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WHITTIER CHRISTIAN TOURNAMENT Stellar pitching, sizzling bats propel Cerritos in winning Whittier Christian tournament

softball

The Cerritos High softball team gathers for a team picture after winning the Whittier Christian Tournament last Saturday. The Lady Dons blanked the host school 9-0 to cap off a 4-0 mark in the three-day affair.

 

 

By Loren Kopff

 

LA HABRA-After a sluggish start to the season, the Cerritos High softball team is gaining steam with nine games remaining before the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III playoffs begin in the middle of next month. The Lady Dons flexed their muscles to a season-high 16 hits as they blanked Whittier Christian 9-0 last Saturday afternoon to win the Whittier Christian Tournament.

Cerritos outscored its four opponents 26-3, pounded out 38 hits and in the process, won for the ninth time in its past 10 games to improve to 10-6. While Cerritos is playing one of the top non league schedules around, the team is definitely peaking at the right moment as it remains in a prime position to win a second straight Suburban League title.

“I think the girls are [peaking], but more so what I saw today is everybody was in the game,” said Cerritos assistant coach Brian Iseri. “These girls are more like a family because they grew up with each other. So, they need to feel good about the whole team and I think that’s what they really got out of this tournament. They were having a lot of fun with this tournament.”

“It was tough [in the beginning of the season] but I feel like now this team is more together,” said senior center fielder Megan Darling. “We’re playing for each other more and that’s what I really like about how we’re playing now.”

All but one starter had at least one hit against the Heralds as the onslaught began in the top of the second inning when senior catcher Heather Cameron singled to left field and went all the way to third on a sacrifice from, senior third baseman Madison Lee. One pitch later, a groundout from junior left fielder Alyssa Flores plated Cameron.

But the Lady Dons did the bulk of the damage in the next inning by sending 10 batters to the plate, scoring six times. It started with back to back singles from senior second baseman Amanda Lejano and Darling. After a groundout moved the runners up, senior pitcher Jennifer Iseri brought both runners in with a single to right field.

On the next pitch, freshman first baseman Kiarra Pope singled and Cameron was hit by a Hannah Gabriel pitch to load the bases. Two batters later, Flores singled in a pair of runs followed by a one-pitch, two-run base hit from freshman right fielder Jennifer Morinishi.

Up 7-0, the Lady Dons went right back to work in the fourth as Darling reached on an error and scored on sophomore shortstop Lailoni Mayfield’s triple to the base of the center field fence. Jennifer Iseri then knocked in Mayfield with a single to center to complete the scoring.

Jennifer Iseri would go five for five with three runs batted in and ended the tournament with eight straight hits in as many plate appearances. For the tournament, she went 11 for 15 and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The University of Hawai’i signee also scattered three hits and struck out 10, including two in the first, second, third and fifth innings. She had a no-hitter through the first four innings and did not allow a Whittier Christian runner to reach third base.

Darling (six for 11 in the tournament) and Mayfield (four for 11) each went two for five and were named to the all-tournament team. Senior pinch hitter Leeann Tran collected a pair of hits as well in her two at-bats late in the contest.

“I feel like it’s really easy for me to see the ball now and I feel like this will help me see other pitches all throughout the rest of the season,” Darling said.

“The girls work really hard,” Brian Iseri said. “I think this season they all worked on their swings. At any given time, I feel very comfortable in putting anyone in. These girls have each other’s back and they feel confident in themselves.”

Cerritos, which won a tournament for the first time since 2011 after claiming the Costa Mesa Tournament, began pool play action last Thursday with a 2-0 win over El Rancho as Darling had a run-scoring hit in the top of the third. Two batters later, she scored on a groundout from Cameron. Jennifer Iseri, who threw a three-hitter and struck out 10, and Pope each went two for four. The next day, Morinishi, in her second start of her young high school career, tossed a no-hitter in an 11-0 win over Southlands Christian.

The Lady Dons, who scored six runs in the bottom of the first and three more in the next inning, had six hits, but were helped with eight walks. Cameron went two for two and drove in three while Darling and Mayfield each went one for one and Jennifer Iseri and Tran each went one for two.

The final pool play game saw the Lady Dons rally from a 3-1 first inning deficit to edge San Dimas 4-3 on Pope’s game-winning single to center in the top of the seventh. Darling began the game with a triple and came home on a double from Mayfield.

Cerritos would tie the game in the third when Pope hit a soft single to San Dimas shortstop Ashlei Sanchez who couldn’t come up with what would have been a diving catch. The hit allowed Darling and sophomore courtesy runner Katelynn Hernandez to touch home plate. Jennifer Iseri went three for four while Darling and Pope each added a pair of hits.

Cerritos will take a much needed break and won’t return to game action until Wednesday when it hosts Bellflower, which was also in the tournament, in the front end of a home and home series. The Lady Dons will then travel to Mater Dei on Thursday.

“When you play the schedule we’ve been playing, they also need to heal, recover and make sure they get their school projects done and stuff like that,” Brian Iseri said. “But they’re not going to take it off completely. They’re going to be still working and one good thing about these girls is they do a lot of work on their own.”