Danner keeps grow­ing as a base­ball player

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SOND­HEIMER ON HIGH SCHOOLS eric.sond­heimer@la­times.com Twit­ter: LATSond­heimer

Sit­ting in the Hunt­ing­ton Beach dugout hold­ing a pa­per cup in one hand and a bag of sun­flower seeds in the other and wear­ing stylish sun­glasses, 16-year-old pitcher Ha­gen Danner looks ex­tremely com­fort­able in a base­ball set­ting.

With one week left in the high school sea­son, Danner is pre­par­ing for an­other mem­o­rable mo­ment in a ca­reer that al­ready has had plenty.

He’ll be the start­ing pitcher for Hunt­ing­ton Beach on Tues­day against Norco in a South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 1 semi­fi­nal play­off game at 4 p.m. at Blair Field in Long Beach. The win­ner ad­vances to the cham­pi­onship game against Hart or Sau­gus on Satur­day at San Manuel Sta­dium in San Bernardino.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach fans have pre­dicted big things for Danner since he helped Ocean View win the Lit­tle League World Se­ries in 2011 when he was 12. He hit a home run in the team’s 2-1 cham­pi­onship win over Ja­pan.

Then came the home­town pa­rade, an ap­pear­ance on “Jimmy Kim­mel Live,” photo ses­sions at the beach and me­dia in­ter­view af­ter me­dia in­ter­view.

“There was a lot of me­dia there, and at 12 years old, it’s nerve-rack­ing,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from it, learned to battle the men­tal side and not worry about what’s go­ing on around me.”

Danner, a 6-foot-1 righthander com­mit­ted to UCLA and pos­sess­ing a fast­ball that reaches 90 mph, was brought along slowly last sea­son as a fresh­man. He pitched in re­lief. This sea­son, he be­came a starter and has a 1.03 earned-run av­er­age in 61 innings with 65 strike­outs. He threw a shutout last week in a sec­on­dround play­off game against Long Beach Wil­son.

“When my curve­ball is work­ing, I feel I can beat any­one,” he said.

He’s hardly a fin­ished prod­uct, still ma­tur­ing, still learn­ing how to deal with suc­cess and fail­ure as a pitcher.

“Some­times if things are go­ing bad, I have to be able to keep my­self up,” he said.

It’s all hap­pen­ing un­der in­tense scru­tiny, be­cause once you’re iden­ti­fied as a fu­ture star, the ex­pec­ta­tions don’t go away.

“I think he has a lot of room for growth,” Coach Benji Me­dure said.

What­ever hap­pens in the fu­ture, Danner is cer­tain to cher­ish the mem­o­ries from Wil­liamsport, Pa.

“It was lots of fun,” he said. “I like to be able to re­mem­ber that for the rest of my life.”

Stormin’ Nor­man

Fans who show up for the state track and field cham­pi­onships ev­ery year at Buchanan High in Clo­vis don’t need any en­cour­age­ment to get ex­cited. They love the sport.

So who knows how in­tense the fan frenzy might reach Fri­day and Satur­day when they get to see ju­nior Michael Nor­man from Vista Mur­ri­eta.

Nor­man ran the 200 me­ters in 20.46 sec­onds at Fri­day’s South­ern Sec­tion Masters Meet, the sec­ond­fastest time in state his­tory. He also ran 46.70 in the 400. He’s a su­per­star in the mak­ing.

Then there’s sopho­more Lau­ren Rain Wil­liams of West­lake Vil­lage Oaks Chris­tian. She won the 100 and 200 and ran on two win­ning re­lay teams at the Masters Meet.

It’s go­ing to be a hot, mem­o­rable week­end in Clo­vis.

Ch­eryl A. Guer­rero Los An­ge­les Times

HA­GEN DANNER (9) will be Hunt­ing­ton Beach’s start­ing pitcher in a play­off game Tues­day. “When my curve­ball is work­ing, I feel I can beat any­one,” he says.

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