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605 LEAGUE BASEBALL – Cerritos gets late run, then finally an ultimate wish as it defends its 605 League championship

Members of the Cerritos High baseball team converge on the pitching mound following the final out of its 3-2 win against Oxford Academy last Thursday. The Dons (18-4 overall) won all 10 of their 605 League games to repeat as league champions. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.

 

May 31, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

In 2019, the Cerritos High baseball team won the inaugural 605 League baseball championship and dogpiled on the pitching mound at Oxford Academy. After the 2020 season was ended abruptly because of the pandemic, Cerritos head coach Brooks Walling wished that his 2021 team could have a dogpile on his mound.

That wish came true as the Dons scored in the bottom of the fifth inning, then saw senior pitchers Matthew Rezendes and Maxwell Shea work the final two innings of no-hit ball as they nipped Oxford Academy 3-2 last Thursday to win the league outright again. Cerritos finishes the regular season at 18-4 overall and won all eight league games. Since there were no league games last season, the Dons have won all 18 league games since moving over from the Suburban League. Cerritos drew a first round bye in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs but got top-seeded Hart High for a second round game on Tuesday. The Indians also received a bye in the first round, which did not set too well with Walling when the brackets were released this past Sunday morning.

“I’m just trying to figure out what seed we are because you figured if we got a bye and we draw the No. 1 seed out of CIF Division 3,” Walling pondered. “I’m not fully understanding it. But you know what, when was the last time Cerritos made it to the second round?”

With the score tied 2-2, Oxford Academy pitcher Chris Gonzalez walked senior first baseman Aaron DeLeon to lead off the fifth inning. Walling then replaced him with freshman pinch runner Lucas Castillo, who moved to second base on a sacrifice from Rezendes. Following a strikeout and a walk, Castillo scored the game-winner when junior catcher Owen Gott was safe on an error.

All season long, the Dons have played with a huge chip on their shoulders. The senior-ladened team felt it was cheated out of what could have been the best season in school history had it not been for the pandemic. Some of the members even called themselves defending league champions even though there weren’t any league games played last season.

“I thought we’ve been a bunch of scrappers [this season],” Walling said. “We figured it out. That’s the goal every year; you win league, go to the playoffs and anything happens in a five-game set. Especially after last year, not getting to see the senior class…we were waiting all the way though [and] this year’s group set the goal [of winning league]. Being at home and doing it [here] is even better. I don’t know if Cerritos has ever had a dogpile on their field. So, it’s a great feeling.”

The Dons, winners of seven straight games including a 2-1 victory against Division 2 Long Beach Poly High on Apr. 22, crushed Oxford Academy 27-0 on the road the previous day but were in for a battle immediately as the Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a run-scoring groundout from Gonzalez. However, the hosts responded in their half of the frame with some unsolicited help. On the third pitch, freshman second baseman Carter Chi reached on an error and three pitches after that, sophomore right fielder Paul Kim was hit by a pitch.

Gott, one of just six returning players from last season’s team, brought in Chi with a base hit to left and that was followed by a sacrifice fly from Rezendes to make it 2-1.

“I told our guys to be ready for a dogfight,” Walling said, referring to the difference between the two games. “There’s no way they’re not going to show up. They had graduation on Tuesday, so we jumped on them early and they couldn’t recover. That’s a good ball club and they’re well-coached.”

The Patriots tied the game in the third as Gonzalez singled in Brandon Imai. After that, Rezendes, who earlier in the season threw a no-hitter at Artesia High, would not allow another runner to reach second. In fact, after the base hit from Gonzalez, seven runners would reach base, but none getting to second base. Rezendes, who has won all three of his starts this season, scattered five hits, walked two and struck out nine batters, at least one in every inning.

“He’s been good all year, pumping strikes and he has a good hammer to go with it,” Walling said. “He’s been our guy. We don’t have a true number one; we have three number ones. I’ll tell you that. I went to the lefty late to control the running game. I didn’t want them to steal a bag and get into scoring position.”

With two outs in the top of the seventh and Imai on first, Shea came in and struck out Matt Young to end the game. In the previous 17 605 League games, Cerritos has been involved in one other one-run game and a two-run game, both coming against Oxford Academy, and have posted 11 shutouts.

“We’re Division 3 and everyone else is Division 5 and 6, or even 7,” Walling said. “I’ll tell you what, I tip my hat to [Oxford Academy head coach] Cory Williams. He puts a quality program on the field with the amount of guys he has to draw from. That goes a lot for that school. These guys over here [pointing to the Cerritos dugout]; we have 50 plus guys in the program to choose from. It helps us; it goes a long way.”

Hart, the champions of the Foothill League, went 19-2 this season. Torrance High, Sonora High and Warren High also drew first round byes in Division 3. The last time Cerritos reached the second round of the playoffs, it defeated Hart 4-1 to capture the 1989 4A Division championship.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Walling said. “You can dummy down your schedule or you can play your schedule up. Hart is in a pretty damn good league. They have West Ranch, which is a D1 school who they beat twice. So, we’re going to go in and we’re going to throw a lefty and see what we can do.”

Walling was quick to mention that when he was at Artesia in 2007, which was in Division III at the time and entered the playoffs as a wild card team, it beat Division I Lakewood High, which was No. 2 in the country, 4-3 in the second game of the season. In the first round of the playoffs, the Pioneers upset second ranked Paramount High 3-2 in the second round of the playoffs before falling to Hemet High in the second round.

 

 

 

 

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