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SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : Los Alamitos Hopes to Salvage Disappointing Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It figured to be a banner season for Los Alamitos High School with three strong hitters and pitcher Todd Gragnano returning.

First baseman Tony Napolitano, shortstop Tyler Cashman and designated hitter Brian Havens were projected to be among the county’s top hitters. Gragnano was supposed to benefit from Los Alamitos’ explosive offense.

But Los Alamitos limps into today’s opening round of the Southern Section 5-A division playoffs with a 12-15-1 record. The Griffins play at Ocean View (19-7). “Obviously, on paper, we aren’t as good as Ocean View,” said Los Alamitos Coach Mike Gibson. “It seems when Todd is pitching well, we don’t hit or we don’t field well. That’s been our story all year.

“Whenever we get down, our hitters start to press. It’s been a very discouraging year.”

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Gragnano (4-4) has 76 strikeouts and a 2.30 earned-run average.

Cashman, a junior, leads the team with a .402 batting average. Napolitano has five home runs and 29 runs batted in.

Ocean View won its fourth Sunset League title in the past six years behind pitcher Duane Page (10-1) and shortstop Daniel Hernandez (.433).

In other 5-A games:

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Edison (18-7) at Torrance (18-8)--Outfielders Donnie Smith (.426 with six homers) and James Eidam (.368 with 20 RBIs) lead Edison, which hit a school-record 21 homers. Junior third baseman Anton Williams was an all-Southern Section selection as a sophomore and is batting .522 with five homers, 32 RBIs and 29 runs scored.

Fontana (14-9) at Mater Dei (18-8)--Ed Hernandez leads Fontana with four home runs and 18 RBIs. Slick-fielding infielder Lionel Hastings, a three-year starter at Mater Dei, is hitting .457 with 26 RBIs and 28 runs scored.

Beverly Hills (19-6) at Esperanza (19-6)--Outfielder Jeff Alford has four homers and 17 RBIs and is batting .409 for Beverly Hills. Relief pitcher Steve Belkin (2-0) has a school-record 16 career saves. Esperanza first baseman Dan Redington is batting .500 and leadoff batter Erickson Dumaual has scored 31 runs.

Katella (20-5) at Royal (16-10)--Left-hander Danny Allen (8-3) will start for Katella. Third baseman Dennis Briggs (.473) and first baseman Brandon Farley (.406, four homers) spark a potent offense. Royal, making its first playoff appearance since 1978, is led by third baseman Richard Naranjo (.405, 21 RBIs).

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Marina (12-12-1) at HH Wilson (23-4)--Marina is making its first playoff appearance in 10 years. First baseman Marc Newfield is among the nation’s top professional prospects, batting .481 with four homers. Wilson shortstop Chris Milton has school records for hits (39) and runs scored (37).

In the 4-A division:

Mission Viejo (11-11-2) at Canyon (12-12-1)--Steve Evans (7-5) is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for Mission Viejo. First baseman Don Disbro is the team’s top hitter. Mike Casagrande (5-1) will start for Canyon, which relies on the hustle of leadoff hitter Bobby Thompson.

Irvine (15-13) at Paramount (14-4)--Coach Bob Flint said Irvine outfielder Mike Seal (.366, 26 hits, 13 runs scored) is his best competitor since Bobby Hamelin. John Bretza (4-3) will be matched against Paramount’s Max Olguin (8-0).

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Anaheim (16-9-1) at Upland (21-4)--Anaheim is making its third straight postseason appearance. First baseman Danny Castro is the team’s top hitter, batting .384 with 15 RBIs. Fourth-seeded Upland will start Shawn Sanderfer (8-1, 2.30 ERA).

Villa Park (16-8-1) at Glendora (21-6)--Villa Park has won eight of its last 10 games. Todd Blyleven (7-2) will be matched against Glendora’s Kurt Gossett (7-2).

Ramona (14-10) at Brea-Olinda (16-8-1)--RamonaRamona relies on the hitting of shortstop Jim Long, who is batting .439 with three homers and 19 RBIs. Outfielder Brian Travaglia (.369 with 16 runs scored) and catcher Chris Briones (.352 with 18 runs scored) are Brea’s top players.

Gahr (21-8) at Troy (14-9)--Gahr starter Bobby Post (7-2) had a scoreless inning streak of 32 2/3 innings during the middle of the season. Troy struggled with a 1-3 start but won 10 straight games to win the Freeway League.

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La Salle (12-7) at El Toro (20-6)--La Salle beat Bellarmine-Jefferson, 6-5, in a playoff game to finish third in the San Fernando Valley League. Catcher Chad Hoelker leads El Toro with a .385 batting average. Junior Rob Johnson (8-1) likely will be the starting pitcher.

In 3-A:

Etiwanda (10-12) at Tustin (22-3)--Outfielder Trevor Whiteman (.431, 12 RBIs) and third baseman Mario Hernandez (.384, 17 RBIs) lead Etiwanda. Top-seeded Tustin will start left-hander Dan Baker (12-1, 84 strikeouts). Right fielder Shawn Green has 43 hits, second in the county to Fullerton’s D.C. Olsen (50).

Glenn (17-7) at La Quinta (19-8)--Juan Garcia (6-1) of Glenn will oppose Jon Korzen (6-1) of La Quinta. Catcher Rene Angulo (.408, seven homers, 29 RBIs) leads Glenn. Outfielder-pitcher Walter Dawkins of La Quinta is one of the county’s top juniors.

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Kennedy (14-13) at Laguna Hills (19-7)--This is a rematch of a 1989 quarterfinal game that Kennedy won, 7-2, en route to the 3-A title. Kevin Lovingier (12-1) of Laguna Hills will oppose Brian Faddoul (6-5) of Kennedy. Craig Roah (.348, nine doubles) is the only starter returning from Kennedy’s championship team.

Woodbridge (13-11) at Bellflower (14-8)--Shortstop Sean Spelber and catcher Tim Kingsbury lead Woodbridge. Spelber is batting .479 with 28 RBIs and Kingsbury is batting .444 with 21 RBIs. Bellflower’s Scott Moten is hitting .483 and has an 8-3 record on the mound.

Duarte (16-6-1) at Santiago (17-7)--Chente Torres (7-0) of Duarte will oppose Mike Kissell (6-2) of Santiago. Shortstop Francisco Villalobos (.371, 21 RBIs) is Duarte’s top player. Santiago relies on third baseman Enele Scanlan (.366) and second baseman Marco Perez (21 stolen bases).

In 2-A:

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Banning (14-9-1) at Orange Lutheran (18-6)--Two of the division’s top players are showcased in this match-up: Banning’s Sydney Jackson (.456, 32 runs scored, 29 RBIs) and Orange Lutheran’s Kent Dowding (9-2, 104 strikeouts).

In small schools:

Claremont (14-3) at Southern California Christian (11-4)--Claremont shortstop Brian Wetsch, a four-year varsity player, has established school records for hits, runs scored and RBIs. He is batting .789. Claremont starter Morgan Aggers is 6-0 with 50 strikeouts.


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