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The Los Alamitos softball team starts the 2017 season ranked No. 1 in Orange County. The Griffins' roster includes some of the top players in the area, including, from left, Caitlin Ladd, Andrea Gonzalez, Kaitlin Parsons, Mary Iakopo, Ryan Denhart and Jenna Kean. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Softball preview: Orange County top 10

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity has started releasing its Orange County softball preview for the 2017 season.

O.C. SOFTBALL TOP 10

1. Los Alamitos: The Griffins have star power up and down the lineup. There’s depth at every position, speed on the base paths, and in Ryan Denhart, they boast the type of frontline starter that can pitch a team to a CIF title. Coach Rob Weil’s squad is flat-out loaded, as 19 players on the roster are currently slated to continue playing at the collegiate level. Los Al advanced to the Division 1 semifinals a season ago, and if the Griffins play to their potential this season, they’ll to be a strong contender to win the Division 1 crown. The Denhart-Mary Iakopo battery is arguably the tops in Orange County. The core of the lineup - seniors Iakopo, Cami Sellers, Jenna Kean, Andrea Gonzalez, Caitlin Ladd and Alexa Schultz -make it a lineup opponents can’t pitch around, and scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Mission Viejo: The Diablos won their second Division 2 title in three seasons last year. They make the jump up to Division 1 this season, but the south county power figures to have a major say in who claims the ultimate prize at year’s end. Eight starters are back, including the Register’s reigning county player of the year, Camryn Ybarra, and All-County first-team selections Kyra Snyder and Terra McGowan. Coaches Troy Ybarra and Toni Mascarenas trot out their most mature squad to in a while, with six seniors and eight juniors. Every player on the roster has advanced to a CIF championship game each year they have been on campus. Can the Diablos make it four straight trips to the finals?

3. Orange Lutheran: Last season ended on a sour note as the Lancers fell to league rival Mater Dei in the Division 1 championship game. With the Register’s 2016 county pitcher of the year, Maddy Dwyer, back and motivated, Orange Lutheran knows it has the ace it can count on to reach the final. Senior catcher Lauren Espalin and first baseman Noelle Hee will be two of the most-feared middle-of-the-order bats around. The Lancers have two of the top youngsters in the state, sophomore spark plugs Ciara Briggs and Mya Rodriguez, to lead off another gifted lineup.

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SOFTBALL PREVIEW 2017

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4. Huntington Beach: The Oilers will be on Los Alamitos’ heels in the Sunset League race, and with 10 players committed to collegiate programs, they are capable of walking away with the league title. Ivy Davis, Allee Bunker and Jadelyn Allchin are a good trio to build around, as each Pac-12 commit hit .375 or better in 2016. With one of the deepest outfields in the county, Huntington Beach’s success comes down to the production it gets in the circle, where it currently has four youngsters vying for innings.

5. La Habra: In Janelle Rodriguez and Hannah Johnson, the Highlanders possess a pair of proven aces who helped guide La Habra to a 29-2 record and a Division 2 semifinals trip last year. Welcoming that duo back should make the move up to Division 1 a tad easier, and with Kira Cauley, Alyssa Palacios and Billie Wells all back in the fold, the Highlanders have a trio of run producers to support their top-notch pitching staff.

6. Pacifica: Senior right-hander Hannah Boos figures to be one of the area’s top starting pitchers, meaning the Mariners have a chance to win every time they take the field. Veteran infielders Hannah Martinez and Alison Seng will be staples atop the lineup. For Pacifica to enjoy the success it has become accustomed to, it will need the new players in the middle of the lineup to produce with runners on base.

7. Mater Dei: The defending Division 1 champs welcome back a significant amount of talent, highlighted by one of the best left-side of the infield duos - third baseman Kelli Godin and shortstop Neli Casares-Maher. Emma Clark, Maddison Flores, Donna Friedman and speedster Nyomi Jones were all fixtures on last year’s title-winning run. The question mark lies in the circle. Danielle Kahn (7-3, 3.79 ERA) steps in as the projected No. 1.

8. Capistrano Valley: The Cougars also make the move to Division 1, but are equipped to do so with talents like Jasmine Sievers, Delaney Hull, Kennedy Hira, Hayley Hensley and Alyssa Lazatin. Scoring runs won’t be a problem. With Hull being the only pitcher listed on the roster, depth in the circle could be a major concern.

9. Rosary: The Royals welcome back six players who hit .330 or better a season ago, including Andrea Hester, Katelyn Christensen and Caroline Dame who each finished batting in the .400s. Senior pitcher Amelia Wiercioch won 18 games with a 1.47 ERA last year and has a proven chemistry with four-year starter Sarah Ellersick behind the plate.

10. Canyon: The Comanches will start seven All-Crestview League performers from 2016, including star outfielder Taryn Young who hit .359 and accounted for team-highs in homers (7), RBI (28) and runs (22). Miranda Stoddard put together an impressive freshman campaign in the circle, going 14-9 with a 2.20 ERA. If she continues to develop and Canyon can manufacture more runs, the Comanches should have more postseason success than it did a season ago.

Others considered: Aliso Niguel, Dana Hills, Edison, Foothill, Fullerton, Kennedy, Santa Margarita, Savanna, Villa Park.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@scng.com


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