Los Alamitos' Jenna Holcomb, center, celebrates with her teammates after making the final out to end the game against Vista Murrieta in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 softball playoffs Thursday.

Los Alamitos sticks with its formula for success


LOS ALAMITOS – The unpleasant chilling sensation of an ice pack pressing against her right shoulder stung a little less after the game than it typically does.

As Los Alamitos’ Ryan Denhart put it, “Winning helps a lot.”

The Griffins junior ace turned in a gutsy complete-game effort Thursday afternoon, tossing 136 pitches and working out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning to send third-seeded Los Alamitos into the CIF-SS Divisions 1 semifinals with a 4-1 victory over Vista Murrieta in the quarterfinals in front of a spirited crowd at Los Alamitos High.

The Griffins (26-2) will host second-seeded Orange Lutheran (29-3) on Tuesday afternoon. Los Alamitos eliminated the Lancers from the postseason in 2015, and hopes it can find similar success against the Trinity League champs next week.

“Unbelievable,” said Los Alamitos coach Rob Weil after the game. “That was huge for us. The kids played well. The defense stepped up and played well, and Ryan came up with some big pitches in some key situations.”

Los Al proved to be the sharper of the two teams early on, capitalizing on a pair of Vista Murrieta miscues to jump out to a 3-0 lead.

Griffins pinch runner Kaitlin Parsons stole second and third base with two outs in the first inning, and when the throw to third ended up in left field, the sophomore speedster trotted home for the game’s first run.

Los Al kept the pressure on in the following inning, advancing runners to second and third base with no outs. Griffins third baseman Jade Loe’s squeeze attempt dribbled back to Broncos pitcher Shea Ollison, but her wild throw to the plate allowed both runners to score, increasing Los Al’s lead.

“Our base running is our forte,” Weil said. “Our aggressive style is something that we pride ourselves on. And I’m a defensive-oriented guy. I felt that those two things fell into our hands today. We executed well, we were able to score some runs off of it, and they had to play catch up.”

Broncos center fielder Amani Bradley scored the team’s lone run in the third inning, when a pick-off attempt from Griffins catcher Mary Iakopo ended up in left field, allowing Bradley to score from third.

Vista Murrieta (18-8) stranded 10 runners on the base paths, and the Broncos were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Chasing three runs in the seventh, Vista Murrieta loaded the bases with two outs and Karisa Ornelas digging in. On Denhart’s 30th pitch of the inning, the Broncos sophomore catcher hit a deep liner to left-center. Griffins speedy centerfielder Jenna Holcomb made a stellar diving catch to end the threat.

“You noticed we fought all the way into the last inning – bases loaded – and it took a great catch in center to shut us down,” Broncos coach Dan Torres said. “I’m just very proud of these girls. A lot of pride in these young ladies, especially in this probably being my last year of coaching. It’s a rough way to go out, but if you’re going to go out, might as well go out against the best.”

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