Video: Walk-off home run off the scoreboard
See Emily Klingaman of No. 38 Madison (VA) hit a two-run bomb to win the state 6A title.
A few weeks before the 2017 softball season began, Los Alamitos coach Rob Weil said his team's strengths should be pitching, speed and offense throughout the lineup.
He was correct.
"This team is one of the most talented teams we have ever coached," Weil said in mid-February. The recently concluded 28-3 season is Weil's best mark to date, bettering 2016's 26-3.
"(It's) beyond what we imagined," Weil said about meeting expectations. "We didn't come up short. ... We met our goals."
In addition, Los Alamitos has 21 players on this year's roster signed or committed to play collegiately.
But this three-loss season wasn't like any other at Los Alamitos. Never mind the MaxPreps Computer Poll has the Griffins ranked No. 2 behind once-beaten Norco. The Griffins, who lost 1-0 to Norco earlier in the season, defeated the Cougars when it counted most — a 3-1 win in the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section Division 1 championship game.
And for that, the Griffins finish the season as the MaxPreps mythical national high school champions.
The Griffins ended the year on a 13-game winning streak and had 20 wins in their final 21 games. In those 21 games, they allowed 20 runs and avenged early season setbacks to Orange County powers LaHabra (4-0) and Mission Viejo (2-0).
A three-loss season is unusual for a team to be proclaimed "national champion" by MaxPreps, but the Griffins schedule was arguably the most difficult in the nation.
But the Griffins also beat No. 20 Hamilton, the Arizona 6A champion, and No. 15 Orange Lutheran, an Orange County rival. Los Alamitos also owns convincing wins over Arizona 5A champion Cienega (Vail) and one of Northern California's top squads, Amador Valley (Pleasanton).
Perhaps the only teams with as comparable schedules to Los Alamitos were Norco, Hamilton, Orange Lutheran, Amador, LaHabra, Mission Viejo, Mater Dei — all teams the Griffins defeated.
Though the Griffins won only one tournament, it turned out to be the most important one — the Southern Section playoffs, where they ended Norco's dream of a perfect season.
Weil certainly was right about his pitching with four players destined for college programs — seniors Ryan Denhart
(Maryland), Paige Austin
(Biola), junior Brianna Jewett
(Harvard) and sophomore Sarah Ladd
(Michigan State) are a talented lot.
In her two appearances against Norco, Denhart tossed two complete games and held the Cougars to one run and three hits in both times. Heading into the title game, Norco had averaged 13 runs over its previous three playoff wins. Denhart's one-run performance was the fourth time the Cougars had been limited to a single run in 2017.
Denhart went 25-3 with a 0.94 ERA and averaged better than a strikeout per inning.
Catching the pitching strong Griffins was Mary Iakopo
(Oregon signee), a member of the USA Girls softball team who also led the Griffins with 26 RBIs.
Outfielder Alexa Schultz
, who has signed with Oklahoma, had a team high batting average of .438 and hit nine home runs.
Other signees include Caitlin Ladd
(Michigan State), Allison Englant
(Ohio), Jenna Kean
(Arizona), infielder Andrea Gonzalez
(Iowa State), infielder Allisha Martinez
(Regis), outfielder Michele Ota
(UC San Diego), first baseman Cami Sellers
(Boston College), and infielders Cierra Valenzona
(Cal State Dominguez Hills) and Lindsi Dennis
The Griffins were inspired by their season-long motto of "21 outs."
"We didn't want to come up short on making it to the final game," he said.
The Griffins' 14 seniors, who all play on high-level travel ball teams, compiled a 100-26 record in their four years at Los Alamitos.
Norco, which started the season ranked No. 4, finished at No. 2.
2017 Final MaxPreps Xcellent 50 National Softball Rankings
1. (Last week 1) Los Alamitos (Calif.), 28-3
The Griffins, winners of 13 in a row, captured the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section D1 title.2. (3) Norco (Calif.), 33-1
CIF-SS D1 runner up. The Cougars won their first 33 games before losing to No. 1 Los Alamitos.3. (2) Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.), 27-0
The Knights won the state large school title.4. (4) Woodinville (Wash.), 26-0
Washington state 4A champion.5. (5) Coral Springs Charter (Coral Springs, Fla.), 30-1
The Panthers won their third-straight 5A state softball championship.6. (6) Hurricane (W. Va.), 36-1
The Redskins won their third-straight West Virginia large school title.7. (7) Oak Park-River Forest (Oak Park, Ill.), 38-1
Oak Park got a three-hit, 16-strikeout performance from unbeaten senior Chardonnay Harris
to win the state 4A title.8. (8) Lakewood (Hebron, Ohio), 32-1
The Lancers, who have won 60 of their last 61 games, finished the season with 16-straight wins and a second-straight state D2 title. 9. (9) Oakleaf (Orange Park, Fla.), 30-2
Oakleaf won its final 26 games and the state 8A title. 10. (10) La Cueva (Albuquerque), 28-0
The Bears won the New Mexico state 6A title.11. (11) Crown Point (Ind.), 30-2
Crown Point won the Indiana state 4A title.12. (12) Bentonville (Ark.), 29-1
The Tigers won their second-straight Arkansas state 7A title. 13. (14) West Orange (Winter Garden, Fla.), 28-3
West Orange won its second-straight 9A state title.14. (16) Fort Myers (Fla.), 30-2
Fort Myers won the state 7A title with three juniors and nine sophomores on a 12-player roster. Junior pitcher Hannah Perkins
