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Pitching optional as Cerritos, Gahr softball offenses dominate in doubleheader split

By Loren Kopff

The rematch between Deidra Genera and Jennifer Iseri, the two senior pitchers for the Gahr and Cerritos softball teams respectively, didn’t quite go the same way as last season’s pitcher’s duel. But unlike last season, it was Genera who walked away from the circle with probably her most signature victory in her high school career.

After losing a tough 3-1 decision to Iseri and the Lady Dons last season, Genera came back and held Cerritos to two runs through the first six innings of the first game of a doubleheader this past Tuesday. Although Cerritos rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh, Gahr held on for an 8-7 victory. Cerritos would then score seven runs in the bottom of the second inning and escaped with an 8-7 win in the second game.

But in the opener, it was all about Genera, who yielded a first-inning run, then held the defending Suburban League champions scoreless until the sixth.

“This year I thought I did a lot better,” Genera said. “I’ve been working on my pitching and I felt like [in] last year’s performance I struggled a little bit more than this year. We just came out on top.”

Gahr tattooed Iseri, the reigning league most valuable player as well as the Los Cerritos Community News Pitcher of the Year, for three runs in the bottom of the first as sophomore third baseman Malia Quarles belted a two-run home run and freshman designated player Dani Martinez doubled in sophomore catcher Alyssa Kumiyama.

The Lady Dons (1-3) were on the verge of making some noise in the top of the third when senior center fielder Megan Darling singled with two outs. But Iseri was robbed of at least a potential double when freshman right fielder Madison Huskey made a running snow cone catch to keep the two-run lead in place.

“That was a good catch,” Genera said. “I know our outfielders have been working, so I’m not surprised.”

Then like most players who end an inning with a great play, Huskey began the bottom half of the frame by reaching on an error, eventually scoring on Kumiyama’s second single. Later in the inning, senior second baseman Deja Portillo plated senior first baseman Celeste Gonzalez and junior center fielder Alyssa Cuffia.

By the time the inning had finished, Gahr was up 7-1, had seven hits and Iseri had thrown 90 pitches. Meanwhile, Genera was in a zone, constantly getting ahead in the count and throwing fewer than five pitches to a batter 14 times out of the first 19 she faced.

“It was a good thing I got ahead because if I would have stayed behind, I would have had to try to pitch more in the plate and they would have gotten more hits,” Genera said.

Cerritos got back into the scoring column in the sixth when Darling singled and came home on a two-out base hit from senior second baseman Leeann Tran. The Gladiators (6-2) would get a much needed insurance run in their half of the inning when Portillo, who had doubled to lead off, came home when Kumiyama reached on a fielder’s choice.

The Lady Dons made it interesting in the seventh by sending 10 batters to the plate and loading the bases with one out before Iseri singled in freshman Kiarra Pope. After a pair of runs came home on an error, senior catcher Heather Cameron doubled in sophomore courtesy runner Katelynn Hernandez. A few batters later, sophomore designated player Celeste Borza brought in Cameron with a base hit.

Genera improved to 4-0 on the season by working into the last inning, striking out three and giving up 10 hits. The Bethune-Cookman University signee is now all alone in second place on the Gahr victory leader board since 2000 with 19 wins. She is still far behind the 52 wins produced by Roni Alvarado, who was in attendance at the game.

In the second game, Gahr struck early and often again, but it was a two-out single down the third base line from Pope in the bottom of the fifth that proved to be the game-winner. Both teams each collected 10 hits but the Lady Dons scored seven times in the bottom of the second after the Gladiators had built a 5-0 lead.

“I think it’s very important,” said Cerritos assistant coach John Zamora of getting the split. “We need to make a statement with our team, making sure they get their confidence up and making sure that we bounce back from a loss that was tight after coming back and not really achieving what we wanted to achieve.”

Freshman Jennifer Morinishi was making her first start in the circle and immediately plunked freshman shortstop Dejanae Davis on the second pitch of the game. Huskey then reached on an error and both runners would come home on a base hit from Quarles and a sacrifice fly from Kumiyama.

In the next inning, senior designated player Destiny Vasquez, Cuffia and senior left fielder Sabrina Quarles all singled. A sacrifice fly from Davis made it 5-0. But the Cerritos bats woke up against sophomore pitcher Naomi Dickerson and it started with a one-out double from Borza. After Pope was hit by a pitch to load the bases, sophomore left fielder Destiny Lucero plated Borza. The big blow in the inning came when Cameron, who along with Iseri will be attending the University of Hawai’i in the fall, smacked a two-run home run.

“I think we adjusted our game plan slightly, and then we executed,” Zamora said. “By the time we got to the second game, mentally we were a different team.”

Gahr tied the game in the third inning when Malia Quarles, Kumiyama and Gonzalez all singled to load the bases with none out. After Morinishi got two quick outs, Martinez singled to right to make it 7-7. In the fifth, Pope delivered the game-winner when she drove in Tran with a single to left field.

Morinishi went the first four innings before Iseri, who had thrown 157 pitches in the first game, worked the final three frames to pick up the win. She allowed just one hit over that time and threw 35 pitches.

“So far all season, she’s been doing really well, including this game,” Zamora said of Morinishi. “With little Jen, it’s about keeping the other team off-balanced, about making sure that she keeps us in the game and she did that. She ate up some innings so that [Iseri] could come in and work.”

Of the 20 combined starters in both lineups, all but two had at least one hit in the two games.

Darling went a combined four for eight while sophomore shortstop Lailoni Mayfield picked up three hits for Cerritos, which will be off until travelling to Redlands East Valley on Tuesday. On the Gahr side, Malia Quarles went four for six and Kumiyama went three for six and drove in half a dozen runs in the two games. Martinez also drove in four runs.

The Gladiators are in Bullhead City, AZ today and Saturday for the 20th Annual Dave Kops Tournament of Champions.