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SOFTBALL: Gahr shakes off rust from long time off, blanks South Torrance

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

It’s not too often that high school teams get to be away from game action for two full weeks, regardless of what the reason is. But that’s what the Gahr High softball team was facing when it hosted South Torrance High this past Tuesday.

The Lady Gladiators, ranked fourth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 poll, hadn’t played since crushing La Habra High 17-4 on Mar. 20. They didn’t seem to miss a beat too much, scoring once in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the third as they shutout the Spartans 3-0. Gahr won its fifth straight game at the time and moved to 8-3.

“I think they were a little rusty,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “I think you saw it on the pitching. I think they were a little out of sync and then I think our hitters were just a little bit behind the ball and their timing was a little bit off. I’m glad that we were able to pull that victory out.”

After senior pitcher Vanessa Foreman retired the top three Spartans to begin the game, the Lady Gladiators got on the board and it took just two batters and eight pitches to do so. Senior shortstop Dejaenae Davis singled to right field, stole second and scored when junior second baseman Giselle Tapia doubled to the left field gap. The hosts would eventually load the bases when junior left fielder Jazmin Hill was safe on a fielder’s choice with one out and Sophia Fernandez walked freshman third baseman Taylor Stephens. But a pop-up and a fly-out ended that opportunity to add to the lead.

South Torrance would get its chance to score when it loaded the bases in the top of the second. But Foreman got Mia Hanson to strikeout following bask to back singles from Sierra Daley and Chloe Lopez. Then in the third, the Lady Gladiators got a pair of insurance runs and it began with senior centerfielder Madison Huskey launching a home run over the left field fence to begin the frame.

One out later, Stephens singled to center, stole second, went to third on a long flyball to right by sophomore designated player Johanna Rodriguez and scored on a wild pitch. After that, Gahr would collect just two hits and have another runner reach on a walk.

Meanwhile, Foreman worked into the fourth inning, scattering three hits and struck out four before junior Danielle Martinez replaced her. Martinez would struggle in the fifth, loading the bases with none out. But she struck out Alyssa Podhurcak and Fernandez and got Taylor Kuglin to groundout. Martinez would work a perfect sixth and allowed one hit in the seventh.

“I think that comes with the maturity,” Quarles said of his two pitchers. “They both know when they get themselves in a hole sometimes, they have to get themselves out of the hole. So, I think that just goes down to maturity and them being tough girls and just kind of buckling down and just finishing the inning for us.”

Quarles is utilizing a different approach with his pitching staff than in previous seasons, rotating Foreman and Martinez on a game by game basis, as well as sometimes making a pitching change in the fourth inning. Either way, it has worked fine with Martinez starting six games and Foreman the other five.

“We’ve been letting them go four innings,” Quarles said. “Today was a little different because we’re trying to get both of them ready for this big tournament we have coming up tomorrow. So, we’re trying to get them both some batters and get them both some innings and get them warmed up.”

Gahr would face Valencia High this past Wednesday in the first round of the prestigious Michelle Carew Classic, which ends on Saturday, and posted a 5-0 victory. Later in the day, the Lady Gladiators knocked off Pacifica High 6-2 to move into the semifinals on their side of the bracket. The Lady Gladiators then open action in the San Gabriel Valley League on Tuesday with a road game at Dominguez High and travel to Lynwood High on Thursday.

“This is one of the toughest tournaments around, I think,” Quarles said. “We’re excited to be invited and we have our hands full in the first game with Valencia. They have some pretty strong players on that team.”