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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Late inning drama enables Gahr to edge Warren, force first place tie

By Loren Kopff

 

Through the first four innings of its home game with Warren last Thursday, the Gahr High softball team had five hits off of opposing pitcher Jissel Caballero. But the Gladiators turned up the heat in the final two innings and backed by a two-run home run from sophomore third baseman Malia Quarles, the hosts rallied for a 3-2 win that left both teams tied for first place in the San Gabriel Valley League.

The Gladiators, down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, received a leadoff single from senior second baseman Deja Portillo, who would then steal second. Two outs later, Quarles put Gahr in front with a homerun over the left field fence. It was just her third blast of the season but more historically, it was her 14th in her high school career, passing Jasmine Ruiz as the school’s leader in that category since 2000.

“I’ve been trying to hit the low, inside pitch and I kept on popping up [into] foul [territory],” Quarles said. “When I talked to my dad before that at-bat, he told me to not swing at the first pitch. So, I took that pitch and then I swung at the second one and it was my pitch and it just went over.”

“I just wanted her to get a good pitch,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “I think she was struggling two or three weeks ago. But I think she’s coming back around. It’s an average thing. If they go .450-.500 over the year, I’m happy.”

The Bears tied the game in the next inning when Caballero took a 1-1 count from senior pitcher Destiny Vasquez and deposited it over the left center fence. But the Gahr bats remained hot in its half of the frame, beginning with a base hit from Vasquez, who would be replaced with freshman courtesy runner Dani Martinez.

Junior center fielder Alyssa Cuffia followed with a single before senior left fielder Sabrina Quarles brought in Martinez with a base hit to left field. It was the 11th and final hit off of Caballero, who had allowed eight hits in Warren’s 5-3 win on Apr. 14 which kicked off league action.

“I knew that we just had to play,” Shawn Quarles said. “She’s a good pitcher. She knows how to hit her spots. She’s a veteran, so she knows. They’re coming in for a big game, so I knew that she was going to be hard to hit. I knew it was going to be a close ball game. I’m just glad we got some timely hitting when we could.”

“Last time we hit, we were popping up everything,” Malia Quarles said of the first round game with Warren. “We made our adjustment [today] and we got the ‘W’.”

Warren grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a groundout from Nadia Amezcua. But Vasquez avoided what could have been a big inning for Warren in the fifth when the Bears loaded the bases with one out on singles from Kimberly Olivas, Taylor Gallo and Megan Narvaez. However, Vasquez got Amezcua to pop-up to freshman shortstop Dejanae Davis and caught a pop-up from Whitney Pemberton.

“She did great; she was hitting her spots,” Malia Quarles said. “Everything was working really well for her and she just stayed up the whole game.”

Malia Quarles, Vasquez and sophomore catcher Alyssa Kumiyama all had a pair of hits and all but one starter had at least one hit off of Caballero.

“All the way from one through nine, we have great hitters,” Shawn Quarles said. “They’re experienced and they’re veterans. I expect that any part of our lineup can pick up the other part of the lineup at any time.”

Provided that there are no more upsets before the season ends next week, Gahr and Warren will once again share the league title. It would mark the second time since 2007 that Gahr will have won consecutive league titles. In addition, Gahr improved to 8-10 at home against Warren since 1998.

“Whenever you can share a title with a team like [Warren], with a coach like [Warren head coach Mary Starksen], you’re doing well,” Shawn Quarles said. “I’m proud to be in the same sentence as them. It’s all good. I’m proud to be doing it for the second year in a row.”

The Gladiators followed the win with an 8-0 victory over Rialto in a La Mirada Showcase Tournament game last Saturday behind senior Deidra Genera’s no-hitter and an offensive barrage that produced 13 hits. The win set up a rematch with Warren for the tournament championship, which went to the Bears in a 5-3 decision. Warren scored four runs in the bottom of the third, then had to stave off one rally after another as Gahr stranded at least one runner in four of the final five innings.

The Gladiators bounced back and trashed Paramount 10-2 this past Tuesday behind a 14-hit attack. Vasquez went three for four and drove in two runs while Davis, Portillo, senior designated player Brianna Besenty and senior first baseman Celeste Gonzalez all added a pair of hits.

Gahr hosted Downey on May 7 and will wrap of the regular season with road games at last place Dominguez and fifth place Lynwood on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. At 19-7 overall, the Gladiators have their most wins in a season since going 24-5 in 2007. Gahr has won at least 20 games in a season just four times since 1999.