_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


Gahr comes up short in semifinals against division’s top ranked team


By Loren Kopff

With the support of several high school softball fans and players from the general area cheering the team on, Gahr High was hoping to advance to its first California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section divisional championship game since 1989. But the Gladiators, who scored once in the bottom of the seventh inning, left the tying run on first and fell to top ranked Grand Terrace in a Division III semifinal game.

Among the players who came on to support Gahr were from Cerritos, still hurting from a game-ending triple play that resulted in a Grand Terrace 3-2 win last Thursday in the quarterfinals. In that game, the Titans jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to the victory. In the semifinals, Grand Terrace again had a 3-0 lead thanks to a pair of solo home runs from Morgan Parsons before the co-San Gabriel Valley League champions drew to within a run. But Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles found the Titans, with only one senior on their team, to be a tough foe despite having an advantage of seeing how they did against Cerritos.

“I knew they were a good team,” Quarles said. “I knew [Melanie Olmos] is a great pitcher. I know they hit the ball and they play aggressive defense. So, it is what it is. They outplayed us today.

“They came through when they needed to and I heard that their No. 6 batter was a good hitter,” Quarles added. “She had a lot of pop in that bat.”

Following Parsons’ first home run, Danielle Rico doubled and came home on a base hit from Alyssa Martinez. But the fourth ranked Gladiators, who didn’t have a hit through the first three innings, struck back in the fourth when freshman right fielder Madison Huskey singled to left and moved to second on an error. Following the fourth of eight strikeouts from Olmos, sophomore catcher Alyssa Kumiyama cracked a two-run home run over the right centerfield fence. It was the fourth round tripper of the season for the University of South Carolina signee, tops on the team. She now has 14 home runs in two seasons at Gahr, tied with sophomore third baseman Malia Quarles for most four-baggers in school history since 2000.

“We were just trying to get a good pitch; trying to stay ahead in the count,” Shawn Quarles said of the fourth inning. “We know that sometimes [Olmos] has problems with her control and that she walks a lot of batters. But I’m real proud of my girls. They battled to the end and we had a great season.”

Gahr (24-8) had a chance to tie or even take the lead in the sixth. With one out, freshman shortstop Dejanae Davis hit a flare that bounced where the dirt and grass portions meet behind the shortstop position. Then with two outs, Olmos walked Malia Quarles before striking out Kumiyama.

In the top of the seventh, the Titans got a huge insurance run when Destini Peck reached on an error and was replaced by courtesy runner Alexis Lopez. Olmos singled to right and after a groundout held Lopez at third, Parsons singled to center.

Gahr rallied in its half of the frame when junior center fielder Alyssa Cuffia, who has been hot both offensively and defensively in the postseason, hit a rocket that glanced off of Parsons’ glove and went all the way into foul territory down the first base line. Cuffia motored all the way to third where she came home on a fielder’s choice from senior left fielder Sabrina Quarles.

Senior pitcher Destiny Vasquez, who will be attending Eastern Michigan University in the fall, struggled with her pitch count early on but settled down towards the latter innings. She gave up 10 hits, struck out six and walked one. The 10 hits are the most the Gahr pitching staff had yielded since Mar. 10 and only the fourth time all season long the Gladiators had given up double digits in hits. Vasquez also got some nifty defensive catches behind her, including Cuffia who had six putouts including a sliding catch to end the fifth when Grand Terrace had runners at second and third.

“I thought she did a great job,” Shawn Quarles said. “I thought that she was what we had to go with and I thought she pitched a great game. So there was no reason to think about anything. Destiny’s our best pitcher, so we were putting our best foot forward and that’s what we were doing.”

The Gladiators, who had their highest win total since 2007 (24-5) won three playoff games in the same season for the first time since 1989 and only the second time in school history. Since advancing to the quarterfinals in 2008, Gahr has won a total of four playoff games. The loss also marked the final high school game for six seniors, including Brianna Besenty, Deidra Genera, Celeste Gonzalez and Deja Portillo.

“I think we overachieved,” Shawn Quarles said. “Most of all, the girls had a very positive season and I think they learned a lot, not only about softball, but they learned a lot about themselves. They learned how to focus and how to apply themselves and to really fight through adversity even when it’s just social adversity.”