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JSerra joins Canyon and El Modena as Orange County softball teams to watch in 2025 – Orange County Register

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The JSerra softball team had just two seniors in its starting lineup for the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals.

The young Lions, in Division 1 for the first time, impressed as they played hard against defending champion Pacifica in a 1-0 defeat.

“They definitely have a lot to build on,” JSerra coach Katie Stith said of her team.

The strong performance against an experienced Pacifica team provided further evidence that the Lions join Canyon and El Modena as arguably the top three teams to watch in Orange County softball next season.

JSerra will be especially strong in the pitching circle with the return of freshman Abby Ford and sophomore Liliana Escobar, who sat out this season after transferring from Santa Margarita.

Pacifica coach Tony Arduino said Ford exhibited “the most speed” his hitters have faced this spring.

“She goes inside, too,” he said of Ford, who plays for Stith’s Orange County Batbusters 18-and-under black team. “She was coming into our kitchen.”

Ford said she fought through nerves in the semifinals, but found motivation in her teammates.

“I just wanted to come here and play for my team and do my best to get them to the final,” she said. “I think we just have to congratulate our whole team on how far we have come in our first appearance in Division 1.”

JSerra’s departing seniors won’t be easy to replace. Shortstop Kaylee Layfield (George Washington commit), catcher Mia Krueger (Cal Baptist) and pitcher Eva Hurtado (Cal State Fullerton) have been key contributors over the past four years.

But the Lions squad will be rich in experience next season. The returners include leadoff hitter Brooke Stephens, slap hitter Reese Ferrel and No. 5 hitter Angelina Jimenez, a freshman third baseman who homered in the quarterfinals.

Freshman outfielder Brooklyn Lamb hit a two-run homer to help the Lions beat La Mirada in the second round.

“I think people are going to fear them now,” Stith said of his team. “To get this far (in Division 1), they really broke down a lot of barriers.”

Canyon, the Crestview League champion, graduates only two senior starters and returns its two best pitchers.

Crestview League runner-up El Modena graduates three starters and returns its top two pitchers.

BEST LEAGUE IN 2025?

Pacifica and Cypress are expected to join the 15-team Century Conference next season and could face Canyon, El Modena and Esperanza in high-profile championship games. Finalized conference league rosters have not been released.

“Every match will just be a dogfight,” Arduino said. “It’s going to be fun. We’re going to get our butts kicked a little bit sometimes and we’re going to kick other people’s butts.

“I think this will be the best softball league in Orange County,” the coach added.

BOISE STATE COMPLETES OC’S TOP RECRUITS

Boise State’s recruiting efforts in Orange County appear to be thriving.

In the 2024 class, the Mountain West Conference contender signed Fountain Valley slugger Makenzie Butt and hard-hitting shortstop Quinn Southerland from Capistrano Valley.

In the 2025 class, the Broncos count on commitments from Tesoro ace Loula-Rae McNamara and El Modena leadoff hitter and second baseman Kaitlyn Galasso.

This quartet follows Boise State’s signing of speedy Huntington Beach outfielder Sophia Knight, who had a huge freshman season to help the Broncos finish as a Mountain West runner-up to San Diego State this season.

“(Boise State coach) Justin (Shults) is really good at what he does,” Butt said. “I loved it there and (with) the team and the coaching staff. It was the coaching staff that sealed the deal for me.

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