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Defensive blunders cost Cerritos chance of unbeaten Suburban League season

By Loren Kopff

For the second straight time in a span of 48 hours, the Cerritos softball team jumped on Mayfair in the early innings of its crucial Suburban League game last Friday. But the host Lady Dons had two of their season-high six errors in a pivotal fifth inning that allowed the Monsoons to score five unearned runs and escape with an 11-9 victory.
Both teams and their pitchers combined to pound out 23 hits, score 20 runs, strikeout 15 batters, walk nine, make eight errors and hit two home runs. The only thing missing was a partridge in a pear tree. But for the second straight season, these co-defending league champions split their two regular season games. Cerritos was looking to sweep the Monsoons for the first time since 2006. The 20 combined runs are the most between the two teams in over 15 years. Two days earlier, Cerritos held on for a 6-4 victory on Mayfair’s field.
Cerritos was leading 3-0 through four innings on a combined one-hitter from junior Kaylilani Minami and freshman Jennifer Iseri. But in the top of the fifth, Iseri walked Lexie Shue and gave up a single to Bobbie Amezcua. That brought Nia Rodman to the plate and she laced a triple to center with Amezcua scoring an unearned run. Iseri walked Jessica Torrez and after an out, Nyah Rodman was safe on a fielder’s choice when she placed a bunt up the first base line. The throw home to get Nia Rodman out was wild and two more runs touched the plate. Linzee Guerrero and Rachel Barajas would follow with infield bunts and a sacrifice back to Iseri brought in Guerrero for the last run of the frame.
“That was clearly a mistake on our part,” said Cerritos head coach Bob Medina of that inning. “To me, clearly we know we’re the better team. When you come out and look at it, we are. The girls know it and we blew it. We practiced all day yesterday on the squeeze, we practiced all day yesterday on the bunt and unfortunately we couldn’t execute it.”
Iseri, who gave up just four hits when the teams met at Mayfair, allowed that many in the fifth inning alone and eight for the game. Minami would replace her in the sixth after Iseri gave up three hits and walked Torrez as the Monsoons added four more runs.
“We actually worked on hitting yesterday,” said Mayfair head coach Erin Brown. “We didn’t work much on small ball. As soon as we get one or two hits, we’re really a team that builds off of that. So it was just a matter of when it was going to happen. I was just hoping it wasn’t going to happen too late.”
Cerritos wasted little time getting on the board as senior center fielder Sarah Smith roped a base hit up the middle on the second pitch she saw and stole second. After Nyah Rodman walked Iseri, freshman catcher Heather Cameron put down a successful bunt towards second that allowed Smith to score. Later in the frame, Minami’s base hit to center made it 2-0.
Nyah Rodman walked junior first baseman Miki Okazaki to lead off the second, then surrendered back to back hits to Smith and Iseri. Just like that, the Lady Dons were up 3-0. Even when Medina replaced Minami with Iseri to begin the third, the hosts were still in control as Iseri struck out the first two she faced and five overall before that fateful fifth inning.
“They couldn’t hit off of Jen,” Medina said of the pitching change. “Jen had 12 strikeouts [on Wednesday]. What do you think they were going to do? They were going to bunt. It didn’t throw us off guard. We were prepared.”
Down by seven runs, Cerritos bounced back when Okazaki began the bottom of the sixth with a double to the right field gap, went to third on a wild pitch and came home on a groundout from senior third baseman Alyssa Marquez. Smith then posted her third hit of the game and scored on a double from Iseri. Shue added a home run on the first pitch of the top of the seventh but the Lady Dons refused to go quietly.
Junior right fielder Bianca Espinoza and junior shortstop Erin Clinton both singled and after a ground out, Okazaki drove in Espinoza with her second hit of the game. Marquez was safe on a fielder’s choice, which set the stage for Smith. On a 1-1 count, the Baylor University signee smacked her third home run of the season over the left field fence to give the Lady Dons some hope.
Despite the loss, Cerritos had at least 13 hits for the sixth time in eight league games. Smith went four for five while Iseri went three for three for four. The only league game in which Cerritos did not reach at least 13 hits was the first meeting with the Monsoons where it got nine hits.
“We really didn’t need to improve on anything because we practiced the bunt,” Medina said. “We just didn’t execute it and that’s clearly how they beat us. We knew what they were going to do before they did it. That’s the frustrating part. I’m not disappointed at this game at all.”
Guerrero went three for four for Mayfair while Amezcua and Nia Rodman each had a pair of hits. The two games with Mayfair were somewhat of a reunion party involving former Cerritos Girls Softball Association All-Stars. Of the four freshmen playing for Mayfair, Barajas, Kylie Brown, who is injured, and Tyler Johnson came through the CGSA along with all seven freshmen who wear the black and gold for Cerritos-Cameron, Iseri, Kaitlyn Bales, Megan Darling, Madison Lee, Amanda Lejano and Melanie Okazaki. More former CGSA All-Stars are also with Cerritos and Mayfair.
“Tyler is amazing,” Erin Brown said. “She doesn’t play as a freshman at all. She’s really hard on herself but in a way where she wants to get better. She’s not about herself; she’s all about the team.”
Cerritos, the eighth ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II Top 10 poll, saw its 13-game winning streak snapped. After splitting a pair of games the next day in the Loara Tournament, the Lady Dons were 14-3 entering their game at Norwalk this past Wednesday. Cerritos was seeking its first undefeated league season since 2000.
“An undefeated season [is something] we never even thought about,” Medina said. “We don’t talk about that. We haven’t even talked about Norwalk. We haven’t even talked about La Mirada. All we talked about was our next opponent. We never go on to the next step until that time. What’s great about this game is the girls learned how to play at a very competitive mode.”
When Cerritos gets done with Norwalk, it will have a week off from league action before facing La Mirada in the final week of the regular season. Meanwhile, Mayfair, the sixth ranked team in the division, will have its two games with La Mirada during the Cerritos bye week. But the debate still goes on as far as who calls who a rival between Cerritos, La Mirada and Mayfair, the three teams that will figure in the league championship again.
“If you’re talking strictly softball, I think Cerritos is a team that we respect and we go in and we know that we need to play our game,” Erin Brown said. “We always know we need to bring it with them because they’re going to battle. As far as the rivalry goes from a school sense, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
“I heard the other day, [someone asked], ‘who’s your rival’,” Medina said. “I don’t know. He said, ‘I think Mayfair is yours’. I like everybody over there. They’re awesome. They’re good people. I wish them well for their team and the league.”