_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________




By Loren Kopff


Two days after being embarrassed by La Mirada in its Suburban League opener Norwalk came to play last Friday and was on the verge of earning a season series split. But a valiant effort in the middle of the game went for naught and the Matadores squeaked out a 3-2 victory.

Unlike the 11-0 setback 48 hours earlier on La Mirada’s field, Norwalk rode the arm of freshman pitcher Lulu Vasquez, who gave up two earned runs and was a strike away from getting out of the top of the third unscathed.

“I think we saw our weakest point [on Wednesday],” said Norwalk first-year head coach Jason Reyes. “We weren’t going to let that defeat us [today]. We realized that our weakest point is something that we can control.”

“They didn’t hit the ball any better,” said La Mirada head coach Rich Trujillo. “They made some nice defensive plays. We kept hitting the ball, we didn’t strike out, then they got a little confidence. The game got close late and all of a sudden, they were in the game. I take my hats to Norwalk. They came in and they were ready. They’re well-coached and they’re going to do well. They’re a young team and they’re going to be good in the future.”

The Lady Lancers drew first blood in the bottom of the first when Vasquez singled to center and eventually had the bases loaded off of La Mirada senior starter Ambar Hickman. With two outs, Vasquez came home on a throwing error but Hickman retired 10 of the next 13 batters after that. Meanwhile, La Mirada tied the contest in the top of the second when junior shortstop Mercedes Gasparovic was safe on an error and later came home on a single from junior third baseman Lindsey Cole.

“One thing I preach at practice is confidence,” Reyes said. “Confidence is everything. That’s what these girls are lacking. We saw it here. We had bases loaded in the first inning against La Mirada. That’s confidence right there.”

Vasquez retired the first two batters she faced in the next inning but yielded a single to senior catcher Lisa Perez, then a double to sophomore designated player Annie Dipillo on a full count, plus three extra foul balls. That was followed by a run scoring double from senior first baseman Rochelle Sablay on a 0-2 count. After that double, La Mirada got three hits the rest of the way.

“She kept the ball low and [our hitters] were trying to pull them,” Trujillo said of Vasquez. “She mixed her speeds up pretty good. We never got a chance to really push it a little bit. If we got one or two more runs, then we would have been pushing the ball all over the place.”

The Lady Lancers finally chased Hickman from the circle when senior third baseman Ilene Vasquez led off the fifth with a first pitch double down the third base line. Senior pitcher Jenevie Rivas replaced Hickman and was also greeted with a double, this one from freshman second baseman Jazmin Guzman. Lulu Vasquez reached on an error and the hosts were looking good with runners at second and third with none out.

But Rivas got sophomore shortstop Jennifer Vasquez to line out to Cole followed by a pair of groundouts.

Norwalk had one last chance to tie the game in the seventh when Lulu Vasquez singled with two outs and made her way to third on another error.  But sophomore designated player Samantha Lujan struck out to end the threat and push La Mirada’s record over Norwalk to 25-3 since 1999.

“La Mirada is a great hitting team,” Reyes said. “Their [number] three and four hitters are pretty much unstoppable. With that aside, everyone on their team is capable of striking out.”

Dipillo went three for three while Cole and Perez each collected a pair of hits. Hickman won for the sixth time but has only gone the distance once this season. In 11 of the team’s 12 games, Trujillo has made a pitching change involving Hickman and Rivas.

“The philosophy is to just show [opponents] a different look,” Trujillo said. “Ambar has speed and Jenevie comes in and flutters. [Opponents] have a tough time making adjustments sometimes, especially the good hitters.”

La Mirada faced John Glenn this past week before heading up the coast for the Arroyo Grande Softball by the Beach Tournament. Guzman went three for four for Norwalk while junior catcher Crystal Cano and Lulu Vasquez each had two hits. The Lady Lancers, who split a pair of games last Saturday in the Whittier Tournament, had Bellflower this past week and will open the Woodbridge Tournament on Saturday against Mission Viejo in the first of five games to be played in that prestigious event over eight days.

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