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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE SOFTBALL Gahr’s defense fails in league-opening loss to Warren



By Loren Kopff


DOWNEY-The Gahr High softball team had not played since a Mar. 24 loss to Los Alamitos and after it’s San Gabriel Valley League opener against defending league co-champion Warren, it looked as if the Gladiators were still on vacation. Gahr had a season-high four errors and were held to three hits until the final inning when a late rally fell short in a 5-3 loss to the Bears this past Tuesday.

There was reason for Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles to be concerned about the three weeks away from game action and when the game had ended with the tying run on first base, it was somewhat easy to see why the Gladiators, who shared last season’s league crown with the Bears, have not won at Warren since 2008.

“We tried to do some live hitting in practice and tried to simulate some real life game situations,” Quarles said of the past three weeks. “But obviously that didn’t help us. We just got outplayed today by a better team and we better put in some hard work if we expect to even be close to them in league.”

Gahr grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when freshman shortstop Dejanae Davis reached on an error and came home on a two-out base hit up the middle from sophomore catcher Alyssa Kumiyama. But the Bears, ranked eighth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III top 10 poll, put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the frame.

Facing freshman Dani Martinez, who was making her first start of the season, Nadia Amezcua singled on the first pitch she saw before Whitney Pemberton launched a home run over the fence in left center. Still, Martinez threw 10 pitches in the inning. But in the second, the first of the four errors allowed Kimberly Olivas to be safe and keep the inning alive for Taylor Gallo, whose single made it 3-1.

Martinez, who entered the game with a 1.75 earned run average in 24 innings of work, pitched three innings and allowed five of Warren’s eight hits.

“She was the only one I had to go with,” Quarles said. “I had seniors who were hurt; I had seniors who don’t show up for practice. I have girls who miss practice and don’t let me know. So, Dani was the only pitcher that we had.

“I thought she missed a couple spots at times,” he continued. “She’s a tough pitcher and as a freshman, she has to learn to be a little more strategic when she pitches. The ball that got hit over the fence…that was supposed to be in the middle of the batter’s box.”

Meanwhile, Gahr’s offense, which was explosive last season, was being held in check by Jissel Caballero, who retired eight straight and 13 of the next 14 batters after Kumiyama’s single. The Bears would add to their lead in the bottom of the fifth when Megan Narvaez and Amezcua reached on errors. Pinch runner Sydney Romero would come home on another error which allowed Caballero to reach first and Amezcua scored on a groundout from Wendy DeLeon.

“It’s really disappointing,” Quarles said of the errors. “It’s obvious that sometimes bad plays happen. But I’m really disappointed with the way we looked. I take most of the blame because maybe of the long layoff. Maybe I didn’t do the schedule right. But we have a lot of work to do. We’re not as good as we thought we were.”

The errors would prove to be costly because Gahr (10-6) showed a glimmer of life in the seventh. Senior designated player Brianna Besenty, also making her first start of the season, singled to center. That was followed by a home run from junior center fielder Alyssa Cuffia. Following a strikeout, senior second baseman Deja Portillo singled to left and Davis singled up the middle to set the stage for Madison Huskey.

The freshman right fielder singled to center but Quarles decided to send Portillo home where she would be thrown out. That play was critical because on the very next pitch, sophomore third baseman Malia Quarles flied out to Amezcua with Kumiyama left standing in the on-deck circle. “That was totally my mistake,” Shawn Quarles said. “If it was a one-run game, then I would [put] the blame of the loss on me. But that was totally a bad call on my spot and I should have known better.

“We still had some girls with some bad at-bats,” he continued. “We don’t have our clutch hitters doing really anything to carry their weight except Kumi. Malia Quarles needs to step up when the times get rough and she’s just not able to do that.”

Davis and Kumiyama accounted for half of the offensive output as the Gladiators hosted Paramount on Apr. 16 and will visit Downey on Tuesday before coming back home to face Dominguez on Thursday. The loss to Warren was also the fifth time in the last six seasons that Gahr had lost its league opener. Last season, Gahr edged Warren 6-5 at home in its league opener. The rematch will be Apr. 30 at Gahr.

“I just think this team is a better team than us,” Shawn Quarles said. “I don’t care where we played today. They would have beaten us. It was due to my mistakes and due to my team not showing up.”