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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The Cerritos High and John Glenn High softball teams have endured very long 2016 seasons for different reasons. And it would only be fitting that Cerritos needed one more win in its final three games of the regular season to advance to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III playoffs, while at the same time eliminating Glenn from that opportunity.
The Lady Dons, who had twice lost one-run leads, scored three unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning and one more in the last inning to knock off the Lady Eagles 6-4 last Friday in a game marred by some frustrations. Coupled with a split against Suburban League tri-champion Norwalk High this past week, Cerritos will enter the playoffs as the fourth place representative with an overall record of 10-14-1. And it wasn’t too long ago that the two-time defending league champions were floundering at 4-11-1 and 1-4 in league action after falling to La Mirada High 11-1
“I just think it was [because] it’s a new team, we have new girls and it’s hard to adjust to that,” said sophomore pitcher Jennifer Morinishi of the slow start to the season. “But I think now we’ve all kind of meshed together. We’ve all become one unit and I think that’s why we’ve been winning.”
On the other side of the field, the high expectations that Glenn has had for the past few seasons will once again go for naught as the Lady Eagles will miss the postseason for the 26th straight season, the longest drought of any ;league team.
“The biggest difference, I believe, was we had some seniors in key spots that made plays [last year],” said Glenn head coach David Cruz. “The girls on this year’s team are not doing the job with the game on the line. It seemed like every time we talked, our team makes mistakes in crucial situations. And it’s just frustrating. That is the key word.”
Cerritos grabbed a 1-0 first inning lead when sophomore first baseman Kiara Crockett-Pope’s base hit brought in Morinishi, who had doubled to the left field gap. The Lady Eagles (8-13, 2-8 in league following the game) knotted the score in the bottom of the third when junior third baseman Ashley Armas singled with one out and came home when senior center fielder Alyssa Fajardo reached on an error.
Cerritos would regain the lead in the next inning when senior pitcher Destiny Enriquez walked sophomore designated player Kristina Mendez, who would later score on the first of five Glenn errors, which led to five of the six runs being unearned.
But the Lady Eagles rallied in the next two innings. Morinishi hit senior shortstop Erika Espinoza to lead off the bottom of the fourth and junior catcher Devany Esparza picked up the second of her four hits. Junior left fielder Destiny Rangel would be safe on a fielder’s choice, which loaded the bases followed by an error and a sacrifice fly which would plate Espinoza and junior courtesy runner Jocelyn Ortiz respectively.
Glenn increased its lead to 4-2 when Morinishi walked sophomore designated player Christina Shryock with the bases loaded, allowing Espinoza to score with two outs. But after that walked, Morinishi would not allow another Glenn runner to get to second base.
“It took a while for me to get into my groove and try to settle down a little bit,” Morinishi said. “But there was a lot of support from my teammates that really helped me.”
With one out in the top of the sixth, back to back walks issued to junior shortstop Lailoni Mayfield and Morinishi put the Lady Dons in business. Crockett-Pope then reached on an error, allowing the two runners ahead of her to come home and tie the game. Senior center fielder Alyssa Flores and junior right fielder Camryn McInerney each reached on a fielder’s choice. But on the latter, Crockett-Pope scored on a controversial play as she appeared to be tagged out by Esparza but was called safe, much to the chagrin of Cruz.
“I saw [Esparza] tag her in the back, turn and take two steps, fall backwards and then drop the ball,” Cruz said. “That to me is having control. But I’m not the umpire, so I can’t make that call. But I disagreed with it, just because of where she travelled with the ball, and it was obviously on the transfer.”
The final run came in the last inning when freshman second baseman Niki Ibarra was walked after seeing 10 pitches from Enriquez and later came home on an error. Crockett-Pope and Morinishi each had a pair of hits but the Lady Dons stranded 13 runners on base.
“We all kind of knew that the game was going to be a little bit more scrappy and we were going to get more physical,” Morinishi said. “But I think sometimes a little physical is good.”
Glenn would leave 10 runners on base including the bases loaded in the fifth. Enriquez did all she could, throwing 146 pitches, allowing nine hits and walking six. Despite not advancing to the playoffs, Enriquez leaves Glenn as the school’s winningest pitcher in at least 18 years. Entering this past week, Enriquez, who will be attending Bethune-Cookman University in the fall, had 23 overall wins in her four years, nine more than Vanessa Mendoza had during her time at Glenn from 2004-2007. The nine career league victories are also the most by any Glenn pitcher in at least 18 years.
“She’s been the face of the program,” Cruz said. “She pitches lights out most of the time and I wish we could have gotten her more wins so she could have a pedestal to stand on. But as it is right now, being 2-8 in league right now is frustrating, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for her.”
Cerritos will advance to the playoffs for the eighth straight season but will enter with a losing record for the first time since 2010. The brackets will be released on Monday with wild card action beginning on Tuesday and first round action commencing on Thursday.
“I’m really proud of our team that we were able to all come together and were able to perform well and we were able to do that all we could to win,” Morinishi said.
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