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Gahr freshmen provide late inning dramatics in rare league-opening victory


By Loren Kopff


Like many of its opponents this season, Gahr showed Downey that if you try to bat around, or hit any batter in its potent offensive lineup, the next batter will make you pay. So, when Anissa Hamilton plunked freshman third baseman Malia Quarles on the first pitch to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Gahr was right where it wanted to be.

Two pitches later, freshman first baseman Alyssa Kumiyama sent the hosts home happy with a blast over the right center fence as Gahr opened up San Gabriel Valley League play with a 7-5 win. Gahr snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Vikings and in the process, won a league opener for the first time since 2009.

After seeing the Vikings take the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth, the Gladiators tied the game in the bottom half of the frame when Kumiyama scored on a wild pitch with two outs. Then freshman pitcher Naomi Dickerson replaced junior Deidra Genera in the top of the sixth and retired six of the seven batters she faced. That was more than enough to give the offense a chance with Malia Quarles, Kumiyama, junior second baseman Celeste Gonzalez and junior catcher Brianna Besenty all due to come up in the bottom of the seventh. Those are currently the top four hitters with none hitting below .370 and combining for 15 of the team’s 19 home runs.

“I definitely liked our chances at that point,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “We still had to let it all happen and it all had to unfold.”

“Just get a base hit and try to get my team going and hopefully help us get that win,” Kumiyama said of her thoughts as she was walking up to bat, “I wasn’t really thinking anything up there.”

Downey gained an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on an run scoring hit from Daphne Gaspar but Gahr (8-8 overall, 1-0) quickly tied the game when Malia Quarles smacked a two-out home run to dead center. It was her third home run in her last five trips to the plate as she increased her season total to eight.

Downey would regain the lead the next inning but the Gladiators went up 4-2 in the bottom of the third, beginning with a sacrifice fly from Kumiyama. With two outs, Hamilton hit Gonzalez, surrendered a base hit to Besenty, which scored Malia Quarles, and yielded another base hit, this one to sophomore center fielder Alyssa Cuffia.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Downey took a 5-4 lead in the fifth as all three runs were scored with two outs.

“It was definitely intense but I knew our girls had the capability of coming out and just doing what they do,” Kumiyama said of the game. “It’s just a great team; I love my girls.”

“It was definitely a good win,” Shawn Quarles said. “Downey was tough. I knew they were going to be tough, I knew they were going to hit. So, it was kind of like a slugfest. But it was definitely a big win that we wanted to get under our belts.”

Kumiyama and Malia Quarles combined for five of the eight hits Gahr would get. Both are batting well over .400 this season with the latter leading the team at a .479 clip. Of her 23 base hits, 14 have gone for extra bases.

“They’re just great hitters,” Shawn Quarles said. “We’re just fortunate to have them. It’s totally abnormal to have that [production] out of three and four [in the lineup]. And to have them as freshmen right now is just amazing. I think they are the two best hitting freshmen in the country.”

“I was definitely expecting to maybe struggle but knowing who I am, I know I can battle back through any struggle,” Kumiyama said. “Just staying humble is what compensates for that.”

Gahr visited Lynwood on Apr. 3 and will host Warren on Tuesday in a crucial match-up of the top two teams in league. Gahr has lost 10 straight games to the Bears but will have the services of junior Destiny Vasquez, who transferred from Norwalk but had to sit out the first 30 days of the regular season. Vasquez could get the start in the circle, but Shawn Quarles still isn’t 100 percent decided on that as of now.

“Destiny is a great all-around player and we’re fortunate to have her,” he said. “We’re glad to get this win in.”

If Gahr knocks off Warren, it will be its first win against a team with a winning record this season, leaving many to wonder if Gahr’s 8-8 record is a bit misleading despite the team hitting .346 with 19 home runs, the most since belting 20 home runs in 2005.

“It is [misleading], because at any given day someone can just show up and take the win,” Kumiyama said. “But it’s all about staying humble and playing Gahr softball.”