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Corrales, Artesia put John Glenn in must-win situation

SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASEBALL

By Loren Kopff

The post game music following Artesia’s home game with John Glenn last Friday afternoon was fitting. Blaring from the Artesia dugout was “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.

It definitely has been a two week journey for the Pioneers to end the season as they are one of three teams battling for fourth place and the final automatic playoff berth from the Suburban League. The Pioneers rebounded from a poor performance two days prior and edged the Eagles 5-3 to move one full game ahead of Glenn with two games left in the regular season.

Also in the playoff mix is Norwalk, whom the Pioneers played this past week, and both of those squads had identical 4-6 league records to begin the week. But entering last Friday’s game, the message from Artesia head coach Michael Gaoghagan to his team was real simple. He said the team had to win the next three and they’re in, or they’re asking for help and they don’t want to do that.

“We held on today,” Gaoghagan said. “We played horrible [on Wednesday]. Our problem, really for most of the year, has just been consistency. We’re really good defensively or we’re horrible. We either have a good pitching performance, like we did today, or we walk everyone and their mother. We don’t know which team is going to come out.”

Artesia trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the fifth when Glenn sophomore pitcher Victor Sanchez walked senior pitcher Tommy Corrales and served up a double to deep center to senior shortstop Joseph Herrera that tied the game. After a groundout, junior designated hitter Roman Salazar laid down a weak grounder that was thrown away, allowing Herrera to score.

The Pioneers (8-14 overall following the win) added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when senior relief pitcher Rene Gaytan walked sophomore second baseman Matt Munoz, who stole second, went to third on a sacrifice fly from Corrales and scored on a passed ball.

“They did a good job on the slash,” said John Glenn head coach Jack Brooks. “That’s just a tough deal. They squib one and that’s the go-ahead run. Then the passed ball in the bottom of the sixth is a game changer. If we go into the top of the seventh down by one and get our lead-off guy on, we can steal and we can bunt. If we’re down by two, my hands are cuffed.”

Brooks’ message to his team was simple as well. He told the players that they had to play every pitch and every inning like it was their last. Early on, Sanchez was giving his team a chance to come back despite falling behind 2-0 in the first inning. After a bases loaded walk to Salazar, Sanchez got junior first baseman Osbiel Montalvo to ground into a double play, then yielded two hits and struck out five of his next 13 batters.

Meanwhile, the Eagles (11-13, 3-7) tied the game in the top of the second when Sanchez drove in senior first baseman Cesar Arzate and senior catcher Arturo Loera with a base hit up the middle. But the story of the game was Corrales, who evened his record at 4-4 and hurled his fifth complete game of the season. Corrales scattered half a dozen hits, walked one and struck out eight on 101 pitches. He was also walked three times, one intentionally, and has been one of the leaders this season both on and off the mound.

“[Sophomore] Javier Vasquez is having a heck of a year as well,” Gaoghagan said. “Joseph has been up and down. When he’s hot, he hits the ball real well. Tommy is [5’ 5”] and not exactly your athletic specimen when you look at him. But he does a good job and throws strikes. He’s able to get the breaking ball over and because he can do that, he can dictate what he wants to throw.”

Senior left fielder Jerry Azzato went two for four and drove in a run as Artesia visited Norwalk this past Tuesday and fell to the Lancers 6-5. Artesia hosted Norwalk on May 9, needing to win by more than one run to win the fourth place tiebreaker. The Eagles, who received two hits from senior right fielder Deven Galindo, ended their season against third place Bellflower.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight today,” Brooks said. “They’ve played everybody in this league tough. We made a few mistakes and they made a few plays.”

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