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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The type of performance Norwalk High’s Breanna Vasquez had against John Glenn High last Friday was nothing new for the sophomore pitcher. In fact, it’s becoming somewhat of a usual thing, something that could just propel the Lady Lancers to a Suburban League championship.
Vasquez took a perfect game into the top of the sixth and settled for a two-hitter, striking out 13 as Norwalk got past Glenn 2-0. It was the fourth shutout of the season for Vasquez and in all four of those games, she has allowed six combined hits.
“It was my teammates,” Vasquez said. “They were behind me, they were helping me, they were getting the hits when we needed to, they were playing solid defense. Them being behind me pushed me and really helped me to stay calm and to stay in the game.”
“As a pitcher, she’s dominant,” said Norwalk head coach Paulette Gasporra. “She knows what to do in order to help as far as our defense and she’s pretty in the circle.”
Vasquez, who had thrown a no-hitter last season against El Rancho High and again earlier this season against Bishop Montgomery High, was in a zone from the very first pitch. She struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced and did not get a Glenn batter to send the ball to the outfield until there were two outs in the top of the fourth.
But more importantly, Vasquez was getting ahead in the count a lot, throwing a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 22 batters she faced. And through the first 15 batters she faced, she never threw more than five pitches to any batter.
“It’s kind of nerve wracking but I just have to stay calm in there and throw my strikes,” Vasquez said. “I have to hit my spots so no one gets on,” Vasquez said.
“Breanna is one of the best that we’ve faced,” said John Glenn head coach David Cruz. “To me, her and [Alyssa Olague] over at Whittier are the two best pitchers we’ve faced this year. They just have great command of their pitches and have great location every single time. That makes it hard on the batters where they go to chase the pitches.”
After striking out junior catcher Devany Esparza looking on seven pitches to begin the sixth, she threw another seven pitches to junior left fielder Alize Lopez. But this time, Lopez connected and sent a base hit to left field. However, she would get caught trying to steal second and Vasquez ended the frame by striking out sophomore pinch hitter Christina Shryock.
Vasquez posted two more K’s in the last inning before yielding a single to junior first baseman Maria Enriquez. But she ended the contest with her 13th strikeout, this one to junior third baseman Daisy Vargas.
The 13 strikeouts push her season total to 148, tops in the league and 26th in the state at the beginning of week according to the statistics posted on MaxPreps.com. Last season, Vasquez had 195 strikeouts and she has now reached double digits in strikeouts 21 times in less than two full seasons.
“I know they were trying to keep their hands high because I would throw [a lot of balls] high,” Vasquez said of the Glenn hitters. “So I was trying to keep my balls low and get a lot of grounders instead of pop-ups. That worked out pretty well.”
“All day yesterday, all we did was work on changing our swings at the plate,” Cruz said. “None of it seemed to carry over on to today. It just seemed our girls didn’t shorten up their swings, didn’t widen their stance, didn’t get quicker with their hands. Those are the ways you hit fast pitchers and we didn’t make those adjustments.”
As for the Norwalk offense, it got the only run it needed in the bottom of the third. Senior center fielder Serena Nicolas reached on an error went to second on a wild pitch and came home on a base hit from senior left fielder Briana Lopez that just got under the diving arms of freshman second baseman Dalia Morones. In the sixth, Vasquez helped herself out with an infield single and two batters later, a double from senior right fielder Andrea Villalta plated sophomore courtesy runner Valerie Zavala.
As Vasquez was stepping into the batter’s box, there was an uninvited guest on her bat as a drinking cup was attached to the top, drawing a couple of laughs from the home plate umpire and both dugouts.
“I didn’t even know there was a cup on the bat,” Vasquez said. “I was up there ready to hit to start off the inning. Then I hear, “timeout” and there’s a cup at the top.”
Not to be outdone was Glenn senior pitcher Destiny Enriquez, who struck out seven and gave up two hits to the first five batters in Norwalk’s lineup.
“[Destiny] just needs backup,” Cruz said. “She’s a groundball pitcher; she gets a lot of balls hit to the infield and we just keep making mistakes. We don’t back her up, we don’t make the plays in crucial situations and that seemed to be the difference today.”
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the final six games will be critical for both Glenn and Norwalk for different reasons. The Lady Lancers (10-7 overall, 6-1 in league) began the week one full game behind league-leading La Mirada High with the Matadores taking their bye this week. Norwalk blasted Artesia High 16-0 this past Wednesday behind a three-hitter from Vasquez and will host the Pioneers today before welcoming La Mirada on Wednesday in what will be the first of two games that will most likely decide the league title.
“Obviously we just take it one game at a time,” Gasporra said. “I told the girls to come out here focused, be ready and let’s do what we need to do. We have to get the win. This league is a tough league. Everyone is pretty competitive. We just have to go one game at a time.”
“The next three weeks we have to keep practicing and keep pushing because I know we all want that title,” Vasquez said.
As for the Lady Eagles (8-9, 2-4), they began the week in a three-way tie for fourth place with Artesia and Cerritos High. The top four teams get automatic berths to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III playoffs. Glenn hosts third place Mayfair today and will travel to Cerritos on Wednesday. The last week of the regular season will see Glenn face Artesia while Cerritos and Norwalk square off.
“I try not to look that far,” Cruz said. “The bottom line is we have to win five of our next six games for us to be a legitimate playoff contender. If we get swept by Mayfair and then happen to beat Cerritos and Artesia, that still puts us in fourth place.”
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