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, FILE: STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Los Alamitos' Ryan Denart.

Denhart, Los Alamitos move to the front of the pack

STAFF WRITER

March is engulfed by brackets and tournament talk.

So in terms of a final four, it was hard to get much better than Los Alamitos, Mater Dei, Mission Viejo and Pacifica as the finalists in the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., this past weekend.

Behind a gem of a performance by junior right-hander Ryan Denhart in the circle, the Griffins hoisted the coveted hardware after knocking off Mater Dei, 11-1, in Saturday night’s final.

Los Alamitos (8-0) topped Pacifica, 4-0, in the semifinals and outscored its foes, 30-1, in fives games. That level of dominance throughout the three-day tournament lifted the Griffins to the No. 1 spot in this week’s county top 10.

“The offensive production started coming around for us and we got some great pitching from Ryan and Paige (Austin),” Griffins coach Rob Weil said.

Denhart won all four of her starts and tallied 39 strikeouts. After primarily serving as Los Al’s No. 2 starter a season ago, the Maryland commit is picking up where she left off as a freshman.

When Katya Duvall missed the 2014 campaign because of a torn ACL, it was Denhart – then an unproven ninth-grader – who was called upon to pitch in a number of big-time games, including the finals of the Michelle Carew Classic, for Los Alamitos.

“It was a huge confidence builder for her,” Weil said of that experience. “Ryan did a great job as a freshman. Katya came back last year and kind of took that (No. 1) job and senior role for us, but it wasn’t because Ryan wasn’t prepared. It was just one of those coach’s decisions.”

Denhart and the Griffins are looking like a force this season.

This week, Los Alamitos will host No. 3 Mission Viejo in a nonleague game Thursday, and the two teams face off again Saturday morning in the semifinals of the Best of the West Tournament at Kennedy High.

MONDAY RAINOUTS

Monday morning’s rain was heavy enough to postpone the Saddleback Valley Tournament’s first-round games at Alicia Park in Mission Viejo.

With the fields tentatively set to reopen Tuesday, the tournament’s original schedule will be pushed back one day. Previously set to end on Thursday evening, the championship game would now be held on Friday at 4 p.m. with the third-place game to follow at 6.

Orange Lutheran won the tournament last year and is one of 12 county teams vying for the crown this season.

REBEL WITH A CAUSE

Savanna shortstop Kristin Worley went 16 for 18 at the plate in six tournament games last week. She also stole 13 bases, scored 12 runs and drove in five.

Savanna improved to 9-0-1 in the process, winning five of those six games and tying another in the Bishop Gorman Tournament in Las Vegas.

Savanna was ranked No. 2 in this week’s CIF-SS Division 6 poll.

TIMBERWOLF UPDATE

Trabuco Hills, Capistrano Valley and Dana Hills make up three of the final four teams in the championship bracket of Northwood’s Timberwolf Classic.

The Mustangs and Cougars play Saturday at 4 p.m. in one semifinal, while the Dolphins take on Valley View of Moreno Valley in the other semifinal at the same time. The winners meet at 6 p.m. in the championship finale at Bill Barber Park in Irvine.

Dana Hills is the tournament’s defending champion.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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