Liliana Mejia believed she was on a championship team before the season even started.
She was right.
The junior standout is also the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Softball MVP after leading Ripon to its second Sac-Joaquin Section title and first-ever mythical state crown. The Indians capped their mostly-dominant 24-2 campaign with a 7-3 victory over second-seeded Calaveras in the final round of the SJS Division IV playoffs — and with it the Cal-Hi Sports Division IV State Team of the Year distinction.
Despite the team’s youth, Mejia said expectations were high from the start.
“At the beginning of the season we knew we could do it,” Mejia said. “From the first practices, I kept telling them we’re a championship team and we can accomplish anything we want. The only thing in our way was ourselves. We just believed it from the beginning and worked very hard to accomplish what we set out to accomplish.”
For the season, Mejia hit for a .519 average to go with six homers, 33 runs and a team-high 37 RBIs. She started on a nine-game hitting streak which included a stretch of three straight games in which she bashed a home run. Mejia ended strong, too, going 4 for 7 with four RBIs combined in Ripon’s SJS semifinal and championship-round tilts with Calaveras.
Ripon coach Robert Vernon — the Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools Coach of the Year — speaks more highly of her leadership, versatility and selflessness than he does her talent. Predominantly a center fielder for travel ball, Mejia was moved to third base for the high school squad to help stabilize the infield in 2018. I
Vernon nominated Mejia for the Trans-Valley League’s MVP award and she got the nod unanimously by opposing coaches.
“When I received all-league MVP, I was very humbled and excited, but I didn’t want to let that go to my head,” Mejia said. “It doesn’t mean as much to me as winning a section title, and I couldn’t have gotten it without my teammates.”
After achieving so much, Mejia said the aim is to repeat as TVL and section champions for her senior year. The NCAA Division I prospect also wants to ensure that the Ripon machine is still humming after she is gone.
“After my sophomore season our two captains graduated,” Mejia said. “Coach made me captain and I knew I had to step up for the team. Next year, I’m going to do my best to help Caitlynn Campbell and Rhylee Magazinovic (the starting catcher and shortstop, respectively, as freshmen this past season) get better so when I leave, they can become leaders on the team.”
Most Valuable Player
Lilly Mejia, Ripon, Jr.
Offensive Player of the Year
Elizabeth Thomas, Ripon Christian, Jr.
Pitcher of the Year
Sydney Thomason, Ripon, So.
Utility Player of the Year
Shelby Cefalu, East Union, Sr
Chloe Agueda, East Union, Jr.
McKenna Daley, Ripon, Jr.
Madison de Graaf, Ripon Christian, Jr.
Mackenzie Hutchinson, Ripon, Jr.
Julianna Lassiter, Weston Ranch, Jr.
Hayley Leonard, East Union, Sr
Kaylee MacDannald, Manteca, Jr.
Allie Parker, East Union, So.
Bianca Toledo, Ripon, Jr.
Morgan Van Elderen, Ripon Christian, Jr.
Sydney Vernon, Ripon, Sr.