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After helping lead their respective teams to CIF Division 1 Regional championships on Saturday, Jess Oakland of Saint Francis (Mountain View) and Micaela Kastor of Oaks Christian have been named SBLive California's softball co-Players of the Year.

Both players were full-fledged MVP candidates on a statewide basis before even beginning their senior campaigns, and both remained elite at every step therein.

Oakland, a Minnesota-bound shortstop, was the best position player in California this season for what might not have been the first time. She was named SBLive's Central Coast Section Athlete of the Year in 2021 after powering the Lancers to a perfect 26-0 record batting .612 with 19 home runs, 33 total extra-base hits, 55 RBIs, 50 runs scored, and a surreal OPS of 2.136. While the season was obstructed by COVID, which meant that Saint Francis only played in-section teams and didn't have a postseason, it finished 2021 considered the top team in the state by many.

And in 2022, the Lancers again finished the season ranked No. 1 in the state – this time with lots of hardware to show for it – while Oakland turned in arguably an even better season.

CIF NorCal Regional D1 Softball Championship Game Clovis vs St. Francis June 4, 2022. Photo-Sam Stringer83

Her batting average "dipped" to .578, but she was walked 27 times for a career-high on-base percentage of .681. She was the only player in California to hit 20 home runs, hitting 21 of them. Oakland's 67 RBIs and slugging percentage of 1.433 were fourth and 14th in the state, but both were number one among all players on teams within the CIF's top divisions and upper ranks. She scored a career-high 52 runs as well, and was again one of the best defensive players around. While technically her 2.114 OPS was lower than her 2021 mark of 2.136, Saint Francis resumed playing one of the hardest schedules in the state, and went 31-2 while winning an Open Division section title and steamrolling its way to a NorCal Division I Regional title.

Kastor too was dominant as a junior before raising her bar again as a senior. In 2021, the Notre Dame commit went 16-3 with a 0.75 ERA in 122 innings of work, and also hit .471 with 16 extra-base hits and an OPS above 1.400 in 22 games. But she turned it up a notch in both phases of the game this season to elevate Oaks Christian into one of the very best teams in the state.

In 2022, Kastor was tied for second in the state with 25 wins against just one loss – the Lions' only loss of the season. She fanned 256 batters in 151.1 innings and only allowed 11 earned runs the entire season to finish with a 0.51 ERA. Three of them came in the Southern Region championship game, a 6-5 win against Roosevelt (Eastvale), to cool off arguably the best offense in SoCal with a complete game victory. Before that game, she had only allowed eight earned runs in 144.1 innings for an even more astounding ERA of 0.40.

Micaela Kastor softball

With a heater that tops out over 70 MPH, Kastor might be the hardest thrower in the state. And with her command of it – as evidenced by allowing only 23 walks all season – she rarely needed to stray from it. But when she did, her deceptively straight changeups had batters spinning in circles.

Kastor also turned in a career year at the plate, batting .522 with 11 homers, 27 total extra-base hits, 39 RBIs, and 40 runs scored. She also had an OBP/SLG/OPS line of .594/1.026/1.621. Every single one of those marks was a career-high, with the exception of having a higher SLG and OPS through 10 games of her COVID-shortened sophomore season.

Many were skeptical that Oaks' undefeated regular season would translate to championships, as a result of a schedule that wasn't as hard as many other top programs' schedules. For all the non-elite teams they did play before the postseason, Kastor helped guide the Lions past a handful of formidable teams unwaveringly, and dominated some elite teams in the CIFSS D1 playoffs before falling to Los Alamitos in the semifinals. That included allowing only two total runs total against Valley View, Chino Hills, and Murrieta Mesa.

When Oaks Christian fell 4-0 to Los Al in what was an off-night defensively, the critics came back out. But Kastor and co. silenced them with an outstanding Southern Region Division I title run. Kastor started it with a no-hitter against San Marcos – in which she also hit two long balls – before handling CIFSS D2 champion Mission Viejo (one run in seven innings) and outlasting Roosevelt. At the plate, she had a hit in every playoff game except the Regional semifinals, and two hits in four of Oaks' final five games.

Having co-MVPs isn't something we set out to do, but it was just inevitable this time around. Oakland and Kastor both had wildly dominant campaigns to lead their teams to Regional titles and finishes atop the state, and for that, they are SBLive's California co-Players of the Year.