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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Hanging on the side of the Cerritos High softball team’s dugout is a new banner with pictures of the players and a title that reads, ‘The Perfect Storm’. But it was anything but perfect when the Lady Dons hosted Mayfair High in a key Suburban League contest this past Wednesday.
The Monsoons jumped all over sophomore pitcher Jennifer Morinishi in the top of the first inning with half a dozen runs and proceeded to crush Cerritos 16-4. The 16 runs were the most the two-time defending league champions had given up to Mayfair since Mar. 18, 2008 (16-0) and the 20 combined runs were the most these two rivals had scored since Mayfair escaped with an 11-9 affair four seasons ago.
Compounding the issue for first-year head coach Joseph Webber is the recent loss of junior shortstop Lailoni Mayfield, who has missed the last three games because of a shoulder injury she has been playing through which has now affected her elbow. Along with junior catcher Celeste Borza, who has not played this season, the Lady Dons are without their top two players indefinitely, according to Webber. He added that the team is good enough to be in games, but at some point certain things hurt you and that’s what is catching up to Cerritos.
“No matter how hard the girls want to work, I think it’s just starting to catch up with them on how far their backs are against the wall,” Webber said. “In our last tournament, we played El Segundo to a 1-0 loss in the last inning and last out. And that has been indicative of how things go for us because then we lost to [Sunny Hills High] 7-0. If we would have won that El Segundo game, we might have been playing a little better the next game.”
With one out in the first inning, Kara Spoolstra singled to left and came home when Sarah Parten, the league’s most valuable player last season, belted a home run over the centerfield fence. Later in the inning, Tena Spoolstra cleared the bases with a triple to the right field gap and the rout was on.
The six runs in the inning, plus another three in the third, two of which were unearned, brought a smile to the face of Mayfair head coach Erin Brown, who had seen her team give up two and five runs in the seventh innings on Mar. 22 and 24 respectively to La Mirada High in the first week of league action. Mayfair had leads entering the seventh inning of those games and saw potential wins turn into disappointing losses.
“Every game is really important in league and I think this league this season is going to be really competitive,” Brown said. “I think [there are] going to be dogfights. I think there are going to be a lot of splits and a lot of pitching duels or hitting duels. So every game is important.”
“I told the girls all week that because of history and because of last season and because of what happened [two weeks ago] to Mayfair, this is Mayfair’s first round CIF playoff game to them,” Webber said. “I tried to implore to the girls that, ‘you have to come out with your best’, and obviously the opposite of that happened. That was not a typical inning for Jennifer.”
While Morinishi was having problems handling the Monsoons hitters, the Cerritos offense couldn’t get much going against Makenna Stram through the first four innings. The Lady Dons could only muster a Morinishi single in the bottom of the first, a lead-off single from junior third baseman Destiny Lucero in the second, freshman left fielder Elise Gibbs getting hit later in that frame and a walk issued to sophomore first baseman Kiara Crockett-Pope in the third.
But with two outs in the fifth and down 10-0, Cerritos finally got to Stram. Morinishi and junior shortstop Camryn McInerny, playing in her first Cerritos game, singled to right. Crockett-Pope then was safe on an error, breaking the shutout bid for Stram. Three pitches later, senior center fielder Alyssa Flores plated a pair of runs with a base hit to right.
Stram would hit Lucero and sophomore designated player Emily Morton was safe on an error, allowing Flores to come home, cutting Mayfair’s lead to 10-4 and extending the game at least one more inning.
“I feel more confidence in this team than sometimes I feel they feel in themselves,” Webber said. “I think that they are going to score three or four runs every inning. Maybe when we’re at 7-8-9 [in the batting order]…we’re young there. Other than that, if I catch you on the tail end of that and I get my wraparound going into Jennifer [at the top of the order], I feel we can score three or four runs in an inning every time.”
But any chances of a big time rally were crushed when the Monsoons tacked on six more runs in the sixth. Three straight hits led to a run and a Stram double brought in two more to make it 13-4. Now with two outs and probably sensing Cerritos could make another charge in its half of the inning, Brown reinserted Kara Spoolstra and Parten and both responded with run-scoring hits. The Monsoons had seven of their 17 hits in the inning.
“I just think it was just more for our pitcher,” Brown said. “I think she was pinching a little bit more, feeling like she had to do a little bit more. But we have a very talented underclassmen bench as well. We’re all going to have our moments of the nerves that creep in. It was just a matter of days; everybody has a day and it just happens sometimes. It was just a decision of what can we make our pitchers the most comfortable and get the job done.”
Every Mayfair starter had at least one hit with Stram, hitting in the nine spot, going three for four with three RBI. Five other players all had a pair of hits and the Spoolstra sisters-Brianna, Kara and Tena-combined to go four for 10 with seven runs scored and six RBI.
“We came into this game knowing they had graduated some very, very talented players and good leaders,” Brown said. “But we also came into this game knowing that Cerritos had a lot of underclassmen that play quality ball. So our girls were feeding off the energy from last year, being on this field and losing in the seventh inning on a solo home run.”
As for Cerritos (4-9-1 overall, 1-2 in league), which has dropped six straight, it hopes to bounce back with a rematch at Mayfair today before opening a home and home series at first place La Mirada High on Wednesday.
“If players are able to step up for us and step into a spot and come through, then again, I agree with [Brown] in that the league is wide open,” Webber said. “Because of the competitiveness of the league this particular season, we could be hurting too. We could lose six in a row just because everybody is so hungry.”
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