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CIF-SS DIV. 3 SOFTBALL SEMIFINALS: Cerritos wastes numerous opportunities to keep season going, falls late to Sultana

Cerritos High junior second baseman Katelyn Caneda is safe at second following a stolen base in the bottom of the first inning of her team’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinal game against Sultana High last Thursday. Caneda would not score in the inning but did in the fifth inning and was one of three Cerritos players to get a pair of hits in a 4-3. loss. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

June 16, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

The prospects of the Cerritos High softball team playing in the program’s fifth CIF-Southern Section divisional championship game was looking better and better throughout last Thursday’s semifinal contest against Sultana High, The Lady Dons, ranked eighth in Division 3, had runners on base in every inning and had the winning run on base in the bottom of the seventh inning.

But when Cerritos needed to get that timely hit, it never came and the 605 League champions who had entered the game on a 19-game winning streak, fell to the unranked Sultans 4-3. Cerritos lost for just the second time in 24 games this season and the first time since a 7-6 setback to St. Joseph High on Apr. 13. Cerritos stranded 11 runners on base and had a runner on third base in the bottom of the second and fifth innings, the latter with less than two outs.

“The other day [against Whittier Christian High], we didn’t leave anybody on base,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Todd Denhart. “We got the hit when we needed it. Today, they made a couple more plays than we did, and in the semifinals of the playoffs, that’s the way it goes.”

The Lady Dons, who had not been to the semifinals since 2000, but had gone to the quarterfinals in 2004, 2015 and 2017, won Division II titles in 1999 and 2000. Cerritos had also lost the 1996 Division IV championship game to Centennial High of Corona and the 1998 Division II championship game to Quartz Hill High. And, since 2009, Cerritos had been bounced out in the first round seven times. In contrast, this will be the first time in school history that a Sultana softball team will be playing for a divisional championship.

Through the first three innings, it was a battle between junior pitcher Erin Gibbs, who had faced one above the minimum without allowing a hit and her counterpart, Zada Day-Adams, who got out of three consecutive sticky situations as the Lady Dons stranded a pair of runners in each of those frames.

“I didn’t know anything about them, but [Gibbs] is a great pitcher”, said Sultana head coach Obie Galindo. “I give her all the props. Actually, this was the first left-hander we’ve seen all year. She’s got something there. Good luck to her wherever she goes.

“My pitcher has been pitching light’s out this year,” he continued. “She’s had one bad game, but it wasn’t even [her fault]. We made a couple of errors and didn’t back her up and we ended up losing that game.”

But the Sultans got to Gibbs in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases with one out before a single from Madelyn Torrenueva plated Hailey Elgan. Following a strikeout of Kamille Badibanga, a two-run single to left center from Kaiden Kerns made it 3-0.

 

 

Cerritos High sophomore Camille Lara steals second base after a leadoff single in the bottom of the third inning against Sultana High in last Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinal game. Lara, who would also single and score in the fifth inning, would not advance after the stolen base as the Lady Dons fell 4-3. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

Cerritos would respond in its half of the inning when senior designated player Leiloni Pina doubled to the right field gap, advanced on a wild pitch and came home on a one-out single from senior left fielder Azalea Herrera.

“The kid is a professional hitter; she hits and that’s why she’s in the lineup,” Denhart said of Pina. “She goes in there with the right attitude, she’s got the right mindset and nine times out of 10, you’re going to get a good at-bat.”

In the next inning, sophomore right fielder Camille Lara, junior second baseman Katelyn Caneda, senior first baseman Samiya Jones and Gibbs all had singles on a combined seven pitches thrown by Day-Adams. A sacrifice from senior center fielder Lauren Lejano advanced freshmen courtesy runners Natalie Gardea and Presley Hendrix. But a pop-up and a fly-out ended further damage.

Sultana, which entered the game on an eight-game winning streak and had two losses all season, both coming to Oak Hills High in Mojave River League games, scored the game-winner with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Gibbs walked Ella Niles, who would steal second on the first pitch thrown to Kelsey Kerns. Two pitches later, Kerns hit a sharp single that deflected off Gibbs, allowing Niles to come home.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs, Day-Adams walked Lejano and Pina but got junior third baseman Makayla Sur to fly out to end the game. Caneda, Lara and Pina all had two hits as this was the second straight game Cerritos was held without a run through the first three innings. The only other time this season the Lady Dons failed to score within the first three innings came in a 1-0, walk-off win against Cajon High on Apr. 1.

“I can’t point to one thing that cost us the game because there isn’t one thing,” Denhart said. “You can’t put that on a 17-year old kid. I thought we played well; we played well. They got a couple more breaks. Tuesday, we got the breaks in our favor and we won.”

Denhart is referring to a 4-3 win at top-ranked Whittier Christian in the quarterfinals in which the Lady Dons rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the top of the fourth, then added two more runs in the top of the sixth. In the 24 games played this season, Cerritos has been involved in half a dozen one-run games while run-ruling 15 opponents. However, four of those one-run games were in the regular season against quality opponents. Because of the pandemic season, Denhart rushed to put a schedule together that normally would be stocked with Division 1, 2 and 3 opponents, but said that Cerritos will have a tougher non-league schedule next season.

“It’s got to have some kind of influence,” Denhart said about the weak schedule this season. “We didn’t know if we were going to play or not and when we did find out we were going to play, now we’re scrambling for games. I picked up who I could pick up. We did pick up North Torrance late, which was ranked No. 4 at the time. We picked up Millikan; they were ranked in the top 10.

“The more times you’re in that environment, the easier it gets,” he continued. “You know how to react; you know what to expect.”

The 22 wins are the most for any Cerritos team since 2000 when that team went 31-2, and since 1998, the program has seen seven seasons of at least 20 victories. The Lady Dons have also won four straight league titles and six out of the last seven, minus the 2020 campaign in which only seven games were played, none coming in league action.

 

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