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Rodriguez handles Mayfair as Cerritos stays in upper half of Suburban League


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

LAKEWOOD-Jamriel Rodriguez has been in the United States for seven months but already he is making a huge impact for the Cerritos High baseball team as it pursues a coveted playoff berth. The native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, just southeast of the capital San Juan, was completely masterful against Mayfair High this past Monday.

Rodriguez went the distance, scattering four hits and striking out five as the Dons pulled away late for a 6-1 victory. The game was a makeup from three days earlier but the delay didn’t seem to get to Rodriguez at all. He threw 99 pitches and pitched his second complete game of the season while improving to 5-2.

“Before I go to pitch, I try to stay relaxed and enjoy the game,” Rodriguez said. “I try to get routine [ground] ball plays and do what only I know how to do.”

“We decided if Jammer can get us a sweep, it’s well worth it,” said Cerritos assistant coach Brooks Walling. “We’re going to have to take one game at a time now. We needed the win, definitely. That puts us at 4-0 [in league] and Mayfair 0-4 and backs them up. Basically seven wins gets you in the playoffs in this league and we need three to go. We know that.”

Cerritos, which had gotten a complete game, three-hit shutout from senior Kyle Suezaki on Apr. 6 against the Monsoons, improved to 11-7 overall and 4-0 in league at that time. It’s the best league start for the Dons since joining the circuit in 1999. Previously, the best Suburban League beginning was in 2005 when the Dons won their first two league games.

Cerritos gave Rodriguez all the run support he needed very early with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. With one out, senior center fielder Tyler Beyer beat out a chopper in front of Mayfair’s shortstop and was safe on an infield hit. That was followed by a base hit to center from junior catcher Brett Wells. After a strikeout, Beyer stole home and moments later, a single from freshman first baseman Bernardo DeLeon plated Wells.

“That was huge,” Walling said. “Beyer hit a chopper and he can flat out fly; we know that. Wells clutched up with a 0-2 base hit. Beyer was running and [Mayfair] vacated and it snuck through. Jumping out 2-0 was huge.”

Rodriguez was getting help from his defense in the first two innings with a pair of double plays and through the first two frames, he had thrown just 15 pitches. But after striking out his counterpart, Landon Anderson, to begin the third, he issued back to back walks to Kenny Luna and Matt Gutierrez. At the same time, the Mayfair players were heckling Rodriguez from the dugout, but that didn’t seem to faze the Puerto Rican.

Even though he gave up an unearned run when A.J. Quezada was safe on a two-out error, Rodriguez struck out Jesse Brooks to end further damage, then allowed only one Monsoon to reach third base the remainder of the game.

“He’s hard to rattle and coming here on a Monday, on the road with a big mound he’s not used to, it took him three to four innings to settle in,” Walling said. “The 15 pitches in the first two innings are because of the two double plays. He had good stuff today.”

“In that situation, I never hear that,” Rodriguez said. “In that situation, I have something in my mechanics and I try to stay comfortable. [The noises] don’t matter. I just keep throwing strikes.”

Cerritos added an insurance run in the fifth when senior right fielder Jason Prieto-Burnham singled to right and advanced on an error. Junior shortstop Trevor McInerney also singled to right to put runners at the corners before Beyer was safe on Mayfair’s second miscue, allowing Prieto-Burnham to score.

Prieto-Burnham then delivered the big blow in the next inning when he laced a two-out, bases loaded double down the right field line on a full count. He would go two for three with those three runs batted in while DeLeon and McInerney each had a pair of hits.

But the story of the game was Rodriguez, who has been the so-called Friday pitcher through the first two weeks of league play. Against Artesia High on Mar. 24, he gave up only one hit in a 12-2 win. But because of the rainout last Friday, Rodriquez has three innings left in today’s home game against La Mirada High. California Interscholastic Federation rules state that a baseball pitcher shall not pitch more than 10 innings a week. The Matadores blasted the Dons 12-0 this past Wednesday in a battle of undefeated league foes.

“He’s a frontline pitcher; he’s one of the best guys in the area,” Walling said. “In order to do that, you have to battle and fight through that. Mayfair is rough. It’s like a new La Mirada over here, it feels like. Tough dugout, they’re obnoxious and he kept his composure.”

Even with his parents back in Puerto Rico, they’re still able to see Rodriguez pitch as his aunt, Irma Beyer, who is Tyler Beyer’s birth mom, is showing them his performance on the mound via Skype.

“I just put my faith in [God] and I just try to keep working every day,” Rodriguez said. “When the coach gives me the ball, it’s a new opportunity. It’s a new opportunity to do what I know. That’s it.

“It’s very weird because this is my first year here [with] new guys and a new league,” Rodriguez continued. “I just keep working and don’t say anything.”

Cerritos will take a break from league action and travel to Royal High on Wednesday before travelling to Bellflower High on Apr. 27