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Cuffia’s blast, solid pitching send Gahr into quarterfinals


By Loren Kopff

SANTA FE SPRINGS-The Gahr High softball team was bending a lot in the early innings against Santa Fe in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III second round game. But it was a matter of time before it would break through and get that one big hit it was seeking.

That’s when junior center fielder Alyssa Cuffia stepped up with two on and two outs in the top of the fifth inning. On the first pitch she saw from Carly Gutierrez, Cuffia sent a deep ball over the center field fence to give the Gladiators a 4-2 lead, which would be the final score. Cuffia had struck out and grounded out in her first two at-bats but was not going to be denied in her third trip to the plate.

“I was going in there thinking that I needed to get my bat on the ball and turn my hips, because I had been working on that,” Cuffia said. “I was thinking a base hit; hopefully in the gap to move the runners. She left it right over the plate, so then right when I saw the pitch, I knew it was [a good one].”

“Cuffia is a gamer,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “She was real excited for today’s game. She’s been working really hard in the offseason, going to the gym three or four times a week. She’s gotten a lot bigger and stronger and she’s really turned her game around this year.”

Gahr, the co-San Gabriel Valley League champions, had gotten a pair of singles from freshman shortstop Dejanae Davis and one each from freshman right fielder Madison Huskey and senior first baseman Celeste Gonzalez through the first four frames. But Gahr (23-7) got just as many hits in the fifth inning alone.

Senior second baseman Deja Portillo led off with a base hit to the right field gap. Following a groundout, Huskey singled to the same location and a sacrifice fly from sophomore third baseman Malia Quarles plated Portillo. Sophomore catcher Alyssa Kumiyama then doubled to center, setting the stage for Cuffia, who had entered the game batting an even .400 with one home run on the season.

“I was thinking that everybody came together as a team to get on base,” Cuffia said. “We just needed timely hitting to get them in.”

As impressive as the hitting was in the fifth inning, the pitching was just as stellar. Future Bethune Cookman University pitcher Deidra Genera was perfect with four strikeouts going into the fourth inning. But an error, two hits and a walk led to both unearned runs for the Chiefs.

After Genera got the first out of the sixth inning, she was replaced with senior Destiny Vasquez, who faced eight batters, striking out half of them and giving up a pair of hits.

“I thought she did an awesome job,” Quarles said of his starting pitcher. “Deidra’s been at the top of her game these past three or four weeks. We knew that we could trust her and go with her. Then at the end, their third time through the lineup, we just thought we would give them a different look with [Vasquez].”

Davis and Huskey each had a pair of hits as the Gladiators hosted Laguna Hills on May 27, marking the first time since 2008 since Gahr had reached the quarterfinals. A win coupled with a Cerritos win at Grand Terrace means the two city rivals will meet in the semifinals at Cerritos on Tuesday.

“We’re excited and we’re taking it game by game,” Shawn Quarles said.