Mission Viejo pitcher Kyra Snyder concentrates on delivering a pitch against Los Alamitos during a nonleague game last month. The two teams could meet again this week in the Carew Classic.

No easy paths to Carew Classic title


They say you save the best for last, and at least on the surface, that sentiment holds true when breaking down this year’s field for the annual Michelle Carew Classic.

Typically the final major tournament of the season, the 32-team showcase begins Wednesday at Peralta Canyon Park in Anaheim and features eight of the county’s top-10 teams, including last year’s winner, Mission Viejo.

“Mission was the class of last year’s tournament, and it’s still going to be good this time around,” tournament director and former Canyon coach Lance Eddy said. “I do think the rest of the field - especially Orange County-wise - has come up a little bit with them too.”

Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos – the county’s top two ranked squads – are among the tournament favorites. The Griffins won the Tournament of Champions in Arizona, and the Diablos captured the Best of the West Tournament.

As the final tourney of the three prestigious showcases, Eddy has referred to the Carew Classic as the Belmont Stakes in the past.

While there will be no Triple Crown winner this year, there could be an interesting showdown between Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos. The two powers are both in the bottom half of this year’s bracket, and they could meet Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals.

“That’s a final in most tournaments,” Eddy chuckled. “Looking back at it, I might have over-loaded the bottom half of the bracket.”

The Griffins won the teams’ first nonleague encounter on Mach 17. Two days later, the Diablos earned some revenge with a win in the Best of the West semifinals.

“It's wonderful competition,” said Mission Viejo coach Troy Ybarra. “That’s what makes it so much fun.”

As for a potential third meeting of the season with Los Alamitos, Ybarra said, “That's why we come. We want to play the best.”

No. 5 Orange Lutheran (13-3), who came in third-place in the Alan Dugard Woodbridge Classic over the weekend, is also in the bottom half of the bracket. The Lancers will open against the tournament’s host, Canyon, on Wednesday afternoon.

A win in the opener would likely match the Lancers against Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista, one of the out-of-county teams Eddy is high on as a potential darkhorse.

Pacifica, Huntington Beach, Rosary, Cypress and Foothill all appear capable of making a run in a loaded bracket. The Oilers (11-1) have won seven games in a row and are coming off of a first-place finish in last week’s Arroyo Grande Tournament. The Knights (7-4) won the Diamond Bar Tournament this past weekend, and will try to carry that momentum into their first-round game against Saugus on Thursday.

Norco, the defending CIF-SS Division 1 champ, heads into the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Mission Viejo is the No. 2 seed, Amador Valley of Pleasanton – who won the 2014 crown – is the No. 3 seed, and Pacifica is the No. 4 seed.

“When I was making the bracket, there were at least 14 teams that I thought, ‘None of these guys should play each other in the first round,’” Eddy added. “It’s great we continue bringing in good teams from all over. We’ve already started getting calls about getting into next year’s field.”

The Carew Classic wraps up Saturday night. First- and second-round play takes place Wednesday and Thursday, and the quarterfinals will be held Friday.

The semifinals start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and the championship game is 7:30 p.m. at Peralta Park.

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