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The Register reveals its season-opening Orange County top 10 as part of its softball preview. Check out the entire package of stories and photos to get ready for the season.

Softball preview: O.C. top 10

STAFF WRITER

The Register’s look at the teams in its season-opening top 10.

1. Pacifica: The Mariners advanced to the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals last season. The Hannah Boos-Dejah Mulipola battery returns and is surrounded by other all-Empire League selections - Hannah Martinez, Irieanna Naea, Jaymee Campbell and Alison Seng. If Boos can pitch as effectively as she did in the second half of 2015, the Mariners will be back in the thick of it when the postseason rolls around. Pacifica is ranked No. 3 in the state by CalHiSports.com.

2. Los Alamitos: The Griffins have what appears to be the best outfield in the county with Sunset League MVP Jenna Holcomb in center and Jenna Kean and Alexa Schultz locking down the corner spots. Cami Sellers and Mary Iakopo are first-team all-Sunset League selections that return to the infield and add major pop to the lineup. Junior pitcher Ryan Denhart is the key. She didn’t pitch as many innings as she did as a freshman, but her talent is undeniable. The Griffins are ranked No. 6 in the state by CalHiSports.com.

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SOFTBALL PREVIEW

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3. Orange Lutheran: The Lancers will win games in a multitude of ways. Maddy Dwyer can grind it out in a pitcher’s duel. Mackenzie Boesel, Noelle Hee and Lauren Espalin give Orange Lutheran a middle-of-the-lineup trio that can dominate a game. Ciara Briggs and others in the lineup can play small ball and utilize their speed. On paper, this is a group that has the ability to compete for a CIF title. The Lancers are ranked No. 5 in the state.

4. Mission Viejo: Losing to graduation a pair of all-time greats - in this case, Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Palomino - in the same year would cripple many programs, but the Diablos are still loaded with talent. The left side of the infield - Camryn Ybarra and Allison Harvey - is as good as it gets, and Bella Loya and Terra McGowan were prominent pieces in last year’s team that was undefeated entering the CIF-SS Division 2 final. Hanna Nilsen (Illinois) and Kyra Snyder (Louisville) should both see time in the circle and will benefit from a potent lineup. MaxPreps has the Diablos ranked No. 1 in the nation.

5. Huntington Beach: The Oilers welcome back their top eight hitters from 2015. Stanford-bound seniors Kristina Inouye and Alyssa Horeczko, who have been mainstays atop the team’s lineup for a few years, are two of the five Oilers players committed to Pac-12 schools. Sophomore Allee Bunker (Oregon) led the squad in average (.433), hits (39) and doubles (7) last season.

6. Mater Dei: The defending Trinity League champs return seven players who batted better than .350 in 2015. Junior shortstop Neli Casares-Maher flashed one of the best gloves in the area last year, and she led the club with 40 hits, 32 runs and had a .426 average. Gabby Sandoval and Lauren Persi each won nine games in the circle. The Monarchs are looking to avenge their first-round exit in the playoffs last May.

7. Capistrano Valley: Can the Cougars dethrone Mission Viejo for South Coast League supremacy? Capo Valley has plenty of offense returning. Amanda Gjertsen, Alyssa Lazatin, Hayley Hensley and McKenna Boyle each batted .310 or better and tallied 25-plus hits last season. Sophomore Jasmine Sievers, who is committed to Oregon, established herself last saeson as one of the area’s premier players.

8. Yorba Linda: The Mustangs fell short of winning the Crestview League title last season, but they have the firepower returning to make another run at it. Senior pitcher Ciara Stapp doesn’t overwhelm batters, but she frustrates them with her precision in the strike zone. Jessica Lane and Annie Davila were first-team all-league selections in 2015.

9. Rosary: The Royals should rebound after missing the postseason last year. They welcome back a veteran group that should have no problems scoring runs. Junior outfielders Katelyn Christensen and Andrea Hester were among the team’s leaders in hits, runs and RBI last year, and each batted above .400. If Amelia Wiercioch (15-12, 2.19 ERA) shows improvement in the circle, Rosary will be a contender for the Trinity League title.

10. La Habra: The Highlanders boast one of the best returning batteries in Orange County in junior pitcher Janelle Rodriguez and catcher Nikki Butler. La Habra has a new coach, Steve Harrington, who was a proven winner at El Modena. His detailed game plans make the Highlanders the early favorites in the Freeway League.

On the bubble: Aliso Niguel, Canyon, Dana Hills, Edison, Foothill, Santa Margarita, Savanna.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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