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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Cerritos High head coach Scott Parsonage doesn’t want to use the “we’re young” card. In fact, he says he’s tired of constantly saying those two words but the fact remains that the Dons have been struggling through the early part of the season.
It wasn’t the prettiest Suburban League opener the Dons were hoping for as they visited Artesia High this past Wednesday. But Cerritos scored six runs in the first four innings and held on to knock off the Pioneers 7-5 on a windy afternoon. Cerritos improved to 8-5 overall while the Pioneers (1-7 overall) dropped their 18th straight league game and their 27th out of the last 28 league contests.
While the Dons made three errors and gave up four unearned runs, they were helped early on by having the first three lead-off hitters reach on walks with all of them scoring. In the top of the first, Artesia senior pitcher Alex Covarrubias walked sophomore left fielder Matthew Aguinaga. Two pitches later, he came home on a double from senior catcher Brett Wells.
The Pioneers would tie the game in their half of the inning when freshman left fielder Brandon Azzato reached on an error and scored on a groundout from junior second baseman Bobby Aragon. The Dons would answer back the next inning with one out consecutive singles from freshman right fielder Alex Manibusan, senior pitcher Jonathan Estrada and freshman second baseman Raul Garcia, the bottom three in the lineup. Manibusan and sophomore center fielder Matthew Pinal, who began the frame with a walk, scored.
Cerritos added to its lead in the third inning with two more runs as senior shortstop Trevor McInerney was walked and freshman third baseman Evan Vasquez was hit by a pitch. Both would score on a two-out, bases loaded single from Estrada. The visitors extended the lead to 6-1 in the fourth when Aguinaga was hit by a pitch and touched home plate on a fielder’s choice from McInerney.
Through the first three innings, Estrada had been dodging some serious threats as the Pioneers would strand five runners on base but just have the one run to show for it. But all that changed in the next inning.
Artesia, which entered the game with five runs scored in its last four games, scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, junior right fielder Francisco Moreno hit a tapper up the left field line that bounced up and over third base for an infield knock. Senior shortstop Max Anderson reached on an error and both runners came home on a single to left from Azzato.
Senior third baseman Oscar Barragan would reach on a fielder’s choice, followed by a single from Aragon and a sacrifice fly from junior designated hitter Mark Chavez. After that, Estrada settled down and allowed three runners to reach before being replaced by Vasquez in the seventh. Estrada scattered six hits and allowed one earned run while striking out three.
“He was doing fine,” Parsonage said of Estrada. “We didn’t help him. We booted the ball around, made stupid plays; drop a ball or something.”
The Dons would get an insurance run in the seventh when Pinal was walked by Aragon, the third Artesia hurler of the game, and scored on Manibusan’s second base hit. The bottom three in the Cerritos lineup combined to go five for 12 with five runs driven in. Artesia, which got a two for three performance from Moreno, stranded eight on base including two in the fourth inning.
“You can’t drop a game to one of those teams if you plan on making the playoffs in this league,” Parsonage said. “You have to take care of people in league like Artesia.”
Last season, the Dons split their first 10 games before opening league action by sweeping Artesia. They would finish the season with a 14-14 mark with a much experience team. This season, Parsonage said he isn’t too surprised with the start his team has had despite fielding a club of seven freshmen and three sophomores among the 17 players on the team.
“No, not really,” Parsonage said. “I figured that’s where we would be around. I was thinking we would be around [8-5] and hoping we weren’t going to be worse than that. But I thought we would be two or three games better. We dropped two to Costa Mesa. It was kind of like today but worse.”
Both teams will meet again today with possible starting pitchers being Estrada and senior David Licea for Artesia. Licea worked the fourth and fifth innings, striking out two and giving up a hit and a run. Cerritos will then be home to Bellflower High on Wednesday while the Pioneers welcome La Mirada High.
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