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Cerritos torments second straight opponent with stellar hitting, pitching

cerritos softball

BY LOREN KOPFF • @LORENKOPFF ON TWITTER

April 1, 2021

What a difference a year makes, even if last season was only a few weeks old. When Cerritos High hosted Norwalk High on Thursday, Mar. 5, 2020, the Lady Dons were staring at an 0-5 mark. That didn’t last as they knocked off the previously 6-2 Lady Lancers by a 3-1 count with solo tallies in the bottom of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Norwalk wouldn’t play again, and Cerritos would play one more game before the pandemic forced everything to stop. Fast forward to this season and while there will be a season with league games to come, it’s Cerritos which is off to a good start, albeit two games, while Norwalk is facing the prospects of a challenging season with a young, inexperienced squad. It showed this past Tuesday afternoon as the Lady Dons shutout their former Suburban League rivals 10-0 behind a no-hitter from junior Erin Gibbs.

“Literally, we’ve had three weeks of real practice with two games in there,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Todd Denhart. “I’ve watched these kids play for the last couple of years, but I don’t know them. I’ve just watched from the other side of the fence. We’ve got a good group of kids. They work hard and I only see us getting better.”

“That actually made everything really exciting,” said Norwalk head coach David Gonzalez on facing Cerritos almost 13 months since the last meeting. “That was a fun game to play in last year even though we lost. That pitcher has given us a lot of problems over these last couple of years and she’s just impressive to watch. And our girls played really well. That’s a super athletic team. It’s fun to play Cerritos; it always is. They’re chock full of a bunch of good athletes and they’re always scrappy. So, it’s always a fun game.”

Cerritos (2-0) went to work early with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Junior shortstop Jadyn Nielsen walked, stole second and scored on a two-out single from senior first baseman Samiya Jones. Two pitches later and after Jones had advanced on a wild pitch, she came home on a single from junior third baseman MaKayla Sur. Gibbs would follow with a base hit, which plated Sur and on a full count, senior center fielder Lauren Lejano doubled to drive in Gibbs.

That would be more than enough for Gibbs, who allowed two hits the previous week at Valley Christian High.

Gibbs retired the first five batters she faced before hitting junior designated player Brianna Perez on the first pitch. In the top of the third inning, Norwalk freshman first baseman Itzel Hernandez reached on an error, stole second and moved to third on a groundout from sophomore shortstop Leilani Juan. After working a perfect top of the fourth inning, Gibbs would allow four baserunners, none of whom got past first base.

“She’s throwing strikes; she’s getting ahead in the count early and what we always talk about is when you get ahead in the count, the plate gets wider,” Denhart said. “When you get behind in the count, the plate shrinks as far as the hitter is concerned. She’s getting ground balls and for the most part, we’re fielding them. That’s exactly how I drew it up six months ago.”

Offensively, Cerritos continued to batter a trio of Norwalk pitchers the same way it did the two V.C. pitchers. In that game, the Lady Dons collected 14 hits and against Norwalk, they produced another 13 with Lejano, Nielsen and Sur all getting a pair of hits. Cerritos would score twice in the bottom of the third on a double from Lejano, one in the fourth on an infield single from junior second baseman Katelyn Caneda, one in the fifth when Nielsen scored on a two-out error and the final two in the sixth when Nielsen was walked with the bases loaded, which scored senior pinch hitter Rachel Aragon and freshman pinch hitter Kylee Manibusan’s first strike base hit to center, plating senior pinch hitter Leiloni Pina.

“I know two of those pitchers were freshmen kids for Norwalk, which bodes well for them for the next three years after this year,” Denhart said. “Obviously, it was better pitching than our first game than we faced. But I thought we took some good swings up and down the lineup.”

Cerritos hosted Cajon High on April 1 and will be off until entertaining St. Joseph High on Apr. 13 while the Lady Lancers, who dropped to 1-3 and have been outscored 30-1 in their losses, visited city rival John Glenn High on Apr. 1 before taking the next 12 days off until travelling to Schurr High.

“We’re really taking the non-league schedule as a time to see what rotation pieces we have; what roles people can fill, and that’s something we’re able to do,” Gonzalez said. “We got some innings from our primary shortstop, Leilani Juan. She pitched some innings there. That’s a good team there, so for somebody that doesn’t get regular pitching time is not going to be the easiest situation. But she gave us some good innings there.”

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