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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Artesia baseball comes out flat against Cerritos, intimidated by trio of pitchers

 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

During the first half in Artesia High’s 605 League baseball opener at Cerritos High on Mar. 22, the Pioneers proved it can play with the big boys of the circuit, leading by a run after three innings before succumbing to the favorites. In the rematch last Friday on its own field, Artesia lacked the same confidence it had earlier in the week, and the body language wasn’t there as the Dons posted their fifth shutout of the season in a 7-0 victory.

Cerritos put the game away early with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning and three more in the next inning, never allowing Artesia to get into the game. The Pioneers were held to four singles and had two runners reach second base.

“I think our offense was a little shy on their pitcher throwing a little bit harder than what we faced on Tuesday,” said Artesia head coach Jose Serrano. “I think it was a struggle; we weren’t in there today.”

That offense was held in check by senior pitcher Evan Geppert, who bounced back from his first loss of the season to work four solid innings, striking out three, allowing one hit, and walking one. He retired the last eight batters and faced one over the minimum, throwing 58 pitches.

“The one thing with Evan we’re trying to do is improve his fitness,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Martin Rodriguez. “With El Rancho, he got tired early and couldn’t figure it out after he got tired. He had a really good bullpen [session] and then a really good flat ground [session] this week. I think since Saturday, he’s probably run four or five miles, which is something he never does.”

With one out in the top of the first, senior designated hitter Owen Gott singled to left and after the second out, sophomore right fielder Johan Gibbs singled to right and went to second on a wild pitch. Two pitches later, junior center fielder Paul Kim doubled to left field. In the next inning, singles from junior catcher Max Meza, senior third baseman Ethan Vo and junior first baseman Dylan Burton loaded the bases. Following a fielder’s choice, sophomore shortstop Carter Chi’s sacrifice fly plated Vo and a single to center from Gott brought in Burton and freshman second baseman Dalton Chi. In all, the Dons collected 11 hits with Gott, Kim and Meza all getting a pair of them.

Cerritos would improve to 13-3 overall, 3-0 in league play after this past Tuesday’s 12-1 win over Oxford Academy. The Dons will face the Patriots on the road today before playing Long Beach Poly High on Tuesday at Blair Field.

“We’re in the spot we want to be in,” said Rodriguez. “We have one more week [of league play] with Oxford [Academy], and then we get an off week with a big game with Poly kind of looming in the distance. We wanted to test ourselves before we went into league. We wanted to show up against Artesia with some fatigue and to see how they would respond, and it worked out.”

Senior center fielder Michael Loera, senior shortstop Juan Munoz, junior third baseman Reggie Steele and freshman designated hitter Alex Escobar were the only ones to get a hit off three Cerritos pitchers. The Pioneers, who then fell to Western High 11-3 last Saturday, bounced back with a 10-4 home win against John Glenn High this past Tuesday, improving to 8-7 overall, 2-1 in league.

“Starting with them was the best thing, because now we have three teams we can compete with,” said Serrano. “Cerritos is the best team in the league, hands down. Everybody knows that. But being able to compete with them this year, for me, is a benefit. [From] 20-0 last year to 7-0 is a big difference. We’re still there; I had four freshmen starting today. Our future is bright and that’s what I’m looking forward to, our future.”

The Pioneers already have the most wins in a season since going 10-16 in 2013 and with nine more games scheduled as of now in the regular season, beginning with today’s road game at Glenn, they could get to the program’s 2007 total of 16 victories. That was the last time Artesia reached the playoffs. The Pioneers also host Dominguez High on Saturday and will entertain Oxford Academy on Tuesday.

“If we ended up with a .500 record, I’ll be happy with that,” said Serrano. “But in the end, it’s the playoffs. That’s my ultimate goal. If we don’t make the playoffs, I’ll be disappointed with myself. That’s what we’re shooting for. Even if we end up under .500, as long as we make the playoffs, that’s all I care [about].”

In other baseball action, Gahr High lost to Dana Hills High 9-4 last Friday to fall to 4-8. The Gladiators will be busy in the upcoming week, which began with a Mar. 31 game against Corona High at Great Park. Today, Gahr hosts Capistrano Valley High before taking part in the National Classic where it will face Las Vegas-based Desert Oasis High on Monday. The tournament runs through Thursday.

Glenn (0-8, 0-1) will visit Pioneer High while La Mirada High (12-4-1, 2-0 in the Suburban League) goes to Bellflower High today and hosts Mayfair High on Tuesday.

Norwalk High, ranked fourth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 poll, dropped a 6-1 decision to Paraclete High last Saturday to fall to 10-7. The Lancers travel to Mary Star of the Sea High on Saturday before hosting Firebaugh High on Tuesday.

Valley Christian High lost to Bishop Montgomery High 7-3 this past Tuesday and takes a 9-8 mark into its Monday home game against Bellflower.

SOFTBALL

Artesia was denied a home win against Cerritos last Thursday when sophomore right fielder Allisiah Valenzuela’s would-be single to center with two on and two out was snagged by junior Camille Lara on a diving catch in a 7-6 loss. Artesia (4-10, 1-2) visits Pioneer today and hosts Glenn on Tuesday while Cerritos (8-1, 4-0) travels to Glenn today and is home to Oxford Academy on Tuesday before going to La Mirada on Thursday.

Gahr was doubled up by Los Alamitos High 4-2 this past Wednesday to fall to 9-7. The Gladiators faced Upland High on Mar. 31 in the first of five games of the Michelle Carew Classic and will also face Lynwood High on Tuesday and Warren High on Thursday.

Glenn knocked off Whitney High 5-2 last Friday to complete the season sweep over the Wildcats. Glenn moved to 10-8 overall and 2-1 in the 605 League as the Eagles hosted Montebello High on Mar. 30. Whitney (1-7, 0-3) hosts Oxford Academy today and Pioneer on Tuesday.

La Mirada improved to 11-6 overall, 4-0 in the Suburban League with a 19-1 win against Firebaugh this past Tuesday. The Matadores hosted Norwalk on Mar. 31 and will host Hillcrest High on Saturday in the first of two games in the La Mirada Classic.

Norwalk, ranked 10th in Division 5, defeated Firebaugh 6-1 last Friday to move to 13-5, 2-1. The Lancers will entertain Mayfair on Tuesday while V.C. (3-10-1, 1-0 in the Olympic League) is home to Heritage Christian High on Tuesday.