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Cameron’s sixth inning blast lifts Cerritos over Norwalk

SUBURBAN LEAGUE SOFTBALL

By Loren Kopff

Like most of her teammates, Cerritos senior catcher Heather Cameron had a hard time hitting off of Norwalk freshman pitcher Breanna Vasquez on May 6 and again this past Wednesday. Cameron saw a total of four pitches and popped up twice in the first meeting between the top two teams in the Suburban League, then struck out in her first two at-bats in the rematch.

But on the first pitch she saw from Vasquez in the top of the sixth inning, she sent a two-run home over the left field fence to give the Lady Dons a 3-1 road win that kept the team alive for an undefeated league mark. Cerritos, the 10th ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III coaches poll, improved to 17-7 overall and 11-0 in league. The Lady Dons, who had not gone undefeated in league action since 2000, hosted last place Artesia on May 14 in the regular season finale.

“I was frustrated after the two strikeouts,” Cameron said. “Of course you’re going to be frustrated after two strikeouts. But [Cerritos head] coach Mike [Freeman] has always told me not to get frustrated because hitting is a day-by-day learning lesson. You’re not going to be perfect every day. So, I try to go up to bat every single time no matter what happened last time with confidence.”

With the score tied at 1-1, Vasquez walked senior pitcher Jennifer Iseri, who was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Jennifer Morinishi. Following a sacrifice from freshman first baseman Kiarra Pope, Cameron launched her team-leading third home run of the season.

The walk to Iseri, who along with Cameron will be playing at the University of Hawai’i next year, was the second of three in the game. Vasquez was doing her best to pitch around the Cerritos slugger and take her chances with Pope, Cameron or senior right fielder Leeann Tran, the next three in the lineup. Iseri had singled in the first inning but was stranded at first while Tran went two for three. Cameron and Pope each had a hit as Vasquez scattered eight hits in the contest.

“That’s a lot of respect for [Iseri], but I have a lot of confidence in all of my hitters,” Cameron said. “It doesn’t matter if they walk her or if they walk me or if they walk anyone. I believe in everyone who comes up to bat.”

Just like the first time around at Cerritos, both Iseri and Vasquez were locked in a pitcher’s duel early on. The Lady Lancers escaped an early deficit with the help of their only two seniors. Iseri’s single went to left field where Paola Martinez threw it back to shortstop Jazmin Guzman who then threw home to get sophomore shortstop Lailoni Mayfield, who had begun the game with a base hit. Guzman, who went three for three off of Iseri on May 6, had one of Norwalk’s three hits this past Wednesday. She will be taking her talents to California State University, Dominguez Hills next year.

“She’s so great; she’s such a great hitter,” Cameron said. “I love her. She’s a great fielder and a great hitter. I respect her completely and she’s going to do great in college. It was great playing against her.”

“She’s a great player,” said Norwalk head coach Paulette Gasporra. “She has a good bat and she has good defensive skills. So, it’s going to be a pleasure to watch her play at the college level.”

Norwalk grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Iseri walked Martinez with one out and served up a two-out base hit to Vasquez. But after that, Iseri retired 13 of the final 14 batters with the only blemish being a two-out walk to Martinez in the fifth. Iseri allowed three hits and struck out just as many.

Cerritos tied the game in the fifth as senior left fielder Madison Lee led off with a double to the center field fence, was sacrificed over by senior second baseman Amanda Lejano and came home on a sacrifice fly from Mayfield. Unlike the first game when the Lady Dons had a total of three base runners off of Vasquez, they had only one inning in which they didn’t reach base this past Wednesday.

“Our plan was to see the ball better and lay off of her rise ball,” Cameron said. “So, instead of being in front of the box, we got in the back of the box. We hit a lot better.”

Coupled with La Mirada’s win over Mayfair this past Tuesday, the Lady Lancers (13-8, 7-5) dropped to third place, a half game behind La Mirada. Should Mayfair revenge its loss in a May 14 game, there will be a three-way tie for second place with La Mirada, Mayfair and Norwalk having split their games with each other. A La Mirada win keeps Norwalk in third place all alone.

“It’s a good group of girls this year,” Gasporra said. “Of course we wanted to go a little farther than we did as far as [league] placing. But Cerritos is a good team and we knew that coming into the series. They have great pitching and some great hitting.”

Gasporra added that she was honored to have coached such a talented group of players and improve the school’s record from last season, in which the Lady Lancers went 8-15. She went on to say that Guzman and Martinez have been great assets to the program and will definitely be missed.

Gasporra, who coached Norwalk from 2004-2010, is in her second stint as the Lady Lancer’s head coach. She enters the playoff with a record of 110-87-1 with the purple and gold. Norwalk, which has finished in fourth place five straight seasons, has not won a playoff game since 2007.