Lakewood Roars To Lions Title

ANAHEIM–At the same time the Phil Nevin National Classic was being
held at various fields in Fullerton and Placentia, the 33rd annual
Anaheim Lions Tournament was being played in Anaheim.

A three-day, 33-team event that features five games for each team
didn’t offer the national appeal of the Classic, but with more than
handful of Southern California’s best squads suiting up, there was an
intriguing game to be found at all hours of the day at any given high
school field in Northern Orange County.

After four games of the Lions tournament, Lakewood High, the defending
California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division I
champion, and El Toro High (Lake Forest, Calif.) were the two
undefeated teams that had allowed the fewest number of runs, earning
them a berth in the championship game at Glover Stadium in Anaheim.

Several hundred fans and more than 50 scouts bundled up on a blustery
evening to watch two top teams and two high-profile catching prospects
square off. Lakewood Travis d’Arnaud and El Toro’s Austin Romine kept
the running game in check, and d’Arnaud took care of the outcome with
his bat.

The 6-foot, 180-pound d’Arnaud has been the high school senior that has
taken the biggest step forward this spring in the eyes of many So Cal
scouts. His assent was punctuated with a two-run blast into the
bleachers beyond the left-field fence in the third inning that gave
Lakewood a 4-1 lead.

It was d’Arnaud’s second home run of the tournament, and the younger
brother of the Pepperdine sophomore third baseman Chase d’Arnaud drove
in nine runs in five games and was named to the all-tournament team. He
was known mostly for his prowess behind the plate, but he’s been just
as impressive at it this spring, batting .409-5-34 in 71 at-bats.

Lakewood coach Spud O’Neil compares d’Arnaud with two of his former
players, DamionEasley and Chris Gomez, and has reveled in his success
this season. “I’m just so proud of him,” O’Neil said. “He started out
fairly slow, although he’s been driving in a lot of runs, but now it’s
hard to get him out.”

Lakewood 6-3 win over El Toro vaulted them to No. 9 in the latest
BA/NHSBCA Top 50, and gave the Lancers a shot of confidence entering
the postseason.

“The Lions Tournament has turned into one of the best in the spring all
across the country, I think, because of the types of teams that are in
there,” O’Neill said. “We’re always trying to improve late in the
season, and with the teams we had to play, I think we did that.”