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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 1 SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS: Gahr’s Hill hits, pitches Lady Gladiators into quarterfinals with shutout against Los Alamitos

Gahr High freshman courtesy runner Mikala Huskey is caught stealing home in the top of the sixth inning against Los Alamitos High in this past Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 second round game. However, the Lady Gladiators already had a 4-0 lead, which would be the final score. Gahr improved to 21-5 on the season. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

 

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

LOS ALAMITOS-As a leadoff hitter, Jazmine Hill is simply focused on doing her job and getting on base so that her Gahr High softball teammates can get a rally going. The senior third baseman surely got things going in a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 second round against Los Alamitos High when she launched her team-leading seventh home run six pitches into the contest.

It was all the Lady Gladiators needed as Hill pitched the final four innings of the game and picked up a key triple in the top of the fifth inning as Gahr blanked the Griffins 4-0 this past Tuesday. The Lady Gladiators improved to 21-5 and hosted third ranked Santiago High out of Corona on May 9 in the quarterfinals.

“Even if I don’t get on, my job is just to go to my other teammates [to tell them] what’s coming or what they look for,” Hill said. “Our coaches were scouting before, so we kind of knew the type of pitcher that [Sarah] Ladd was. She’s a great pitcher, but we kind of knew what was coming; that she was common for throwing her outside pitch.”

“Can I tell you, that girl is a machine,” said Gahr first-year head coach Rey Sanchez of Hill. “She’s just a softball player. I want the ball in her hand at the end of the game. I want her to have that big at-bat at the end of the game. That’s the girl we want up. It’s so fun to watch her play and she plays with a looseness and the freedom that just allows her to just excel in this game and be an elite player. That girl is an elite player.”

After the first inning, it was a pitching duel between Ladd and senior Daisy Torres until Gahr iced the game with three runs in the top of the fifth inning. Both starters had combined to give up five hits after Hill’s long shot.

With one out in the fifth, junior catcher Malia Luna doubled to the right field corner and two batters later, senior right fielder Irene Dorado, the ninth batter in Gahr’s lineup, singled down the left field line. That would set up Hill, who tripled to right field. She would eventually get caught in a rundown between third and home but scored on an error.

“Once again, Ladd is such a great pitcher, so we had to keep on battling and keep on hitting our pitches,” Hill said. “Once we get onto her, that’s when things happen.”

 

Gahr High senior third baseman Jazmine Hill just about did it all against Los Alamitos High in this past Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 second round game. Hill just gets in to score the last of her team’s four runs in the top of the fifth inning in a 4-0 victory. Hill had also led the game off with a solo home run and drove in a pair of runs with a triple just before she scored on an error. For added bones, Hill pitched the final four innings, facing 12 batters, giving up a base hit and striking out two. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

 

 

After Torres worked three full innings, scattering three hits and striking out one, she was replaced by Hill, an Arizona State University commit, after walking Jamie Sellers to begin the bottom of the fourth inning. All Hill did was immediately get Sophia Nugent to ground into a double play, then retire the next seven batters before Sellers singled on the first pitch to start the bottom of the seventh inning.

Before this season, Hill had not pitched since she was a 10-Under All-Star for the Cerritos Girls Softball Association. But this season, Hill, who also leads the team with a .541 batting average, has logged nearly 29 innings inside the circle, striking out 21 batters. She got the save against West Torrance High on May 2 and improved to 4-1 after the win against Los Alamitos.

“I didn’t try to focus that much on that part,” Hill said of not pitching before this season. “I just knew that I had to go in there and do my job and throw strikes and my defense has my back.”

Gahr had earlier lost to Los Alamitos 6-2 in the third place game of the Michelle Carew Classic. However, Torres and Ladd did not pitch in that contest and Hill, who went hitless in two at-bats, was batting third.

“Both of us didn’t play all of our big horses and maybe [Los Alamitos head coach Rob Weil] didn’t want to show us much and we didn’t want to show him much because we knew we kind of maybe would run into each other [in the playoffs],” Sanchez said. “But the biggest difference on our end is we threw strikes and we played catch.”

In addition to Hill’s hitting and pitching, the defense was the other story of the game. In the bottom of the second inning, junior left fielder Sydni Jones threw a perfect strike to Luna who applied the tag on Jules Ronquillo for the second out. She was trying to score off Makenzie Kimura’s single. Five pitches later, pinch runner Alex Riddle would be caught in a rundown which ended the only true scoring threat the Griffins would have. Two innings later, Nugent grounded into a double play after Sellers had walked and Carly Robbins lined out to sophomore shortstop Taylor Stephens.

“We put a lot of time into defense,” Sanchez said. “Our outfielders have been working really hard at throwing people out. We spend a lot of time talking about the footwork and talking about the throws and what kind of hops we want that catcher to receive. So, Sydni gets a ton of credit because she’s had some opportunities and she’s missed a few. She has busted her tail; she’s been waiting all year for that one in that big game, and she got it.”

This was the second upset in Division 1 within the first two rounds. Fourth ranked Grand Terrace High was stunned by unranked Huntington Beach High on May 2. Gahr began the playoffs unranked while the Griffins were ranked sixth. Also, this past Tuesday, seventh-ranked Santa Margarita High eliminated Oaks Christian High, ranked 10th. In the regular season, the Lady Gladiators went 2-4 against teams from Division 1, including back to back losses to Orange Lutheran High and Los Alamitos in the Michelle Carew Classic.

“They’re such a great team and if our team stays calm and [we] do our job, hit the ball and play catch, then we knew it could probably be a close game,” Hill said of Los Alamitos.

A win over Santiago, whom the Lady Gladiators defeated 5-2 on Apr. 3 in a pool play game in the Michelle Carew Classic, would send the San Gabriel Valley League champions into Tuesday’s semifinals against either second ranked Great Oak High on the road or seventh ranked Santa Margarita High at home.

“I’ve been preaching for awhile I wanted these girls to buy in,” Sanchez said. “In the Carew Classic, we had a game against that Orange Lutheran team, and I told them, ‘after this, I feel really good about our chances in playoffs’. Even though that game didn’t go our way I really liked how that game kind of unfolded.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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