Caitlyn Newburn is not just one of the best athletes in the Napa Valley – she’s one of the best in the country.
The Napa Valley Register’s 2019 All-Napa County Softball Player of the Year is committed to UCLA as a catcher and is ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the nation for the class of 2022 by Extra Inning Softball after dominating for Napa High at the plate this year and helping lead her team to the Vine Valley Athletic League title.
Newburn thanked Napa High head coach Ron Walston and assistant coaches Randi Golding, Dave Golding and DeAnna Bowers.
“They helped the team and me so much this year and they always pushed us to be our best,” she said. “I feel so blessed to learn from them and I wanted to thank them for all the hard work they put in and the trust they had for me as a freshman.”
It’s easy to forget, but Newburn just barely wrapped up her first year of high school, making her the first freshman to earn All-County Player of the Year honors since Justin-Siena basketball phenomenon Vicky Deely did in 2004-05.
“Caity had an amazing year at the plate,” Walston said. “Her power numbers speak for themselves. She’s probably the most disciplined hitter I have coached.”
Newburn was feared by opposing pitchers, and rightfully so. She finished the season with a blistering .649 batting average, good for third-best in the North Coast Section and No. 83 in the nation, per MaxPreps.com.
She smacked 11 home runs and amassed 33 RBIs while notching a .759 on-base percentage and a mountainous 2.145 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) from the leadoff spot. For comparison, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout led Major League Baseball in OPS in 2018 with a 1.088 mark.
How does she rack up such gaudy stats?
“It’s just a lot of practice. I’ve been working on it for a long time,” Newburn humbly said.
She’s been working on it since she was 9, when she found her athletic calling and never looked back.
“I tried a bunch of other sports before and then I started softball and I never wanted to do anything else,” she said. “When I got a little bit older and learned about college and that I could be able to go play softball in college, that’s definitely when I got way more into it.”
Newburn’s passion for softball and pursuit of growing as a player has led her to the Sorcerer-Schroll Softball 14U team, a travel program known for producing collegiate talent.
She played a starring role in leading her team to a berth in the PGF National Championship game.
She moved up to Sorcerer’s 18U “Old Skool” team this past fall and was immediately thrust into competition with Julia Scardina, a 2019 Utah commit, and Hailey Hayes, a 2020 Boise State commit, for the starting job.
Scardina and Hayes have helped Newburn, who constantly asks her elders questions about what they’re seeing and how they operate at the plate and in the squat.
Her advanced ability drew the eye of a multitude of major college programs, but Newburn set her focus on taking her talents to UCLA, committing in January of 2018 to a program that marries top-tier athletics with even better academics.
The Bruins winning the Women’s College World Series championship last week may have reaffirmed her commitment even further.
“It was surreal. It was amazing. I was jumping up and down screaming,” she said of watching her future team on television from her couch in Napa. “I definitely already fell in love with UCLA after meeting all the coaches and going to the campus.”
The Bruins obviously liked Newburn’s skills behind the dish and at the plate, but they likely felt most comfortable extending her an offer because of her mental approach to the game.
“Before I go up to the plate, I look at where the pitcher has been throwing hitters before me and what their tendencies are so I can come up with a plan for where I am looking for a ball to be,” she explained.
“I see if they’re throwing to one side of the plate or not, if they’re throwing a strike first pitch, if they throw a certain pitch in a two-strike count. I’m just looking for tendencies and what they constantly do to plan what I want to look for.”
If she figures out her opponents’ methods, look out.
According to Sorcerer softball’s profile on Newburn, “at one point this spring, she had five consecutive first-pitch swings resulting in four home runs and a ground-rule double.”
After a two-run homer from Newburn provided Napa’s only offense 10-2 loss against American Canyon on April 16, Walston said, “It’s to the point now where you’re just waiting for it. When you’ve got a runner on or two runners on, if she just misses it, you’re actually surprised.”
Napa finished 15-8 on the season with a 9-3 VVAL record. The Grizzlies qualified for the NCS Division 1 playoffs and received the No. 8 seed, defeating No. 9-seed Clayton Valley in a wild 23-13 win before falling 11-1 in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Foothill-Pleasanton, MaxPrep.com’s No. 7 team in the nation.
“It was a challenge for us, but I think we really went in just trying to give it our all and finish the season strong,” Newburn said of facing a national power. “I think most of us did really well and I’m proud of my whole team.”
While Newburn admitted she would love to keep winning league championships and a North Coast Section championship, she said her true goal is to keep improving alongside her friends and teammates while growing as a leader.
“I definitely want to help the incoming freshman class as well as the people coming up from JV to varsity,” she said. “I want to be a great leader for them and make sure I’m always helping my teammates on the field and also off the field.”
She is a ways away from having to decide her college major or potential career path. But she cites her favorite subjects as math and science and will be taking advanced placement biology as a sophomore.
For now, she can close the books and focus on having a fun summer.
For Newburn, that probably entails working on her softball craft every day.