was 20-1 with a 0.71 ERA and sophomore Vivian Ponn
led the Green Wave with a .512 batting average and 29 RBIs, and was also 8-1 in the circle.15. (15) Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.), 28-5
Orange Lutheran reached the semifinals of CIF-SS D1 tournament, losing 1-0 to No. 1 Los Alamitos.16. (NR) Dakota (Macomb, Mich.), 36-2Julia Salsibury
drove in three runs and Kendahl Dunford
struck out 11 as Dakota beat Grandville 4-3 for the state D1 title. Kattie Popko
scored the winning run on a wild pitch with two out in the bottom of the eighth.17. (17) Keller (Texas), 35-6-1
The Indians won their second-straight Texas 6A title.18. (18) North Medford (Medford, Ore.), 30-1
The Black Tornado finished the season with 18-straight wins and the state 6A title.19. (19) Sheldon (Sacramento), 30-2
The Huskies ran their win streak to 13 with a 6-0 victory over Tracy to win the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 championship.20. (20) Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), 30-6
Hamilton won the state 6A title.21. (21) Shawnee Heights (Tecumseh, Kan.), 24-0
The Thunderbirds captured the Kansas 5A state title.22. (22) Madisonville-North Hopkins (Madisonville, Ky.), 38-6
The Maroons won Kentucky's state championship behind Courtney Patterson
, Mallory Peyton
and Kaylee Tow
.23. (23) Krum (Texas), 39-4
Krum won its first 4A state title.24. (24) King's Academy (Seymour, Tenn.), 36-3
King's Academy won its second-straight D1 AA state title and finished
the season with 18 wins in a row. This season, they defeated three
others teams that played for state titles – Gibbs (43-9 and 3A state
champion), Meigs (41-3 and 1A state champ) and Girls Prep (22-8, D2 AA
state runner up).25. (25) Farmington (Minn.), 24-3
Farmington won the state Class 4A champions after beating 25-2 Anoka 1-0 in 10 innings. Emma Frost
hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th to give the Tigers the walk-off victory. Pitcher Maddie Muelken
tossed 24 innings during the tournament, allowing just two runs and had two shutout wins. 26. Pinnacle (Phoenix), 34-2
The Pioneers were state 6A runner up. Pinnacle lost only to 6A state champion and No. 20 Hamilton, 1-0 and 7-2.
27. Penn (Mishawaka, Ind.), 27-2
Senior Danielle Watson
(Louisville signee) led the Kingsman to the state D4 title game, losing 2-1 in 13 innings to No. 11 Crown Point. Their other loss was to No. 7 Oak Park-River Forest.28. Neshoba Central (Philadelphia, Miss.), 30-3
Led by sophomore pitcher Aspen Wesley
, the Rockets won the 5A state title.29. Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township, N.J.), 30-4Mia Recenello
doubled with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning and Caroline Ventor
drove her in with a walk-off double to lead Immaculate Heart to a 5-4 victory over Immaculate Conception in the title game of the state Tournament of Champions.30. Orange (Hillsborough, N.C.), 26-3
Led by tournament Most Valuable Player Mia Davidson
, the Panthers defeated Piedmont (Monroe) to capture the state 3A title.31. Buena (Ventura, Calif.), 27-0-1
Led by senior Brooke Yanez
(11 homers, 33 RBIs, 19-0, 0.58 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 121 innings), the Bulldogs won the CIF-SS D4 title.32. Meigs County (Decatur, Tenn.), 41-3
Behind the pitching of Ashley Rogers
, the Tigers won the state D1 A title.33. North DeSoto (Stonewall, La.), 36-3
The Griffins won their final 23 games and won the state 4A title.34. New Palestine (Ind.), 31-2
The Dragons won their final 23 games and the state 3A title.35. Mt. Carmel (New Orleans), 22-5
Mt. Carmel won the state 5A title.36. Bowie (Austin, Texas), 24-3
State 6A runner up.37. Kaukauna (Wis.), 28-2
The Galloping Ghosts won their final 11 games and the state large school championship.38. Madison (Vienna, Va.), 31-1
The Warhawks won their final 15 games and the state 6A title. 39. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), 27-5-1
The Dons won 12 of their last 13 and captured the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title.40. Baylor (Chattanooga, Tenn.), 28-4
The Red Raiders defeated crosstown rival Girls Prep twice to win their 11th D2 AA State Softball Championship. Baylor won 10-7 and 6-1 to win its third-straight state title and has won six of the last seven state softball championships.41. The Colony (Texas), 31-6
The Cougars won the state 5A title.42. Sheridan (Ark.), 31-4-1
Led by senior pitcher Reagan Martin
, the Yellowjackets won their final 22 games and the state 6A title.43. Palo Verde (Las Vegas), 37-6
The Panthers won 18 of their last 19 games and the state 4A championship.44. Warhill (Williamsburg, Va.), 26-0
Allowed just 10 runs in running the table and winning 3A title.45. Eustis (Fla.), 26-2
Senior-less team was state 5A runner-up and lost only to No. 5 Coral Springs Charter and No. 13 West Orange.46. Aztec (N.M.), 27-3
Won final 21 games and state 5A championship.47. Spanish Fork (Utah), 29-2-1
Won state 4A title.48. Eagle (Idaho), 29-2
The 2016 mythical MaxPreps National Champions won their final 18 games and their third-straight 5A state title.49. Sumiton Christian (Ala.), 57-9
Nine losses is a lot for a Top 50 team, but Sumiton won its final six and 18 of final 19 to win its third-straight state 1A title. 50. Union County (Union, S.C.), 26-4
Union won the state 4A title behind Gatorade Player of the Year Bailey Betenbaugh
Swan Valley (Saginaw, Mich.).