Level Ceremony: Central Catholic High School on May 16 hosted one of its biggest signing classes ever as 14 student athletes and their families gathered in the gym for the annual Next Level Ceremony.
Students that will continue athletic and academic careers at NCAA, NAIA and JUCO schools in sports like softball, soccer, basketball and football were introduced by a teammate and given the opportunity to thank those who helped them along the way.
Harlye Holiday, soccer, Cal State East Bay
Alicia Lepe, soccer, UC Merced
Austin Hannink, cross country and track & field, MJC
Avery Hulsey, dance, UNLV
Malachi Miller, basketball, University of Redlands
Mateo Bravo, football, Santa Monica College
Roland Brown, football, MJC
Jaelen Nichols, football, MJC
Roman Foumai, football, College of San Mateo
Tyler Jacklich, football, University of Wyoming
Jazzelyn Rios, softball, Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Randi Roelling, softball, UC Berkeley
Joel Roberts, baseball, Delta College
Braxton Thomas, baseball, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Gurjaan Bhangu, wrestling, Rochester Institute of Technology
Ripon Christian baseball captures section title: The Ripon Christian baseball team on May 23 took care of Turlock Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship 11-3 to secure the program’s second blue banner. The Knights did most of their scoring in the late innings, driving in five runs in the fifth and sixth frames each, to come from behind to win. Turlock Christian scored once in the first and added two runs in the second inning before being held scoreless for the rest of the game.
Eli Terpsma and Logan Sauer each finished with a team-high of two hits and Terpsma added a pair of RBIs and a pair of stolen bases. Josh Buffalow led the team with three RBIs and Grant Sonke led the game in stolen bases (3).
Section champs!!! pic.twitter.com/ufKU2XKI8N
— Ripon Christian Baseball (@RCKnightsBsb) May 24, 2023
The baseball team finished off a successful run for the Ripon Christian athletics department. The Knights also won section titles in football, boys and girls volleyball, basketball and boys golf. The Knights girls volleyball team also won a Division IV state championship in the fall.
Central Catholic football players release final schools: Central Catholic High offensive lineman Mana Itete recently announced his final five schools. The four-star lineman, who transferred from Modesto Christian to Central Catholic during the winter, told 24/7Sports that his list includes four Pac-12 schools and one from the ACC.
The junior who rose as a highly touted football recruit during the summer of 2022, will pick between Oregon State, Utah, Washington, USC and Florida State when he makes his college choice.
He has already been selected to play in both the 2024 All-American Bowl in San Antonio and the 2024 Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu.
Itete was also recently named the No. 17 football prospect by CalHiSports in its Hot 100 list.
Modesto (Calif.) Central Catholic offensive lineman Manasse Itete named his final five on Sunday evening and broke down the four Pac-12 schools and one ACC that made up that final five https://t.co/MR6cbdjqiU pic.twitter.com/K2QsuLUFMX
— Brandon Huffman (@BrandonHuffman) May 22, 2023
Also recently releasing his list of top schools was defensive back Brooklyn Cheek, a three-star prospect whose top four are from the Pac-12. Cheek will consider Arizona, Arizona State, UC Berkeley and Washington State. He already has an official visit scheduled for Pullman on June 16.
Cheek had an immediate impact for the Raiders his sophomore year in 2021. He finished with a team-high five interceptions as the team went 13-2 and reached the Division 2-AA state championship game.
On CalHiSports Hot 100 recruits list for the Class of 2024, Cheek was listed as the No. 89 prospect.
Modesto (Calif.) Central Catholic defensive back Brooklyn Cheek announced his top four schools on Friday and he broke down with @247Sports why those four Pac-12 schools made the list https://t.co/hBX340lx2h pic.twitter.com/dgp69EhqnW
— Brandon Huffman (@BrandonHuffman) May 5, 2023