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605 LEAGUE SOFTBALL- Seniors have their day as Cerritos roughs up John Glenn, wraps up another league title

Cerritos High freshman catcher Alianna Calderon slides into home plate for the fifth of seven runs the Dons scored in the bottom of the first inning against John Glenn High last Thursday. Cerritos routed the Eagles 17-0 to claim the 605 League title outright. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter

April 20, 2022~On a day in which the Cerritos High softball team clinched the program’s second straight outright 605 League title and its seventh run rule decision in nine league games this season, the six seniors collectively had a day to remember. It was a day to celebrate second baseman Kaitlyn Caneda, first baseman Elena Figueroa, pitcher Erin Gibbs, right fielder Madeleine Morante, shortstop Jadyn Nielsen and third baseman Makayla Sur and they did not disappoint in their final regular season home contest.

The seniors combined to go 12 for 21, score 10 runs and drive in eight as the Dons crushed John Glenn High 17-0 for the program’s 23rd consecutive league win. Cerritos has now won five straight league championships, seven in the last eight full seasons (no league games were played in 2020) and eight in the last 11 seasons.

“That’s what we’re here for; we’re here to compete, and the girls competed today,” said Cerritos head coach Todd Denhart of his seniors. “It was a good job.

“That’s pretty damn cool, isn’t it,” Denhart later responded when asked about their performance. “Some of them have been the mainstays and some of them got their opportunity today and they took advantage of that opportunity. It speaks volumes to them and the work they put in. So, when they do get the opportunity, they’re ready. Obviously, they showed it today.”

In addition, Gibbs allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out nine, including her freshman counterpart Carissa Galvan to end the game. Gibbs, who tossed a one-hitter when the teams faced each other on Apr. 1, threw 67 pitches and allowed only four runners to reach base.

“I’ve known quite a few of these girls for a while, so the chemistry was always there,” said Caneda. “We’ve had a great team the past few years and I think we knew right off the bat that we had this one.”

Gibbs walked Galvan to lead off the game but in the bottom of the first inning, the Cerritos bats would come alive. After Nielsen was plunked in the helmet, then advanced on a wild pitch, consecutive singles from junior center fielder Camille Lara and Caneda made it 2-0. Following back to back strikeouts, Galvan walked Gibbs, freshman catcher Alianna Calderon singled, Figueroa reached on an error, Morante singled and Nielsen doubled. When the inning was over, it was 7-0.

“I wasn’t expecting that, me getting hit in the helmet,” said Nielsen. “I was expecting her to throw me outside because that’s what I saw the last time. The last time we played them, I hit a home run, so I knew she wasn’t going to throw me anything good. She was definitely going to throw a changeup or outside to try to throw me off.”

The Dons (13-2 overall, 9-0 in league) would tack on three more in the second inning, highlighted by a two-run single from sophomore designated player Toafaoalii Pua, which scored Caneda and Sur. In the next frame, Sur’s single plated Lara to make it 11-0 and in the fourth, the hosts sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring six more runs and collecting nine more hits. Gibbs had a pair of singles in the inning and finished three for three.

Also getting three hits in the game were Caneda and Lara while Calderon and Nielsen each went two for three. Every starter had at least one hit and every starter, except Gibbs, scored at least one run. Sophomore Kylee Manibusan ran for Gibbs each time she reached and scored twice. For added measure, eight of the nine starters drove in at least one run.

“I played with a lot of these girls since I was in 8-U, so I knew we were going to come together and be 605 League champs again,” said Nielsen. “I really love these girls; they’ve been behind my back ever since I was younger. They really pulled me up when I was down and I’m forever grateful for that.”

The only threat the Eagles had came in the second inning when senior third baseman Gabby Ortega reached on an error, advanced on a groundout and went to third on sophomore catcher Kristy Galindo’s single. After that, Gibbs retired 11 of the last 12 batters she faced, striking out eight of them. Gibbs moved her record to 10-1.

“That defines her career,” said Denhart. “She threw well today, and she’s been getting progressively better over the last month and a half and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

Even though Cerritos has established itself as one of the top softball teams in the immediate area with those league championships racked up, Denhart couldn’t distinguish this one from those in the past.

“We’ve gone through some adversity, so I think that makes it a little special,” said Denhart. “Last year, coming off Covid was a whole other thing. It’s hard to compare generations.”

“I think we just really need to come together and focus in and get ahead early and get out,” said Nielsen.

Glenn, which has been plagued by errors this season after having a breakout 2021 campaign, fell to 14-11 overall. However, the Eagles, who host Wiseburn-Da Vinci High today, find themselves in a precarious situation as it relates to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. The team went into Spring Break with a 5-4 league mark, a game behind Artesia High for second place, and the two face each other on Tuesday at Glenn. But Pioneer High is 3-4 and closes out the regular season with a pair of games against fifth place Oxford Academy and one on Tuesday against Whitney High. It’s possible Artesia, Glenn and Pioneer could all finish at 6-4 in league action.

For Cerritos, it is hoping to go one step further in the playoffs than it did last season. The Dons, who travel to Oxford Academy on Tuesday and Mayfair High on Thursday, lost a heartbreaking 4-3 semifinal decision to Sultana High in which the game-winner was scored in the top of the seventh inning. Cerritos will be seeking a return to the finals for the first time since 2000.

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The Cerritos High softball program celebrated the final regular season home game of its six seniors last Thursday in the team’s 17-0 win over John Glenn High. From left to right are: second baseman Katelyn Caneda, shortstop Jadyn Nielsen, third baseman Makayla Sur, right fielder Madeleine Morante, pitcher Erin Gibbs and first baseman Elena Figueroa. BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

“We don’t talk about it,” said Denhart. “We talk about the three parts of the game-you throw strikes, you play defense and you put the ball in play hard. If you do all three of those things, more often than not, it’s going to work out.

“It’s going to be those three parts of the game,” he later said. “We’re going to have to play solid defense, we’re going to have throw quality strikes and we’re going to have to put the ball in play hard. And then, you’re going to have to have a little bit of luck. From 1995-1999, we [went to the championship game] three times, and we lost two of the three. You’re going to have to have some breaks and you have to play the game well.”

“I think in the semifinals we kind of lost our bats; kind of lost our approach at the plate,” said Caneda. “But I think if we just follow through with the pitching, defense, clutch hitting, I think we’re going to be good this year. We’re going to have a good run this year.”

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The Cerritos High softball team claimed its second straight 605 League title outright, fifth overall (including two from the Suburban League) and seventh in the past eight complete seasons after the Dons blanked John Glenn High 17-0 last Thursday. During the program’s 605 League dominance since 2019, the Dons have gone 49-23 overall and 28-1 in league play. The team travels to Oxford Academy on Tuesday and Mayfair High on Thursday. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF