It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which sport is the current king — or in this case, the queen — of Tulare County high school sports.
It’s softball, and ask any of the major NCAA softball head coaches why that is — there is quite a bit of top-level talent living inside county lines.
El Diamante senior Rylee Pierce is a signed recruit of the Missouri Tigers, the nation’s No. 20-ranked team. El Diamante teammate Deidra See is headed to NCAA Division I Liberty next season.
Redwood senior Rebekah Cervantes, the 2014 Times-Delta/Advance-Register softball player of the year, is all signed up to attend Boise State on a softball scholarship. Redwood senior standout Haileigh Gonzalez is headed to Cal State Northridge on a softball scholarship. Redwood junior Savannah White is a verbal pledge for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Tulare has two of the top recruits in the state for the Class of 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Tulare Western junior catcher Kelcey Carrasco made a verbal commitment to Michigan State last year.
Oregon State offered Mission Oak sophomore star Mariah Mazon when she was a freshman, and Mazon pledged to to play for the Beavers when her high school career is complete.
And if there are other Tulare County softball players with college scholarships/offers in hand, we apologize for your omittance — just wanted to exhibit the area’s prowess when it comes to softball.
These ladies aren’t resting on their laurels either. They’re putting up some of the best numbers in the Central Section.
Pierce is hitting .521 with 26 RBIs and a 1.294 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages).
Carrasco is tied for the Central Section lead with 10 home runs. She’s fourth in RBIs (34) and has an OPS of 1.668 (that’s difficult to achieve in a video game).
Mazon is at an all-section level at the plate and inside the circle. Mazon is batting .556 with nine home runs. She has a 0.30 earned run average with 140 strikeouts in 93 innings.
Cervantes is batting .447 with 21 RBIs.
There’s even more talent.
Tulare Union sophomore Brayden Nunley has five home runs, and she’s third in the Central Section with 35 RBIs. Nunley also owns a microscopic 0.70 ERA.
Redwood senior Crimson Kaiser is hitting .366 with a team-high 25 RBIs, and she has an 11-3 pitching record to go with a 1.91 ERA.
Valley Fever: How will all of this offensive and pitching prowess translate in terms of Central Section title contenders from Tulare County? If the Maxpreps.com ratings are to be trusted, it should translate very well — especially in Division II, where the projected bracket is almost a Tulare County block party.
El Diamante is ranked No. 1 in Division II with Redwood at No. 2. Tulare Western is No. 6 and Tulare Union is No. 8.
Mission Oak is ranked No. 3 in Division IV (18-0 Selma is the clear favorite). Dinuba is a possible top-4 seed in Division III.
Finals at one site?: When the CIF Central Section Board of Managers convene on April 29, one of the top agenda items is a vote on a two-year pilot program that will have the Central Section Girls Volleyball Championships at one site. Why not do it in softball, too? During last year’s Central Section Baseball Championships at Recreation Park, there was momentum building on having the section’s softball championship games at one site in the near future. And one city that was the front-runner to host such an event was Visalia. Some may wonder what locale in town could host a softball game that could accommodate over 1,000 fans. It happened in 2008, as the Visalia Miracle League hosted the U.S. Olympic team. The United States played against a regional all-star team, and the game drew a crowd of over 4,000. If the Central Section is able to stage a similar set-up near the Miracle League complex, it’s something the powers-that-be need to get serious about.
There are a couple of other local alternatives for possible sites — Tulare’s Prosperity Sports Park and Visalia’s Plaza Park. The top issue with those two locales is bringing in enough temporary seats to pique the Central Section’s powers-that-be.
Story Line of the Week: It’s anybody’s guess on who will end up with the East Yosemite League championship. Tulare Western took an early lead in the title race with a 5-3 win over defending champion Mission Oak on Tuesday. Carrasco hit a two-run, walk-off home run. The Mustangs need to be careful with a trip to Porterville on Thursday to face Monache, a team that’s pretty much in the EYL title picture every year. Mission Oak takes on a very capable Tulare Union squad on Thursday.