Pleasanton Preps: Softball remains most overlooked sport for athletic excellence

Foothill's undefeated title run very reminiscent of Amador's streak in 2014

Foothill coach Matt Sweeney accepts the NCS championship banner following the Falcons' win May 25. (Photo courtesy of Alex Moreno)

Living in the Tri-Valley, we often get spoiled by the athletic excellence that the East Bay Athletic League has to offer.

Every year it seems there is no shortage of top-notch performances from our high school athletes, often resulting in collegiate careers following their dominance at the high school level.

And we get used to it.

For my money, the most overlooked sport for amazing performances is softball. Fortunately, every so often we get a reminder as to just how blessed we are to watch these high school athletes perform before they go on to do big things at the next level and perhaps beyond that.

The best high school athlete I ever covered was Foothill softball player Val Arioto -- who ruled not just the EBAL but went on to excel at Cal-Berkeley and still is one of the top players in the world, playing for Team USA.

While Arioto's exploits are legendary, I would be remiss not to mention the accomplishments of 2014 Amador grad Johanna Grauer and Foothill senior-to-be Nicole May.

Mentioning Grauer and May is not to take anything away from a legion of players like Danielle Williams -- the former Amador ace that had a sensational freshman season at Northwestern -- or other great players that have dotted the local landscape.

Both the 2014 Dons and 2019 Falcons sent out loaded lineups every game. I was fortunate enough to see both teams play, and simply put, it was amazing. They could hit and play defense better than any other team that crossed their paths.

The reason for singling out May and Grauer is that they were the dominant players for the two best statistical teams Pleasanton has ever seen.

May recently finished her junior season by leading the Falcons to a 28-0 mark that ended with EBAL and North Coast Section titles, as well as a No. 2 national ranking.

In 2014, Grauer led the Dons to a 27-0 record that also included EBAL and NCS crowns, as well as a No. 2 national ranking.

Both players were named California Player of the Year for their amazing seasons. Grauer went on the play at perennial national power UCLA and May has already committed to the Oklahoma, the top seed in this year's NCAA Women's College World Series.

May and Grauer were not only amazing pitchers; they were both feared hitters as well. Take the NCS finals this year where Foothill beat Heritage 2-0. May went the distance in the circle, allowing one hit, and then added a two-run home run that provided the offensive firepower.

The two players' numbers for the undefeated seasons are mind-boggling.

Let's just throw them out there:

May (2019 season) -- Pitching: 151 innings pitched, 246 strikeouts, 13 walks, 0.32 ERA. Hitting: .463 batting average, 27 RBI, 5 HR.

Grauer (2014 season) -- Pitching: 191.1 innings pitched, 290 strikeouts, 27 walks, 0.51 ERA. Hitting: .429 batting average, 20 RBI.

Of course, the inevitable question to be asked: Who would win a game between the two teams

They both dominated their crosstown rivals in those seasons. In 2014, the Dons beat the Falcons 12-3, 10-3 and 7-1. This season, the Falcons put the hammer down on the Dons by the finals of 3-0, 8-1, 10-0, and 11-1.

I goaded longtime friend and Foothill coach Matt Sweeney as to who would win.

He didn't bite.

"We'd probably play for 15 innings with no score," Sweeney said, smartly.

At the end of the day, who would win is not as important as that we have chances to watch these amazing athletes play -- for free -- on a regular basis.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact Miller or submit local high school sports scores, game highlights and photographs for his weekly Pleasanton Preps column, email him at

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6 people like this
Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2019 at 12:38 am

Just the facts is a registered user.

Very disappointing to hear you gloss over Danielle Williams. Are you actually aware of what she did this year? Danielle went 27-5 as a freshman with 12 shutouts to lead the Big 10 Conference and was second in the NATION in both categories. She was second in the Big 10 conference in ERA .142, second in strike outs 266 and third in the country in strikeout to walk ratio at 8.31.

She was named Big 10 Freshman of the Year and Schutt Sports Division 1 Freshman of the Year, over Minnesota's Natalie Denhartog and Alambama's Montana Fouts. Nothing was written about her accolades yet you state, "take nothing away form her." Really?

Foothill had a phenomenal season and I mean to take nothing away from what they accomplished. They had a great season, but if you want to revel in the greatness of Pleasanton softball production, then don't ignore what is happening right before your eyes at a higher level.

For context, Grauer in her freshman year at UCLA had a 10-1 record, an ERA of .344, she pitched 83 innings, had 51 strikeouts and 45 walks. She received Pac-12 Freshman Honorable mention.

I have watched all three of these young ladies play and they are all great softball players and deserve immense recognition for the accolades they have achieved. Only Grauer has graduated and the story is still being written for Williams and Mays. Softball aficionados, sit back and enjoy, as there is much more great softball to come from these young women.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis Miller
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jun 8, 2019 at 4:08 pm

I did not gloss over Danielle Williams in the least. Please go back and read the story again...I was drawing reference to the two undefeated teams and their best players those respective years...that's it. Nothing but respect for Danielle and for Val Arioto as well....a lot of great players have come through the league and I am sure there will be many more.

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