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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Young Whitney softball team going through growing pains under new head coach

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

April 7, 2022 ~ Stephanie Machado knew her Whitney High softball team was going to take a lot of lumps this season. The first-year head coach and former Cerritos High standout replaced Burt Ogata, who lost all 13 games last season as the Wildcats were outscored 186-20 and forfeited a pair of games.

This season, Machado has already accomplished one of her goals-to get at least a win. That happened on Mar. 10 in an 11-9 victory against Costa Mesa High And, the Wildcats have already scored 52 runs in 11 games. Whitney dropped a 17-2 decision to Pioneer High this past Tuesday, followed by an 11-0 loss to Artesia High the next day to fall to 1-10 overall, 0-6 in 605 League play. Still, Machado isn’t too disappointed of the results because the team has made strides since last season.

“For me, I think these girls are just learning the game better, learning the positions, learning the fundamentals,” said Machado. “Today, we had somebody get the lead out at [second base] whereas in our first game with Cabrillo [on Feb. 13], that wasn’t really on their mind. So, that’s one thing I’ve been really proud of. Today’s game in particular, we had just a few errors compared to one of our [two] Cabrillo games where we had 20.”

Pioneer scored four times in each of the first two innings, three in the third, four in the fourth and twice in the fifth inning as the Wildcats were held to a pair of his through the first four innings. Whitney had an opportunity to score in the bottom of the second as Hailey Gauthier walked junior left fielder Bianca Contreras, freshman pitcher Monicka Manni reached on a fielder’s choice and Gauthier walked sophomore right fielder Ryleigh Shorts to load the bases. But a strikeout ended that threat.

Whitney broke through in the fifth inning as with one out, center fielder Rebecca Simbol, the lone senior on the team, was hit by a pitch. Sophomore first baseman Kristen Sutton was safe on a fielder’s choice and sophomore catcher Mariana Botello was hit to load the bases. Freshman third baseman Madison Velazquez went to first on a fielder’s choice with Simbol out at home before a first-pitch single from freshman shortstop Chiugo Anyama plated both runs.

While Whitney has been part of five mercy rule games, it has scored at least 11 runs in three games, lost to Oxford Academy by a run on Apr. 1, fell to Cabrillo High in the season-opener by two runs and lost two other games by three runs. Knowing that the league this season is divided with Oxford Academy, Pioneer and Whitney all looking up at the playoff teams-Artesia, Cerritos and John Glenn High, Machado knows her team can hang with Oxford Academy and Pioneer when the ‘Cats face both of them on the road on Thursday and Apr. 26 respectively for the final two games of the season. In the first meeting loss to Oxford Academy, Whitney had leads of 6-4, 8-5 and 10-7 before the Patriots scored five times in the top of the seventh.

“Our goal for this game was to minimize our errors,” said Machado. “In general, our goal per game is less than 10. And for them, we wanted to score. We knew [Pioneer] would be tough because they had a close game with Artesia and Glenn. We weren’t really thinking about winning. For us, it was to minimize our strikeouts, minimize our errors and score some runs. We did that.

“Game by game, we’re just trying to improve, especially when we have bouts of difficult teams together,” she later added. “For us, if we can play really well against these teams, and we’re hoping when we play Oxford, we can keep that same level…not have so many errors when we play them. Again, game by game, day by day, getting better a little bit each time.”

The Wildcats will visit Cerritos today and host Artesia on Tuesday.

In other softball action, Artesia blasted Glenn 13-0 last Friday and Whitney 11-0 this past Wednesday to move to 7-10 overall and 4-2 in the 605 League. The Pioneers travel to Oxford Academy today and host Pioneer on Thursday.

After splitting four games in the Michelle Carew Classic, Gahr High opened San Gabriel Valley League action with an 8-0 road win against Downey High this past Monday to improve to 12-8. The Gladiators visited Warren High on Apr. 7 and will go to Dominguez High on Monday before hosting Paramount High and Downey on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

La Mirada High moved to 14-6 after wins over Hillcrest High (4-1) and Chino High (10-1) last Saturday in the La Mirada Classic. The Matadores visit Bellflower High today before facing South Hills High on Saturday in the first of two games.

Norwalk High, ranked 10th in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 poll, was doubled up by Mayfair High 6-3 this past Wednesday to fall to 14-7, 3-3 in the Suburban League while Valley Christian High (3-11-1, 1-1 in the Olympic League) fell to Heritage Christian High 7-4 this past Tuesday. The Defenders will host Whittier Christian High and Maranatha High on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

BASEBALL

Artesia’s best season in recent memory continues as the Pioneers moved to 10-7 overall after a 6-5 win over Dominguez last Saturday. The win is the most the program has had since 2013 and with a 2-2 record in 605 League action, the Pioneers are in second place as it visits Oxford Academy today and Hillcrest Cristian High on Tuesday.

Cerritos posted a quality win over Long Beach Poly High, 1-0, this past Tuesday to improve to 15-3. The Dons, ranked 10th in Division 3, face Venice High on Saturday in a St. Paul Tournament game before hosting Pioneer on Tuesday. The two teams will play again on Thursday at Pioneer.

Glenn snapped a 20-game losing streak with a 10-8 win at Pioneer this past Tuesday. The Eagles host the Titans today before starting a home and home series with Oxford Academy on Tuesday and Thursday with the latter being at home.

La Mirada is in control of the Suburban League following a 12-2 win against Bellflower this past Wednesday, leaving the Matadores at 15-4-1, 5-0. La Mirada can clinch no worse than a share of the league crown with a win at Mayfair today. It will be the team’s last game until Apr. 19.

Norwalk, ranked fourth in Division 6, shutout Firebaugh High 8-0 this past Tuesday to improve to 11-8, 2-3 while V.C. knocked off Bellflower 11-6 this past Monday to see its mark go to 10-8. The Defenders, second place in the Olympic League, host Sage Hill High today before visiting league-leading Maranatha Tuesday and Wednesday. V.C. will also host the Minutemen on Thursday.

FOOTBALL

A pair of area teams hired new head coaches as Artesia welcomed Nathan Hollister on Mar. 31. Hollister, who coached at Banning High last season and Rancho Dominguez Prep before that, replaces Don Olmstead, who had been at the helm for the past five seasons.

V.C. has brought on board Nicholas Walker as its new head coach, replacing Kevin McCarthy. Walker brings with him an abundance of experience, having coached at Blair High, Glendale High, Muir High, Glendale College and Los Angeles Valley College.