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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
There are no playoffs in the immediate futures for the Artesia High and Norwalk High baseball programs. Nor will there be a winning record for either of these two programs who actually battled for the fourth and final automatic playoff berth from the Suburban League as recent as 2013.
Both teams entered last week winless in league action and by the end of the week, Norwalk was all smiles as the Lancers completed their first home and home sweep against the Pioneers since 2013 following an 8-3 home victory last Friday. It was also the fourth overall season sweep against Artesia since 1999, having accomplished that feat in 2000 and 2012 as well.
“I’m real happy for the boys,” said Norwalk head coach Bill Wenrick. “We’ve had three series in a row where Glenn came in with no wins [in league], Mayfair came in with no wins and now Artesia came in with no wins. Glenn and Mayfair took two from us, so I tried to use that as a little motivation for them.”
Norwalk grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when senior catcher Adan Orozco singled and Artesia senior pitcher Alejandro Mendoza walked senior designated hitter Antonio Guerrero. After both runners moved up on a sacrifice from sophomore center fielder Lalo Sosa, junior first baseman Isaiah Rojas delivered a double to the right field gap to score Orozco and Guerrero.
But the Pioneers (5-17 overall 0-8 in league) bounced back and tied the contest in the third. With one out, singles from senior designated hitter Tondre Neal and senior right fielder Anthony Larson put the visitors in business. Senior catcher Nathan Guerrero then was safe on an infield single but a throwing error allowed Neal and Larson to come home.
Norwalk (7-14, 2-7) put the game away in its half of the third by sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four runs. Senior shortstop Alex Aguilar singled and eventually came home on a wild pitch. Then with two outs, senior second baseman Julio Sanchez, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, came home on a triple from Antonio Guerrero.
“The boys came back and really responded well,” Wenrick said. “I know we got a couple of key two-out hits which was nice, which we haven’t been doing. It feels good that they’re finally hitting and responding a little better.”
A run-scoring groundout from Artesia junior first baseman Eric Marquez brought in junior shortstop Max Anderson in the fourth to make it a 6-3 contest. But Artesia would be limited to one hit over the final three innings. Norwalk senior Francisco Flores worked the first four innings and allowed seven hits but walked three and struck out three. Sophomore Kevin Ramirez replaced him after the first batter reached in the fifth and went two innings of one-hit ball.
“He was only going to [throw] 85 [pitches],” Wenrick said of Flores. “We knew he was going to come out in the fifth inning. I gave him the first guy to see if he could get the first guy out, which was Neal.”
Norwalk added solo tallies in the fourth on a double from sophomore Adrian Perez and in the sixth on a triple from Sanchez and a single from Orozco. Eight of the nine starters for Norwalk had either a hit or scored. Nathan Guerrero went three for four for the Pioneers, who lost for the 14th straight time.
Artesia began a home and home series with Mayfair High this past Wednesday and will meet again at Mayfair today before the Pioneers wrap up the 2016 season against John Glenn High on Tuesday and on the road against the Eagles on Thursday.
The Lancers, who have one more win than all of last season, hosed league leading La Mirada High this past Wednesday and were trounced 17-1. They will visit the Matadores today before welcoming Cerritos High on Tuesday. The season ends at Cerritos on Thursday.
“We as coaches can just put them in the best situation as we can, using the two-game winning streak,” Wenrick said. “But it’s going to really be up to the boys to get it out of their heads that, ‘hey, this is La Mirada’. If we make our pitches and make our plays, anyone can stay in a game.”
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