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By Loren Kopff
Through the first nine games of this season, the numbers weren’t looking good for Artesia’s baseball team. One win, eight losses, 20 runs scored, half coming in its lone victory, 42 hits and an injury riddled team.
But head coach Michael Gaoghagan, sporting a new look with a goatee, saw his team scratch and claw its way to an 11-8 win over host Valley Christian this past Tuesday. The Pioneers had to stave off a furious seventh inning rally that saw the Crusaders score five times and leave the tying run at first with the bases loaded. But to Gaoghagan, the second win of the season didn’t have any more meaning than any other game despite his team being outscored 69-20 heading into the V.C. game.
“In reality, nothing,” he said. “We’re just trying to get some guys some innings, get ready and get a positive frame for going into next week and making sure we take care of business with Cerritos.”
The Crusaders, who had won three straight and five of their last six, scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Artesia junior pitcher Joseph Herrera, making his first start of the season, walked senior second baseman Shane Stillwagon, who stole second, went to third on a balk and scored when junior third baseman Patrick Avila reached second on two errors from one play. Avila would go to third and come home on a sacrifice fly from junior catcher Tyler McLurg.
Three pitches later, junior first baseman Clayton Granch doubled to the right field gap, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single from junior shortstop Connor Buckley. But for the next five innings, Herrera settled down and got out of jams in four of those five innings as V.C. left runners at third base.
On the offensive side, the Pioneers finally got to V.C. senior Sean Craddock, also making his first start of the season, in the top of the third. With two outs, junior left fielder Jeremy Gaskin reached on an infield single and came home on a double from senior shortstop Cesar Soto. A few pitches later, Soto scored on a balk.
Two innings later, Artesia took the lead with three runs with the biggest hit coming from junior designated hitter Tommy Corrales, who lined a single that deflected off of Buckley’s glove.
“I think the big thing was [Craddock] was only throwing a fastball,” Gaoghagan said. “So it was only amazing we weren’t hitting in the beginning, and then finally they started getting on his fastball.”
The runs kept coming in the sixth when Artesia scored four times off of Avila, all of them unearned, on just one hit. That came from Corrales, who plated Soto and senior center fielder Joseph Splung. Artesia added two more in the seventh on four walks, an error and a sacrifice.
But the Crusaders (5-6), who had a depleted lineup due to some suspensions, made the game interesting and it began when Avila led off the seventh with a single, moved to second on a balk and to third on a wild pitch. He scored when McLurg was safe on an error. Granch followed that with a hit to chase Herrera from the mound and Buckley greeted senior Carlos Ramirez with an infield hit. Two batters later, junior right fielder Nico Morandini’s base hit brought home Buckley to make it an 11-7 contest. Three pitches later, Craddock’s fielder’s choice scored junior designated hitter Darren Krishna and after a strikeout, Ramirez hit Stillwagon and walked Avila to load the bases. Ramirez was then replaced by junior Jerry Azzato, who recorded the only other win this season, and got McLurg to fly out to right to end the game.
Artesia will visit Centennial on Saturday for a doubleheader before returning to Suburban League action on Tuesday with a home game against Cerritos. The Pioneers then go to Cerritos on Thursday. Valley Christian will host Village Christian today and Bellflower in a doubleheader on Saturday before traveling to Los Angeles Baptist on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Crusaders are home to Los Angeles Baptist.
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