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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The original plan for the Cerritos High baseball team in its Suburban League baseball opener against Artesia High this past Tuesday was to have senior Tyler Beyer toe the slab opposite sophomore David Vasquez. But after Beyer had a blister on his finger pitching against Temple City High on Mar. 15, head coach Scott Parsonage was about to go to his second option, which was to start senior Kyle Suezaki.
That’s when senior Jason Prieto stepped up and demanded that he get the start against the Pioneers. Prieto asked and asked and finally got his wish, and he didn’t disappoint. Prieto worked into the top of the sixth inning, scattering five hits and striking out eight as the Dons posted an 8-3 victory. Cerritos improved to 6-5 overall and 1-0 in league play.
“When somebody does that as a pitcher, you know that…most of the time he is going to go out there and have success if he wants it that bad,” Parsonage said.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Prieto said. “Today was the first game of league, so that meant a lot to me. I wanted to be that guy to lead my team to a couple of victories. I want to be number two next to [senior] Jamriel Rodriguez and I just told the coach, ’I want this game, I want to help my team and get the win’.”
Prieto was dealing early in the game, throwing a no-hitter through the first three innings and allowing three Pioneers to reach base. Even when he walked senior left fielder Todd Fahey and hit senior second baseman David Bravo in the second, he came back to strike out the next two batters. Then he was bailed out in the next inning with the first of three double plays by the Cerritos defense.
“The weather was kind of a factor; it was a little windy,” Prieto said. “I was getting unbalanced and a little frustrated. So my catcher, [junior] Brett Wells, came out to the mound and told me to calm down and told me I’m better than what I’m showing. I just settled down and just hit my spots.”
The Dons got to Vasquez in the second inning following a controversial double play when Prieto was out on an interference call. Junior second baseman Jonathan Estrada reached on an error and senior left fielder Luis Hernandez was hit by a pitch. A walk to Suezaki loaded the bases and Beyer singled to right to bring in Estrada. Two pitches later, Wells singled up the middle for two more runs.
The Dons tacked on the eventual game-winner in the third when senior right fielder Erik Gomez was safe on an error, stole two bases and came home on a throwing error. In all, the Pioneers (5-4, 0-1) committed seven errors and only one Cerritos run was earned. Part of the reason for the miscues could be attributed to the windy conditions. When the game started, winds were blowing out of the west at 21 miles per hour with stronger gusts at times throughout the contest.
“It’s pretty tough,” Parsonage said. “You have dirt in your eyes; you have everything blowing. Both teams have to play in the same situation, so there’s really no excuse. But bottom line, it’s pretty hard to play in how hard that wind was blowing. They’re better than that; they just had a bad day. We’ve had a bad day before too. We just try to minimize those and come back the next day like nothing ever happened.”
Artesia scored in its half of the fourth when senior designated hitter Tondre Neal broke up the no-hitter and eventually came home on a groundout from Fahey. But a double play ended any further damage and senior right fielder Anthony Larson was caught stealing after Prieto struck out senior center fielder Gabriel Flores to end the fifth. Artesia would strand three runners in scoring position, have three innings end in double plays and have two runners caught stealing.
“A double play is a pitcher’s best friend, always,” Parsonage said. “Even when I was a pitcher and coach [Brooks] Walling was a pitcher, those were all of our best friends. They bail you out of some jams.”
The Dons scored twice in the fourth when Hernandez was walked and scored on another error and Beyer came home on a sacrifice fly from Wells. After the Pioneers chased Prieto from the mound with a pair of runs in the sixth, Cerritos countered with a pair in its half of the frame. Beyer came home on a ground out from Rodriguez and Wells scored on yet another error. Suezaki picked up the save after facing five batters, striking out two.
“We’ve been tough on him; trying to really get him to come around,” Parsonage said of Prieto. “We don’t think he’s been the guy he could be since he came over [to Cerritos]. We’re trying to get everything we can out of the kid and finding different ways to motivate the kid in order to come out and give us his 110 percent, which we don’t feel like he’s been giving the last year and a half. In the last month, he’s really turned the corner.”
Wells went two for three while Gomez also picked up a pair of hits as Cerritos has won two straight games for the second time this season. Neal and senior catcher Nathan Guerrero each went two for three as the Pioneers, who have made 32 errors in their last eight games, saw their two-game winning streak snapped. Both teams completed their home and home series on Mar. 24 at Artesia and will compete in the St. Paul Easter Tournament through Wednesday. Artesia will host Oak Hills High today, face Montebello High on Saturday and Chatsworth High on Monday in pool play action. The Dons will complete their pool play action with home games against St. Monica High on Saturday and Mary Star of the Sea High on Monday. Cerritos already defeated St. Genevieve High 6-2 on Mar. 14 in its first pool play game.
“We took care of business today,” Parsonage said. “Our pitcher, in the first couple of innings, went out there and controlled the game. He challenged them to hit and didn’t put too many guys on base with free bases. Even when he fell behind, he was able to come back after a couple of 3-0 counts and make one pitch at a time and get back in the count and was able to make it happen.”
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