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Ripon’s Naranjo signs with William Penn University
Peyton Naranjo signing
Ripon senior Peyton Naranjo is joined by coaches and family during her signing ceremony on Nov. 30. She will take her softball talents to William Penn University in Iowa. Also pictured, left: former Ripon coach Robert Vernon, parents Pedro and Kena, assistant coach Heath Thomason, sister Addison and head coach Tanner Jordan. GARY JENSEN/

Peyton Naranjo never imagined herself at an out-of-state school.

That changed when she first stepped foot on the campus of William Penn University is Oskaloosa, Iowa in mid-October.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really looking out of state, at first,” she said. “I was sure I wanted to stay in California, because I’m a homebody and I love being around my family. But as soon as I got to the school, I knew I had to go there.”

Ripon High’s standout senior outfielder has accepted an athletic scholarship to play for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics softball program. She affirmed her commitment during a signing ceremony held at the RHS North Gym foyer on Nov. 30.

“I realized that the recruiting process was over and I can finally take a deep breath,” Naranjo said. “I’m a little bit nervous for the next four years, but mostly excited.”

Naranjo also considered Holy Names and Pomona College, two California schools. Former Ripon coach Robert Vernon, who stepped down after a successful 16-year run last spring, recommended that she look into WPU, where his daughter Taylor — a 2014 Ripon grad — played collegiately.

Naranjo reached out to longtime Penn coach Mike Christner, and there was no turning back since. On her visit, she got to practice with the team and immediately felt welcomed.

“When I got to the school, it was love at first sight,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go there. They have a good biology program, and I felt really comfortable with the girls on the team. The town was also very beautiful.”

A self-proclaimed “nerd who is into science,” Naranjo plans to study biology with an emphasis in pre-med. Her goal is to become a pediatrician or surgeon.

Christner is in his 22nd year as WPU coach and is the program’s most accomplished. He has a 674-470 (.589) record with the Statesmen and has led them to four NAIA national tournament appearances, seven regular-season titles in the now-disbanded Midwest Collegiate Conference and four MCC tournament titles.  

Penn is coming off its first winning season since going 36-20 back in 2014. Last year, the Statesmen went 26-23 overall and 18-14 in Heart of America Athletic Conference play.

In Naranjo, Christner and the Statesmen are getting reliable corner outfielder with a productive bat. Last season, she was one of the top batters in a loaded Ripon lineup, hitting for a .403 average while driving in 23 runs. She helped the Indians (19-5) claim the Trans-Valley League title and was named all-league.

Ripon lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal to Dixon, 6-2.  The Indians were technically reigning champions, having claimed the title — as well as Cal-Hi Sports Division IV State Team of the Year honors — in 2019. There were no postseason tournaments in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Naranjo also plays for Shawn Ching’s 18U Batbusters travel-ball team.

“In my final year (at Ripon), what I hope to accomplish is to have fun playing with my sister (Addison, a freshman), and hopefully we can win Sections,” Naranjo said. “I didn’t get a chance to do that, because in 2020 the season was cut short and we probably would have won Sections.”