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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW-Area high school softball players well represented in another top summer showcase event

July 14, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

IRVINE-The Champions Cup showcase tournament, in conjunction with USA Softball, was held last weekend as a pair of age groups took centerstage with two dozen 14-Under teams playing at Great Park and 38 teams from the 16-Under division displaying the talents at Harvard Park. This is the 11th annual tournament for the 14’s and 15th annual for the 16’s, which featured several area players among the hundreds representing their travel softball teams.

A pair of those players were Kylie Manibusan (Cerritos High) and Kendall Nakano (Norwalk High), whose travel team, the (Norco) Wildcats-Laufou/Hunter advanced to the quarterfinals this past Sunday where they were blanked by the San Jose Sting-Perales/Lucido, the champions of the tournament, 9-0. All nine runs were scored in the bottom of the fourth inning, and off Nakano, who was touched up for 12 hits. Offensively, the Wildcats were held without a hit, and had just three runners reach base, one on an error, one who was walked and the other who was hit by a pitch. Earlier in the day in the single elimination playoffs, the Wildcats roughed up the (Mountain View) Cal Nuggets Gold 11-1. Manibusan went one for four with the hit coming on the third pitch in the bottom of the first, and scored twice while Nakano went one for two, scored once and drove in a run.

In pool play action, which began last Thursday, the Wildcats edged the (Torrance) California Cruisers-Smith 9-8 in walk-off fashion as an error allowed the tying and winning runs to come across. Nakano went hitless in two at-bats but was walked once and scored in the bottom of the third. She also pitched the last inning and two-thirds, yielding a hit and three runs.

Manibusan, who was batting one spot ahead of Nakano in the lineup, went one for three and scored in the fourth.

That game was followed by a 7-6 victory over the (Fontana) Athletics Mercado-LW as the Wildcats again scored twice in the bottom of the fifth. Manibusan and Nakano each had a hit and the former scored in the first as the Wildcats built a 4-0 lead after two innings and were still up 5-2 heading into the fifth. Nakano faced the final three batters of the game, giving up a hit.

Last Friday, the Wildcats were defeated by the San Jose Sting-Perales/Lucido 7-2 as the Sting broke a 2-2 tie with single tallies in the third and fourth innings. Nakano went one for three and pitched one inning.

The Wildcats ended pool play action with a pair of wins last Saturday, first defeating the (Hayward) Southern California Athletics-Gumataotao 4-3, then blasting the (Downey) Nemesis Elite-HG 11-3. In the first game, the Wildcats scored three times in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. With one out, Manibusan doubled and scored with two outs. Nakano also had a hit earlier in the game and drove in a run, and pitched three innings, scattering five hits and giving up a run.

In the last pool play game, the Wildcats erupted for 16 hits with Manibusan and Nakano each collecting three hits. Manibusan also drove in three and scored three times while Nakano drove in three as well on a three-run home run in the top of the second with two outs, making it 5-0. Manibusan saw her first action in the circle at the Champions Cup, giving up four hits and three runs. 

The Wildcats, who have qualified for the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship where they will compete in the Platinum Division, will be in the Antelope Valley this weekend as they will participate in the Easton Summer Nationals, put on by USA Preps. Manibusan, Nakano and the rest of the team will play three pool play games on Friday in Palmdale and one on Saturday in Lancaster before moving to the single elimination playoffs.

Another Norwalk High standout, Jailynn Banda, plays for the (Pasadena) Firecrackers-Vines which went 3-1 in pool play action, then shutout the (Hayward) Southern California Athletics-Gumataotao 6-0 this past Sunday morning behind Banda’s stellar pitching. She threw 93 pitches over six innings, struck out half a dozen and yielded three hits. Later in the day, the Firecrackers were knocked out by the (Signal Hill) USA Athletics RML, a 14-Under team, 7-2.

In pool play action, Banda’s team tied the (Whittier) USA Athletics-Garcia 1-1, then lost to the (Chino) Clutch Up Softball Academy 5-2. But last Saturday, the Firecrackers bounced back to defeat the (Rancho Penasquitos) Breakers Labs-Chavez 8-3 and the (San Jose) California Riptide-Zar 7-6.

