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Norwalk softball jumps on Gahr early in preseason rout



Softball! (Photo credit: * NightHawk24 *)

 By Loren Kopff

Friends and sometimes travel ball teammates hooked up last Thursday when Gahr’s softball team hosted Norwalk in a backyard border tilt. But the Lady Lancers gave a the Gladiators a rude home opener as junior center fielder Viviana Gomez cracked a first-inning grand slam to lead her team to a 12-3 victory.

It was the first time since 2003 that these two somewhat neighborly schools, by city standards separated by the 91 freeway, have met. Norwalk prevailed in that encounter, 9-3. Last Thursday, the Lady Lancers used a two-out rally in the first inning to score five runs and put the game away early.

With a runner at second and two outs, Gahr sophomore Deidra Genera walked junior catcher Samantha Lujan before yielding hits to senior third baseman Crystal Cano and junior shortstop Jenny Vasquez, the later bringing home freshman right fielder Kathleen Perez. That set the stage for Gomez, who on a 2-2 count, plus fouling off two pitches, connected on a low and outside change-up to the left field gap to clear the bases.

“We had two girls hit deep hits into short and…we got those in,” said Norwalk first-year head coach Antonio Aguirre. “Then [Genera] came in under [Viviana] and she blasted it into left centerfield for a grand slam. We’ve been working hard on hitting, hitting, hitting, hitting and it’s paying off right now. We’re happy with the girls right now.”

Norwalk added two more runs in the second and fourth innings with Cano smacking a two-run home run in the fourth before Gahr finally got on the board. Freshman center fielder Alyssa Cuffia singled with one out and scored an unearned run when junior right fielder Mel Varela tapped an infield single which was thrown away twice, allowing Varela to advance to third. Freshman third baseman Erica Espinoza then reached on another error, making the score 9-2.

“Our bats definitely weren’t alive today,” said Gahr first-year head coach Shawn Quarles. “We were definitely having a slow day at the plate. I think the momentum just changed early in the game. Our girls were kind of flat in warm-ups. But give much of the credit to [Norwalk]. They hit the heck out of the ball and they were on some good pitches.”

Norwalk (2-1 overall) added to its lead in the fifth inning when senior first baseman Martha Camacho scored on a wild pitch. But the Gladiators answered in their half of the inning when Cuffia singled to left to plate sophomore first baseman Celeste Gonzalez, who had singled with one out. Despite the one-sided loss, the Gladiators were able to collect eight hits, two each from Cuffia, Gonzalez and freshman designated player Kristen Redaja.

“That’s one thing that this team has shown; they’ll keep on going until the end,” Quarles said. “Even in our last couple of games, they battled until the end. That’s the one positive thing that we took out of this [loss].”

While the Lady Lancers cranked out a dozen hits and aided by five Gahr errors, they received a solid performance from freshman Serena Nicolas, who was making her first start in the circle. She worked five innings, scattering seven hits and struck out a pair of hitters. Junior Amanda Benas wrapped up the final two frames and allowed only one hit.

“Our [No. 1] starter had a hurt leg, so we decided to go with Serena and she did a great job in there,” Aguirre said. “She did well for handing the pressure.”

Cano, Gomez, Perez, Vasquez and sophomore designated player Destiny Vasquez all had two hits as Norwalk will compete in the Whittier Tournament on Saturday before opening Suburban League action on Wednesday at Mayfair. The Gladiators who split four games in the Cypress Tournament with both losses coming by a run apiece, visited Cypress, winners of the aforementioned tournament, this past Tuesday and lost a heartbreaking 2-0 decision. Both runs came in the bottom of the fourth after Varela had retired the first eight batters she faced and 11 of the first 12. Varela allowed four hits and induced Cypress batters into 15 groundball outs. Sophomore shortstop Deja Portillo went two for three as the Gladiators (2-4) were limited to five hits. Gahr visited Katella on Mar. 14 and will travel to Sunny Hills on Tuesday before hosting a doubleheader against Whittier on Thursday.

“It’s still early in the season and we’re still trying to figure out some things on defense,” Quarles said. “I think we figured them out today. We’ll be alright.”


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