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Late rally by Cerritos 14-Under All-Stars falls short in final summer tournament

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

LA HABRA-A roller coaster of a 2016 summer season came to an end for the Cerritos Girls Softball Association 14-Under All-Stars as the team needed one or even two more hits to advance farther in the Amateur Softball Association 14-U ‘B’ Western National Championship. Once down by eight runs, the Cerritos Fury chipped away and had the tying run at second before a strikeout ended the game in an 11-9 loss to Ontario last Saturday afternoon at Sonora High.

“I had confidence in the team itself, especially having the last ups,” said Cerritos Fury manager Carlos Acosta. “I thought we really, really had a good chance of beating these guys. We’ve done it before over at states. But every game is different, obviously.

“They’ve always had the ability to fight, and that was one of the speeches I gave to them just before the game,” he continued. “It came down to the very last pitch.”

After Ontario scored three runs in the top of the first inning, Cerritos got on the board in its half of the frame when Jade Tully walked center fielder Kaylee Logan (Mayfair High), gave up a single to catcher Abigail Hernandez (Gahr High) and walked third baseman Kyla Nunez-O’Leary (Valley Christian High) to load the bases with none out. Following a strikeout, Tully walked designated player Kaylynn Cebula (Mayfair High) to bring home Logan.

But Ontario would send 10 players to bat in the next inning, scoring half a dozen runs to hold what it thought was a commanding 9-1 lead. However, the Fury responded in a big way in the bottom of the second as 11 came to the plate. There were four walks and three singles and the bases were loaded four times. Despite all of that, Hernandez would get the lone run-scoring hit. Ontario bounced back to get two more runs in the third to lead 11-6, but Cerritos wasn’t done yet.

Logan would reach second on an error to lead off the third and would score two outs later when shortstop Brooklyn Bedolla (Mayfair High) was safe on an error. In the fourth, a walk was issued to right fielder Maryellen Membreno (Gahr High), who would then steal second and come home on a throwing error.

In the fifth, Nunez-O’Leary and Bedolla reached on the 10th and 11th walks issued by Ontario pitchers. Cebula would then be hit by a pitch to load the bases with none out. Left fielder Amely Arrayga (Whittier High) would be safe on Ontario’s fourth error, allowing Nunez-O’Leary to score. But a pop-up, a fielder’s choice and a strikeout would end the Fury’s season.

Cerritos was limited to five hits but had 18 other runners reach base in other ways. In contrast, Ontario collected a dozen hits off of Caitlyn Azevedo (Valley Christian High), who pitched all 11 innings in a pair of games played in temperatures around 90 degrees with humid conditions on the day. She would walk one and five of the runs were earned.

“Caitlyn came through this all-star tournament with some power,” Acosta said. “She had an issue during the all-star season; we didn’t have her for three weekends in a row. But she came on strong. She said she was ready to pitch and go on with everything here. She just has the ability to make her pitches, which this last game she did. Her curve was breaking great and her screwball was working.”

Earlier in the day, Cerritos stayed alive in the loser’s bracket by holding off Monterey Park 8-7. Cerritos had an 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the sixth and Azevedo just escaped having to face Danielle Rivera, who was standing in the on-deck circle representing the winning run. Rivera had homered in her previous two at-bats, the second one leading off the inning.

The Fury was holding a 1-0 lead when Bedolla cracked a three-run shot over the left field fence in the top of the third to make it 4-0. After Monterey Park cut that lead into half on a two-run home run from Rivera, Cerritos pushed across four more runs in the top of the sixth.

Cebula led off with a double and scored when Arrayga was safe on an error. She would later come home on a wild pitch and after one out and pinch runner Angelina Pool (Valley Christian High) on third, Daisy Martinez (Cerritos High) reached first on a fielder’s choice, allowing Pool to score. After battling to a full count, Logan beat out an infield single to plate Martinez for the eventual game-winner.

“Thank god for that three-run home run; that made the difference there because we won that game by a run,” Acosta said. “It seemed to have been one of our problems all season. As soon the other team has their last ups, [we would] fall apart. But this time they were able to hold it and I think Brooklyn’s home run is the run that really gave us the push.”

Cerritos began pool play action of the tournament with a come from behind 8-7 win over Los Altos on July 27 at La Bonita Park. Cerritos led 4-1 heading into the top of the sixth before surrendering six runs. But in the bottom half of the inning, Cebula had a single and one out later, Hernandez had a base hit as well before a walk issued to Nunez-O’Leary loaded the bases. A single from Bedolla would score Cebula and Azevedo would double in a pair of runs. Bedolla would score the game-winner on a passed ball.

The next day, the Fury would open up a 3-0 lead to Coronado, only to give up three runs in the bottom of the sixth to fall 4-3. In the first, Hernandez doubled to center and scored on a base hit from Nunez-O’Leary. One inning later and with two outs, Martinez was safe on an error and Logan was walked. Both would then come home on a double from Hernandez.

Later in the day, Cerritos would get blanked by Fullerton Hills 15-0 in the first playoff game. The Fury would get just three runners on base-a two-out walk issued to Arrayga in the bottom of the second followed by a base hit from Membreno and a one-out single from Logan in the third.

This has been an up and down summer for the Cerritos Fury. The team played its first three tournaments as ‘B’ status before dropping to the ‘C’ classification for the Los Angeles/South Bay District Tournament June 17-19. Despite going two and out, it was invited to the state ‘C’ tournament when another team dropped out. There, the Fury went 2-2 with both wins coming against Monterey Park and Ontario and both losses coming by one run each. The Fury still played in 17 tournament games this summer.

“The reason why we dropped to ‘C’ is because we lost our number one pitcher during those three weeks,” Acosta said. “So I figured if we dropped down to ‘C’, it would give the team a little bit more competition to see what her status was going to be, whether she would come back or not. When she said she would come back, I kept the team down at ‘C’ and said, ‘let’s see what we can do’

“Honestly, I had fun,” Acosta later added. “A lot of kids progressed on this team. There were first-time players ever playing.”

In addition, the team has been playing with heavy hearts as one of its players, Gemma Bulthuis, fell seriously ill just before the first game of the state tournament and has been in the hospital since then. All of the players have since worn a “5” patch on their jerseys, which was her uniform number.

“It actually started out Caitlyn Azevedo, our number one pitcher, when she went down,” Acosta said. “And the Gemma had taken over for her. She was doing all of the pitching then, which that kid plays with a tremendous heart for the game.”

The other Cerritos Fury players are Estrella Anguiano (Paramount High) and Jillian Velazquez St. Joseph High). The coaching staff consisted of Sal Bedolla and Brian Bulthuis and the team mom was Gina Bulthuis.