In a showdown between the two top softball teams in the nation, outfielder Jenna Kean made a running catch in deep center field in the top of the seventh inning Saturday to end a Norco rally and preserve Los Alamitos' 3-1 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game ay Bill Barber Park in Irvine.
Maryland-bound senior Ryan Denhart (24-3) pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts for the second-seeded Griffins, outdueling her Norco counterpart in the circle, Cal State Fullerton-bound senior Taylor Dockins.
Los Alamitos threatened to score in the bottom of the second, but with runners on first and third, Allisha Martinez grounded into a force out at second.
Kean, who is committed to Arizona, bounced a ball off the plate for an infield single to start the third. Allison Englant's line drive ricocheted off Dockins and the runners advanced on a double steal. Kaitlin Parsons lined out, but Mary Iakopo blistered a ground ball off first baseman Gianna Marquecho and two runs scored.
The Griffins (28-3) extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth. With one out, Cami Sellers doubled to the center-field fence and pinch-runner Myah Iakopo took third with a head-first slide on a fielder's choice. Iakopo scored on a grounder to shortstop by Martinez, but Dockins minimized the damage by snatching a hard line drive hit right back to her.
Alexa Shultz doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth for Los Alamitos but shortstop Mikayla Allee saved a run by knocking down a hard-hit ball and firing to first to retire the side.
Norco did not go down without a fight. Allee corked a home run over the left-field fence — the ninth Norco player to hit a home run this season — to lead off the top of the seventh. After Kinzie Hansen struck out looking on a 3-2 count, Dockins singled to right. Denhart struck out Paige Smith for the second out, then Kean ran down Sierra Marshall's line drive to the gap.
Los Alamitos players poured out of the dugout to congratulate Kean in shallow left field and high-five Denhart.
Dockins returned for her senior season after undergoing surgery during the summer for a rare form of liver cancer.
She tossed a five-hitter Saturday and fielded her position expertly for the Cougars, who suffered their first defeat in 34 games.
Norco was trying to become the first Division 1 team to finish undefeated since Ocean Park went 32-0 in 1985.
In the Division 2 final, Eryka Gonzales retired 17 of the last 18 batters and had 10 strikeouts for Camarillo in a 4-0 shutout of Riverside Poly.
In the Division 3 final, Zoey Clark hit a two-run walk-off homer in the eighth inning to lift Murrieta Mesa to a 3-1 victory over Newhall Hart.
In Division 6, Long Beach St. Anthony defeated Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, 3-2, to win the title. Chloe Malauulu hit the go-ahead single in the sixth and the Saints added an insurance run on an error.