Katherine Villegas of Cerritos High plays for the (Signal Hill) USA Athletics-Rogers/Gunnar which went 4-1 in pool play action with a run differential of 44, then edged the Nemesis Elite 9-8 this past Sunday morning and eased past the (Oakland) 510 Pride-Taylor 6-1 before losing to the (Whittier) Briggs Softball Club Bengals-Gurule 7-0 later in the evening. 

The (Signal Hill) USA Athletics-Rogers/Mathis squad, home to La Mirada High’s Quira Castillo and Angelina Ratzlaff, won all four pool play games and was one three 16-Under teams to go undefeated in pool play action. The USA Athletics blasted the California Riptide 19-0 last Thursday and shutout the (Huntington Beach) California Cruisers-Caouette and Corona Angels-Carter by identical 8-0 scores last Friday. Pool play action wrapped up with an 11-2 win over the (Covina) California Panthers-Barber last Saturday, but in their first playoff game this past Sunday, the USA Athletics lost to the (San Jose) Batbusters-Spingola 7-4.

Castillo had one hit in six at-bats in four of the five games, but pitched eight and two-thirds innings, allowed 12 hits, gave up seven runs and saved three of the five games. Ratzlaff, who leads the team in hitting with a .396 average since late May, batted .500 in the Champions Cup scored four runs and drove in a pair.

Other area players who spent this past season at the junior varsity level as freshmen and whose teams were in the Champions Cup were Gahr’s Abbygail Perez, who plays for the (Whittier) USA Athletics-Garcia, and La Mirada’s Bettie Mae Acevedo of the BSC Bengals-Gurule. The USA Athletics-Garcia went 3-2 in pool play action, then lost to the (Woodland Hills) Athletics Mercado-Campbell/Gurrola 5-2 in their first playoff game while the Bengals split four pool play games, but advanced to the semifinals before losing to the (Signal Hill) USA Athletics-Phillips 5-1.

The second weekend of the Champions Cup, featuring the 18-Under age group. began on July 12 as 43 teams will display their talents, also at Great Park and Harvard Park. Of local interest, the Explosion-Sanchez, whose manager is Gahr head coach Rey Sanchez, has two pool play games on July 12 and July 13 and one on Friday before going to the playoffs on Saturday. Gahr’s Sophia Magcale (University of Redlands) and Hailey Sanchez (California State University, Northridge) and Amber Valdez of La Mirada are on the team.

The (Downey) Ohana Tigers-Colenzo is home to Sienna Contreras of Norwalk and Catherine Quibrantar of Cerritos and will also have the same number of pool play games as the Explosion on the same day. The two teams will face each other in the second of those five games on July 12.

A lot of the same 18-Under teams that are in the Champions Cup were playing in the Surf City Tourneys Surf City Summer Showcase last weekend at the Huntington Beach Sports Complex. There were 48 teams, all playing five pool games with no playoffs. The Ohana Tigers-Colenzo went 3-2 and tied for first place in their pool while the (Fountain Valley) Southern California Athletics-Rivera/Blanck, featuring Artesia High standouts Alea Medina, Vanessa Soto and Maya Torres, went 1-4 in their pool. 

As a reminder, if there are any area softball players who will be playing in the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship, please contact m via Twitter or email me at www.LorenKopff.com so I can mention you and your travel team in the July 21 issue of the Los Cerritos Community News.


Former La Mirada star Darius Perry was selected in the 15th round, 442nd pick by the Colorado Rockies this past Monday in the Major League Baseball Draft. Perry, a catcher, spent his junior and seniors at La Mirada before graduating in 2019. Since then, he has been a standout at UCLA and batted .278 this past season with 51 hits, scored 35 runs and drove in 31 runs. He also hit three of his career five home runs, and for his career in Westwood, Perry had a .278 average with 91 hits and 55 RBI.

Junior catcher Jacob Sharp, who graduated from La Mirada in 2020 and was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round, 517st pick. Sharp batted .335 this past season for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with 63 hits in 45 games. Sharp scored 48 times, drove in that same number and hit 12 home runs. He had spent two seasons at Fullerton College before transferring to UNLV.Perry and Sharp join recent La Mirada alums Jared Jones and Daniel Ponce de Leon who were drafted. Ponce de Leon was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 24th round of the 2010 draft and Jones was the 44th pick (second round) taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. Jones, a pitcher, was recently called up to Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians where he has a 1-1 record with a 5.12 earned run average.