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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The championship game of the St. Paul Easter Tournament’s AA Division was a small preview of what to expect in early May as it relates to Suburban League baseball. Cerritos High and John Glenn High went toe to toe and it was the latter which came out on top, building a four-run lead and holding on for a 5-3 victory this past Wednesday night at Valley Christian High.
The Eagles were leading 4-2 but needed to get an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning as sophomore left fielder Chris Munoz, the No. 9 batter in the lineup, was walked on four pitches and scored on a two-out hit from freshman third baseman Joseph Angulo. The run was critical considering the Dons had scored once in their half of the frame and then loaded the bases with two outs.
“You can’t stop playing offense even though you have the lead,” said John Glenn head coach Jack Brooks. “It’s always nice to have a little insurance. It was big to push that one across.”
Glenn (8-7 overall) got things going in the second with three runs on just one hit. Freshman center fielder Michael Hill reached second on an error and stole third before sophomore designated hitter Humberto Chiquito was hit by a pitch. A single to right field from freshman catcher Alexis Martinez brought in Hill and when sophomore second baseman Alex Alcaraz reached on a fielder’s choice, it was 2-0. Alcaraz would eventually come home on a groundout from junior right fielder Joe Gonzales.
“We’re going to do the little things,” Brooks said. “That’s what we’re about. And then when we get an opportunity for the big hit, we’re going to step up. I have a bunch of young bucks on this team and they’re starting to learn and they’re starting to play. It’s exciting.”
In the next inning, freshman shortstop Joseph Figueroa, the tournament’s most valuable player, singled to left and came home when Hill was safe on a fielder’s choice. The 4-0 lead was just enough for freshman pitcher Michael Gill, who pitched into the fourth and yielded two hits while striking out three.
“Gill threw on Saturday; he started that game, so we actually wanted to get two or three [innings] out of him and he went into the fourth,” Brooks said. “We got more than expected.”
“We came out a little flat today, just early on from the get go with our bats,” said Cerritos head coach Scott Parsonage. “We ended up figuring it out a little bit. I didn’t think [Gill] was anything special, below average I thought. We just didn’t come through early on.”
Cerritos (9-7) had five runners reach base in the first two innings but had just one hit. Then with one out in the fourth, Gill hit senior shortstop Jamriel Rodriguez and walked senior right fielder Erik Gomez. The Dons would knock Gill out of the game after freshman first baseman Bernardo De Leon’s single brought in Rodriguez.
In came in sophomore pitcher Jose Llamas and on his second pitch, senior third baseman Jason Prieto singled to left field to plate Gomez and cut Glenn’s lead in half. Llamas, who got the victory, would then retire the next six batters and be replaced by Figueroa with two on and one out and two on in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Cerritos senior pitcher Kyle Suezaki was settling down in the middle innings and did not allow a runner past second in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The Dons would load the bases in the sixth but came away empty. Then in the final inning, they had their chances again.
Suezaki led off with a single to right and stole second. After a sacrifice from senior centerfielder Tyler Beyer, junior catcher Brett Wells laced a single down the left field line to make it 5-3. That was followed by an infield single from Rodriguez and after a fly out, De Leon was walked to load the bases. But another deep fly to right field ended the suspense and the game.
“That’s just the game of baseball,” Parsonage said. “They had their stuff in the beginning. They had their mojo and they kind of got shut down as the game went on. We found ours but it wasn’t enough at the end. They were better than us today, bottom line.”
Angulo and Alcaraz each had two hits for the Eagles, who made their way to the finals by winning their pool with wins over St. Bernard High (14-3 on Mar. 17) and Long Beach Jordan High (17-0 last Saturday) before losing to Bishop Montgomery High 3-2 this past Monday. Glenn would rout Valley Christian High 13-1 this past Tuesday in the semifinals. In that game, Figueroa went three for five and drove in a run while Chiquito and Martinez each had a pair of hits.
Angulo, Chiquito and Martinez were named to the all-tournament team as Glenn resumes league action on Wednesday with a home game against league favorite La Mirada High in the front end of a home and home series.
“The league is going to be so fun; it’s just real competitive,” Brooks said. “There are a lot of good teams and a lot of good coaches. This is what it should be all about.”
Suezaki and De Leon each had a pair of hits as Cerritos also won its pool with wins over St. Genevieve High (6-2 on Mar. 14) and St. Monica High (5-2 last Saturday) before losing to Mary Star of the Sea High 4-1 this past Monday. The Dons then blasted Bishop Montgomery 13-1 this past Tuesday in the semifinals behind a 19-hit attack. Beyer went five for five with three runs batted in and scored three runs and every Cerritos starter had at least one hit. Beyer and Rodriguez were named to the all-tournament team.
The Dons will host Mayfair High on Wednesday in the front end of their home and home series with the Monsoons. The rematch with Glenn will be on May 4 at Cerritos and May 6 at Glenn.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Parsonage said. “It’s going to be highly competitive. In my opinion, it could be a battle for second, third or fourth place. It really could. Everybody knows that La Mirada is pretty physical and pretty good and favored to win [league]. Between Mayfair, Bellflower, us and Glenn, it could go two, three, four and five any way. Whoever gets a break on that day, whoever gets lucky, whoever doesn’t drop one to someone they’re not supposed to drop one to…that’s the way it always seems to work out. If you drop one to someone you shouldn’t, you’re going to get bit in the butt. It just happens every year.”
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