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SAM GANGWER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Los Alamitos pitcher Ryan Denhart concentrates as she pitches to Mission Viejo late in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Thursday.

Denhart helps Los Alamitos earn another big victory

STAFF WRITER

It was apparent from the game’s opening pitch this was much more than your run-of-the-mill nonleague matchup.

Whether it was the sea of students crowding the outfield railings for a better vantage point or the on-field energy itself, Thursday’s showdown between No. 1 Los Alamitos and No. 3 Mission Viejo screamed postseason atmosphere.

Days after pitching the Griffins to a tournament championship out in Arizona, junior right-hander Ryan Denhart continued her hot start in the circle, scattering just five hits in leading Los Alamitos to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Diablos in front of a packed house at Los Alamitos High.

The Griffins improved to 9-0 on the season and have notched victories over No. 5 Pacifica, No. 2 Mater Dei and No. 3 Mission Viejo since last Saturday.

“We didn’t play an ‘A’ game, but we did enough to get the win,” Los Alamitos coach Rob Weil said. “Ryan is really throwing the ball well for us right now. She’s keeping us in games. Anytime a pitcher can keep you in ball games and you can score a couple runs, you’re going to be successful.”

On Wednesday, it was the bottom half of the Griffins lineup that did a majority of the damage at the plate. Junior first baseman Lindsi Dennis, who hits in the six spot, opened the second inning with a double to right center field. Jade Loe brought her in moments later when she followed suit with a double to left center, giving Los Al a 1-0 lead.

Los Al’s six through nine batters went a combined 5 for 9 against Diablos starter Kyra Snyder.

The Griffins added runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, scoring all three runs with two outs. Ariana Belarde tripled home a baserunner in the fourth, Mary Iakopo ripped an RBI single down the third-base line in the fifth, and an error plated an insurance run in the sixth.

“Those two-out hits are huge,” Mission Viejo coach Troy Ybarra said. “They got two two-out hits that scored a pair of runs. We got runners in scoring position five out of the seven innings, and couldn’t get those two-out hits.”

The Diablos (7-2) stranded a total of 10 baserunners, including five in scoring position.

Mission Viejo won’t have to wait long for a rematch. The Diablos and Griffins meet again Saturday in the Best of the West Tournament semifinals at Kennedy High at 11 a.m.

In other nonleague action:

Valencia 15, Montebello 3: Tigers shortstop Emily Salazar belted two home runs, added a pair of doubles and finished with four RBI in a 4-for-4 effort at the plate. Brenda Enciso, Jessica Rodriguez and Jeana Gonzales all had multiple hits for Valencia, which tallied 15 hits as a team.

In the Katella Tournament:

Katella 5, Loara 3: Senior first baseman Mia Palomino hit a solo shot in the third inning, and Stephanie Rojas added a grand slam in the fifth to power the Knights past the Saxons.

In the Saddleback Valley Tournament:

Orange Lutheran 7, Dana Hills 0: Extra base hits from Adrianna Millan, Ciara Briggs, Maddy Dwyer and Mackenzie Boesel highlighted a four-run fifth inning that propelled the Lancers to Friday’s championship game against Santa Margarita.

Santa Margarita 3, Capistrano Valley 0: The Eagles broke open a scoreless stalemate with three runs in the sixth, advancing to Friday’s championship finale against Trinity League rival, Orange Lutheran.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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