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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Perez saves the best for last, scores game-winner for Artesia in winner-take-all marathon

 

May 27, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

Artesia High’s softball finale against John Glenn High had enough stuff to make a Hollywood movie. The game featured everything one could imagine, ranging from just one senior in either dugout, to a combined 13 freshmen in the starting lineup and a three-run rally by the hosts late in the game to a total of 17 runs, 27 hits and 16 errors between the playoff-hungry teams.

When the dust had settled, literally, the Lady Pioneers had scratched out a 9-8, 12-inning victory, sending them to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs for the first time since 2019 and third time in the past four complete seasons. And it was that lone senior, Artesia first baseman Shaylin Perez, who was the star of the game, coming up with a base hit in the bottom of the 12th inning, then scoring on a bases loaded single from freshman center fielder Jazlynn Jara to propel Artesia to the win. The Lady Pioneers (6-5 overall) clinched third place in the 605 League with a 6-4 league record while sending the Lady Eagles to 8-5 overall and 5-5 in the circuit.

“Shay has been stepping it up the whole time through the whole season,” said Artesia first-year head coach Ed Blanck. “She’s worked really hard and I like said, it’s tough for her this year because she’s a working senior; she works and goes to school and carries a high [grade point average]. That’s awesome.”

“It’s amazing,” Perez said. “Honestly, we’ve worked hard this whole season. Being the only senior, it was hard to be able to hold the team up as youngsters. But I did my best; I came out, I played for every single body who came and supported. It was an amazing season.”

Artesia bounced back from a 6-1 deficit to tie the game before falling 10-9 in nine innings on May 11, and trailed 2-0 after half an inning, 5-1 after two and a half innings and 8-4 through four innings the second time around before nearly shutting down the Glenn offense, thanks to the stellar work of freshman pitcher Maya Torres. And if it wasn’t Torres, who at one point retired nine straight batters, 14 out of 15 and 17 of 19 batters from the fourth to the ninth, it was the defense that cost the Lady Eagles a chance of the playoffs. Glenn, which ended the season losing four straight games, had 10 errors.

“That’s what killed us,” said Glenn head coach Larry Leal. “Our top of the lineup didn’t do what they did last time [against Artesia]. Unfortunately, somebody is going to lose, and we lost. We’ll see what happens, but our kids fought hard. They didn’t give up.”

Freshman catcher Vanessa Soto led off the 12th with a base hit to center before Perez’ fifth hit in seven at-bats. Soto would be out at third on a fielder’s choice from freshman third baseman Allisiah Valenzuela and with the bases loaded Jara connected on the first pitch she saw from junior pitcher Gabby Ortega and deposited it in right field, allowing the proper senior sendoff for Perez, who said she works 15-20 hours a week during the season and carries a GPA over 3.0.

“Honestly, it’s time management,” she said. “It’s being smart, prioritizing school first. If you’re a student-athlete, you have to make sure those grades are maintained. You have to know what comes first and prioritize the most important things.”

“They amaze me; they totally amaze me,” Blanck said. “I’m so excited for the years to come. They gelled and they became a team.”

Artesia began its comeback in the fifth when Soto reached on an error, stole third and scored on another error. In the next inning, Ortega, who would throw 174 pitches, walked freshman Jazmine Anguiano. One out later, consecutive singles from junior second baseman Alexis Duenas and Torres made it 8-6. Following a single from Perez, another error allowed Duenas and Torres to score, tying the contest at 8-8.

Valenzuela went five for six while Soto went three for seven, scored three times and drove in a pair of runs. Duenas would go two for six and score twice and Torres pitched all 12 innings, throwing 207 pitches, striking out 17 batters and walking just four.

“We knew it was going to be tough on the errors,” Blanck said. “We missed some crucial fly balls and our girls work hard. They’ve been getting better and better and better.

“I went out and asked [Torres] if she was feeling okay and she said, ‘I feel better than I did in the first inning’. I realized how many pitches [she was up to] and she goes, ‘coach, I pitched five games on Sunday in travel ball. I’m feeling good’. I was getting ready to warm up my other freshman [pitcher] just to come in just in case. But I didn’t have to. She did not want to give up the ball and I’m going ‘good’ because I was going to go with her to get her the experience for next year and the following year.”

Sophomore shortstop Beatriz Galvez went four for six and scored three times for the Lady Eagles while freshman third baseman Julia Cole went three for five with a pair of runs and Ortega had a pair of hits and two runs scored.

Glenn’s long playoff drought continues as the program hasn’t been to the postseason since 1986. The winning record is the first time Glenn has experienced since 2004 when that team finished 12-9-1.but fifth place in the Suburban League. In fact, Glenn had not finished above fifth place in either league in over two decades.

“The only real improvement the program has made is we got the new [playing] fields; top of the line stuff, and people want to come and play on that,” Leal said. “We have 10 freshmen here and they just want to play.”

The softball brackets will be released on Saturday morning and Perez, who has been on varsity all four years, remembers what it was like in the 2019 when Artesia fell to Jurupa Hills 5-0.

“Playoffs are amazing; you just have to come out twice as harder you do in the regular season,” Perez said. “The [2019] team was high, the energy was high and our luck for winning was high, but of course we didn’t make it very far. But we had the confidence of making playoffs.”

BOYS BASKETBALL

First round action of the CIF-SS playoffs began this past Wednesday Artesia falling to San Marino High 61-53 in Division 4AA. Senior Jonathan Nelson led the Pioneers (15-8 overall) with 18 points while freshman Zion Staples added a dozen points.

Cerritos High was on the losing end of a 66-52 contest to Orange Lutheran High in Division 2AA. The Dons, who won the 605 League, wrapped up their season at 11-4.

In Division 2A, La Mirada High lost to La Serna High 61-48 to conclude its season at 9-8 while in Division 3AA, Valley Christian High knocked off Temescal Canyon High 72-63. The Defenders, who won a third place tiebreaker over Maranatha High in the Olympic League, improved to 11-6 and will visit Long Beach Wilson High tonight.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Three other area girls basketball teams besides Whitney High advanced to the playoffs and all of them began action on May 27. Cerritos, the third place representative from the 605 League, drew a road game at Portola High in Division 3AA. The Lady Dons went 8-8 in the regular season. In Division 4AA, Norwalk High, which played only four Suburban League games but finished in second place, travelled to Shalhevet High. The Lady Lancers went 7-2 in the regular season. V.C., which also won the third place tiebreaker in the Olympic League over Village Christian High and went 8-9 in the regular season, visited Bell Gardens High in Division 3A action.

SOCCER

A pair of area teams will play for a divisional championship with the Whitney boys facing Sierra Canyon High on the road today for the Division 7 title. The Wildcats are 9-2-1 and ranked sixth while Sierra Canyon, the second ranked team, is 13-2-0.

The La Mirada girls, champions of the Suburban League, visit Saugus High on Saturday in the Division 2 championship game. The Lady Matadores enter the game at 14-0-2, ranked fourth in the and have allowed one goal all season. Saugus is unranked and enter the game at 9-1-4.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

V.C. is one step away from advancing to the Division 4 title match after sweeping Santiago High out of Corona this past Wednesday. The Defenders, who are ranked second and have yet to lose a set in the playoffs, host Laguna Hills High on Saturday.