By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
For sports fans in the Garden Grove-Stanton-Westminster area, 2012 was a year of excitement tinged with disappointment. Local high school teams excelled in CIF Southern Section playoffs, while the talent-laden Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim underperformed.
New stars emerged and old favorites faded away. The improbable happened and the likely petered out. Here’s a look at the top five local sports stories as covered by the Journal.
1. Garden Grove in the CIF football finals. For the third time in four years, Garden Grove High School’s football team made it to the Southern Division finals. Led by quarterback Angel Martinez and a multi-faceted running attack, the Argonauts won the Garden Grove League title and advanced to the championship game at Angel Stadium. Alas, the red-and-white had an off-day, and lost 35-10 to Corona del Mar.
Perhaps as significant was the vow by Argo coach Willy Puga that the Argonaut football program was planning on making a trip to the finals anything but a rare event.
“We expect to be here year in and year out,” he said. With Martinez and much of a very physical defense returning in 2013, he may be right.
2. Angels get Albert, but …. The acquisition of Albert Pujols, considered by many to be the best hitter in baseball, sent Halo fans hopes sky-high in 2012. But the Angels got off to a dismal 6-14 start, mirroring a season-opening slump by Pujols. Both recovered, but the locals finished third in the four-team American League West.
Of course, hopes have been revived as the Angels acquired Josh Hamilton from the Texas Rangers, who did win the AL West. Hamilton was the star of the American League for the first half of the season, but slumped toward the end. Will the combination of Albert and Josh mean the Halo fans dreams have merely been postponed a year? We’ll see.
Of the players let go to make room the most prominent is fan-favorite Torii Hunter, who excelled all year both in on-field performance and clubhouse leadership.
3. Orangewood wins hoops title. Tucked near the eastern edge of Garden Grove, Orangewood Academy is a small school, with just 80 students in its high school. But the Seventh Day Adventist school came up big in the CIF-SS girls’ basketball playoffs, defeating Providence Hall 34-31 for the Division 6 crown.
Not only was it the school’s first CIF title in any sport, the Spartans advanced to the state playoffs before finally being eliminated. But they may well be back. Several players from the championship team are back (including star center Raquel Spencer) , and are off to an 11-1 start so far in 2012.
4. Pacifica wins baseball title. The Mariners grabbed the CIF-SS Division 2 championship at Dodger Stadium with a 3-2 win over Aliso Niguel. Trent Chatteron drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th to give the westsiders their first CIF baseball section title.
Not only, that, but the Mariners finished the season ranked by MaxPreps.com as the top high school team in California, so Pacifica can claim a theoretical state title as well.
5. Argonauts lose softball title. On the very same day that Pacifica was winning the CIF baseball title, Garden Grove High lost the CIF-SS Division 4 championship softball game in Irvine to Kaiser High of Fontana 1-0 in 11 innings.
The end was heart-breaking. With a runner on third and two out, the Argo ace pitcher Jasmine Antunez threw a pitch that skipped to the backstop and allowed the winning run to score.