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Cerritos sees season halted on rare game-ending triple play

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

GRAND TERRACE-Triple plays in high school softball are hard to come by, but a triple play to end a game is unheard of. Cerritos High found out the hard way against Grand Terrace in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III quarterfinal game last Thursday afternoon.

In the top of the seventh inning, sophomore shortstop Lailoni Mayfield reached on an error, senior center fielder Megan Darling connected on a line drive single to center and senior pitcher Jennifer Iseri was walked to load the bases with none out. On the very next pitch, freshman first baseman Kiarra Pope flied out to Morgan Parsons, who made a juggling catch inches above the ground.

The catch would have been good enough to send Mayfield home, but one of the field umpires ruled that Darling and Mayfield both left their respective bases early, thus ending the game which went to Grand Terrace, 3-2. Cerritos head coach Mike Freeman tried to get an explanation from the umpires but was only told that the runners left early.

“That’s the worst call I’ve ever seen in my life,” an irate Freeman said. “I’ve been coaching softball for 20 years and that’s the worst ump call I’ve ever seen. My runner tagged [up] at third because I told her to stay there until [Parsons] caught it. I’m not sure about the runner [at second] but I know the runner from third tagged [up].

“I was concerned about third base and I know she tagged [up],” he continued. “So you can’t call her out, too. If you call Megan out, that’s two outs and Lo still scores; the game is tied. So that’s just [a] terrible [call]. It’s an awful call; they shouldn’t do that to these kids.”

The juggling act from Parsons may have confused the Cerritos runners, according to Grand Terrace head coach Bobby Flores, who saw the play in a different way.

“Everyone is going to say it’s my player, but I really did think it was a clean catch,” Flores said. “I think [the runners] just jumped the gun. Their coach thought it was dropped and that’s why their players took off running.”

Cerritos (20-8) was trailing 3-0 after four innings before finally getting on the board against the top ranked team in the division. With one out, Mayfield reached on an error and advanced on an infield hit from Darling. An errant throw on the play allowed Mayfield to reach third and after Darling stole second, Melanie Olmos walked Iseri to load the bases. Another walk, this time to Pope, brought in Mayfield and senior right fielder Heather Cameron’s base hit to the left field gap plated Darling.

“They have heart but we made little mistakes,” Freeman said. “The game should have never been that close. Actually, we should have been up 2-0 after the second inning. Like I was explaining to them, little things like that always come back to haunt you.”

The Suburban League champion Lady Dons, ranked ninth in the division, had several chances to take an early lead. With Cameron on first with one out in the top of the second, senior left fielder Madison Lee was robbed of a hit when Marissa Jauregui dove forward in center to deny Lee. On the very next pitch, Cameron was caught stealing. Cerritos then left two runners on base in the third and stranded three more runners in the fourth without the benefit of a hit.

“You have breaks in a softball game and that was our opportunity to break the game open and we didn’t really do it,” Freeman said. “I can go back and I have 40 plays in my head that lost this game. I don’t look at [the seventh inning] as losing this game at all. We lost this game way before that.”

The Titans scored all of their runs in the fourth with one out. The big blow was a two-run line drive double to the right field gap from Danielle Rico. That came a pitch after Parsons brought home Alexis Lopez.

Grand Terrace had entered the game batting .454 with 299 hits, including 78 doubles and 41 home runs. But Iseri, who along with Cameron will be taking their talents to the University of Hawai’i, allowed just three hits in the game.

“I thought she threw well,” Freeman said. “Even in the inning that they got the three runs, we had a base on balls and an error. So, she was still throwing well at that point. She hung a few, but everyone does. I thought she pitched very well today against a lineup like that.”

“[Iseri’s] a great little pitcher,” Flores said. “What she has is that back door curve ball that comes out and just gets on the outside of that corner. I already know about her. Our right fielder Morgan is going to Hawai’i with her, so they know each other. We knew it was going to be a pitching duel. I can see why Cerritos got here. They have a good team.”

Cerritos, which got four hits, was hoping to face city rival Gahr in the semifinals, played this past Tuesday. It would have been the first trip to the semifinals since 2000 when Cerritos won the second of its back to back Division II championships. Still, the Lady Dons, who will lose seven seniors to graduation, won 20 games for the second straight season. The last time that occurred was in 1999 and 2000. The game also marked the last for Freeman, who is stepping down after a brief career at Cerritos.

“This has been a blast coaching this group,” Freeman said. “When you have girls who are like sponges, it’s fun…when you don’t have the so-called superstar kids and the kids are eating up everything you say. It’s always fun to coach kids like that. So I had a great time coaching this team. And the seniors were awesome the whole time.”