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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW-Norwalk baseball grounded by Banning in St. Paul Tournament to extend late season skid

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

April 20, 2022~As quickly as the Norwalk High baseball team began the season, winning nine of its first 11 games, the tide has shifted in the opposite direction. And even though the Lancers are ranked third in the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 poll, head coach William Wenrick would rather not be involved in any tiebreaking drama during the final week of the season that could play a factor in the team’s playoff fate.

The Lancers dropped a 7-1 decision to Banning High this past Monday to wrap up pool play action in the St. Paul Tournament for their eighth loss in the last 11 games. Just like that, a 9-2 start has turned into a 12-10 mark as Norwalk faced Bell Gardens High this past Wednesday night to conclude the tournament.

“Besides the better quality of play, and as much as I don’t want to blame injuries, we’ve been nicked up a little bit,” said Wenrick. “[Junior pitcher] Gabriel Cancino, who has been throwing well for us, has been nicked up. [Junior] Randy [Martinez], my lefty who has been a sparkplug, has been hurt the last three games. We’re just not hitting the ball, and like today, we didn’t even show up.”

Through the first 11 games, the Lancers had 51 hits and scored 45 runs, but during the recent slide, which included four games against Suburban League opponents La Mirada High and Mayfair High, plus a pair of games against Mary Star of the Sea High among others, the team has scored 33 runs and pounded out 57 hits. However, 18 of those hits and 21 of those runs came against league cellar-dweller Firebaugh High.

The Pilots flew past Norwalk in the top of the first inning, batting around and scoring five runs off five hits and a hit batter. Banning would tack on the other two runs in the fourth inning on two more hits. Meanwhile, the Lancers did not get a runner to third base until the bottom of the fifth when junior second baseman Ricardo Guzman doubled down the left field line, moved to third on an infield single from junior left fielder Jonathan Guzman and scored the lone run on a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop Caden Barnhill. Ricardo Guzman would go two for three while four other players accounted for the other four hits the team would collect.

After the first inning, junior pitcher Kevin Carrillo would retire the next six he faced before being replaced by junior Angel Gonzalez, who worked the next three innings.

“He just wasn’t ready,” said Wenrick of his starter. “Kevin’s not a guy who overpowers people. He doesn’t have the best changeup in the world.”

If any positives have come out of playing Paraclete High, then Salesian High before Banning in the tournament, who all outscored Norwalk 16-3, Wenrick says it’s that the Lancers are playing different teams that they haven’t seen before.

Norwalk hosted Long Beach Cabrillo High on Apr. 21 and will visit Bellflower High on Tuesday before hosting the Buccaneers on Thursday to end the regular season. The Lancers will enter the week a game behind Bellflower, but tied for third place with Mayfair High, having split with the Monsoons late last month with both results coming in shutout fashion.

“During this tournament, I played guys that I usually don’t play,” said Wenrick. “So, we’re going hard [against Bellflower]. We’re going back to our lineup. I expect it to be a battle. It was last year. We beat them once and we had bases loaded and we lost [the other game] last year. I expect it to be exciting. I don’t want it to be left up to anybody if we’re 3-5, even though we have the tiebreaker against Mayfair. I don’t want that. We’ve come too far since the beginning of the season. We’ve come too far from where Norwalk has been and I’m not going to let these guys die; I’m just not going to let it happen.”

In other St. Paul Tournament action, Cerritos High dropped a 9-0 decision toParaclete this past Monday and 11-2 to Narbonne Highthis past Wednesday. The Dons (19-5 overall, 6-0 in the 605 League) have already wrapped up its third straight league title and will visit last place John Glenn High on Tuesday in the front end of a home and home series. The Dons will then host Mayfair on Wednesday and Glenn on Thursday to conclude the regular season.

Besides Artesia High, Cerritos and Norwalk, the potential for as many as three other area teams could find themselves in the playoffs. Gahr High was the last team to begin San Gabriel Valley League action and since then, has won three of four league games. The Gladiators swept a pair of 2-1 decisions against Downey High, then shutout Lynwood High 11-0 last Friday on the road. Gahr was edged byWarren High 2-1 this past Tuesday to see its overall record fall to 8-14 overall. The team visited Warren on Apr. 21 and will entertain Lynwood today before facing visiting Paramount High on Monday, host Martin Luther King High on Tuesday and Paramount on Thursday. On Apr. 29, Gahr will host La Mirada.

La Mirada, which had already locked down its sixth straight Suburban League crown, which will also be its last as the league will join forces with the SGVL next season, faced Sierra Canyon High this past Tuesday in the first game of the Boras Baseball Classic and pulled off a 7-0 victory over the top-ranked team from Division 2. The Matadores (17-5-1, 6-0) then faced Orange Lutheran High this past Wednesday in the tournament and fell to the top-ranked team in Division 1 4-2. La Mirada faced St. Augustine High on Apr. 21 and will wrap up the tournament today before concluding the regular season with a home and home series with last place Firebaugh, Tuesday and Thursday.

Valley Christian High was swept in three games by Olympic League leading Maranatha High, then was edged by Whittier Christian High 4-3 this past Tuesday to drop to 11-12 overall and 3-6 in the circuit. The Defenders will host the Heralds today and last place Heritage Christian High on Tuesday before ending the regular season on Thursday against the Warriors. As of this past Wednesday, V.C. was sitting in fourth place, two games behind Village Christian High, which still has a home and home series with Maranatha.

SOFTBALL

As the final week of the regular season approaches, as many as seven of the eight area teams could find themselves in the playoffs. In the 605 League, Cerritos had already wrapped up the league title, but there is drama building between second place Artesia (9-11, 6-3), third place Glenn (14-11, 5-4) and fourth place Pioneer High (4-4 in league), which will host fifth place Oxford Academy today. On Tuesday, Artesia visits Glenn while last place Whitney High goes to Pioneer. It’s possible there could be a three-way tie for second place.

In San Gabriel Valley League action, Gahr finds itself in a battle for first place as the Gladiators (17-8, 5-1) are a half game behind Warren (6-1). Gahr blanked Downey 8-0 on Apr. 14 to sweep the season series against the Vikings and hosted Lynwood on Apr. 21. The league title could be decided today when Gahr entertains Warren, which defeated the Gladiators 5-4 on Apr. 7. Gahr will then wrap up the regular season against Dominguez High on Wednesday and at Paramount on Thursday.

La Mirada, which hasn’t played since shutting out Kennedy High 10-0 on Apr. 15, has already won the Suburban League and will enter Tuesday’s home game with Mayfair at 19-6, 6-0. The Matadores will also go to Firebaugh on Thursday.

Norwalk, which was sitting in third place in the Suburban League, got past Legacy High 3-1 this past Monday to improve to 15-7 overall. With a 3-3 league mark and a non-league meeting with Schurr High today, a visit to Firebaugh on Tuesday and a home game with Bellflower on Thursday, the Lancers have the potential to tie Mayfair for second place.

V.C. hasn’t had a good season, dropping to 4-13-1 after a 10-0 loss to Bellflower this past Monday. But the Defenders are 2-2 in the Olympic League and were in third place as they hosted fourth place Village Christian on Apr. 21. Valley Christian will travel to league-leading Whittier Christian on Tuesday, Village Christian on Wednesday and second place Heritage Christian on Thursday.