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Gahr’s offense does its part, defense doesn’t in league opening loss to Paramount

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE SOFTBALL

By Loren Kopff

The San Gabriel Valley League softball opener between host Gahr and Paramount this past Tuesday had everything except the kitchen sink. Both teams combined for 29 hits, 28 runs, 11 errors, 10 stolen bases and two wild pitches.
But with an ailing pitching staff, the Gladiators couldn’t rebound from a six-run third inning from the Pirates and fell 17-11 in their highest scoring game with Paramount in at least 16 seasons. The last time Gahr was involved in such a high-scoring league game was Apr. 16, 2002 when the Gladiators blanked Dominguez 29-0. This was also the first time in at least 16 seasons that Gahr and its league opponent each have scored at least 10 runs in the same game. Gahr has now lost seven straight to Paramount.
The Gahr pitching staff of senior Mel Varela and sophomore Deidra Genera has been put to the test most of the season despite battling through injuries. Varela injured her left knee on Mar. 19 against Sunny Hills and was making her first start since the second game of a Mar. 21 doubleheader against Whittier. Genera rolled her left ankle last Friday against Whittier Christian and was only able to pitch one of two games the next day in the Whittier Christian Tournament.
“We’ve really been struggling with our defense, starting with the pitching,” said Gahr first-year head coach Shawn Quarles. “Obviously we just let too many runs go by. A lot of routine plays just weren’t made. We definitely have to play better defense.”
Gahr took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore shortstop Deja Portillo and sophomore catcher Brianna Besenty both reached on infield singles. After the two combined to steal three bases, a groundout from sophomore third baseman Celeste Gonzalez put Gahr in front 2-1. Junior second baseman Erica Balboa then doubled to right field and later scored on a wild pitch.
But the Pirates tied the game in the second, only to see the hosts regain the lead when Besenty’s two-out single brought in senior right fielder Leandra Gonzalez. That would be the last time the Gladiators (7-10 overall, 0-1 in league) would enjoy the lead because Paramount erupted for six runs in the third. The big blows were a two-run home run from Jenny Collazo and a two-out, two-run single from Monica Caporal. Four of those runs were unearned.
However, Gahr didn’t back down as it added three more runs to its total in its half of the third. Ashley Jenkins walked Celeste Gonzalez and yielded a single to Balboa. Freshman center fielder Alyssa Cuffia then reached on a fielder’s choice when an error allowed Gonzalez to score. That was followed by another error which put freshman first baseman Kristen Redaja on first and Balboa to come home.
“That was a street fight right there,” Quarles said of the third inning. “Especially with the condition of our pitchers right now, we definitely need to score runs.”
Both teams would score again in the fourth and after a scoreless fifth, Gahr was still in the game, down 10-9. But the Pirates put the game away with two runs in the sixth and five in the seventh. Even though the Gladiators were down 17-9 in the last inning, they continued to make it interesting. Cuffia, Redaja and freshman designated player Erica Espinoza led off the inning with successive base hits with the first two scoring on errors.
Seven of the nine starters for Paramount had at least one hit but the biggest hitters were Collazo (four for five, six runs batted in, two home runs) and Melissa Perez (four for five). Caporal went two for five but drove in four and smacked a seventh-inning home run.
The dozen hits Gahr collected marked the eighth time this season it had at least 10 hits with half of those games resulting in a loss. Balboa went three for four with three runs scored a two RBI while Besenty, Portillo and Redaja all had two hits. Gahr’s starting lineup throughout most of the season has consisted of four sophomores, two seniors, two freshmen and one junior and seven consistent starters are all batting over .300.
“They’re really doing well for us,” Quarles said of his younger players. “They’re definitely bringing their assets to the plate and I really like how they’re performing. They are definitely contributing as far as offensively just as much as anybody else on our team right now.”
Gahr hasn’t been to the postseason since 2009 and has battled Paramount for third place and a playoff spot since then. Gahr visited Downey on Apr. 11 and will host league cellar dwellers Dominguez and Lynwood on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
“This one was big for us,” Quarles said. “Unfortunately we didn’t come into it 100 percent. But we really wanted to get this victory. We think we’ll be battling with Paramount for third place.”

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