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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE SOFTBALL Gahr wins the home run battle, holds on to stop Warren’s late rally

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


The wind was blowing out at Gahr High this past Tuesday afternoon and when that happens, you can expect to see lots of balls that are not retrievable. The host Lady Gladiators and Warren High combined for six home runs and 19 runs, the most in the rivalry in over 21 seasons, and despite allowing three runs in the top of the seventh inning, Gahr was able to hold on for a 10-9 victory.

The latest installment in what may be the best matchup the San Gabriel Valley League has to offer each season saw the Lady Gladiators improve to 15-4 overall and 3-0 in the league. After losing 10 straight games to the Bears from 2009-2013, Gahr has now won seven of the last 10 meetings including the past five.

“You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “It’s always going to be exciting. They’re always going to fight. [Warren head coach] Mary [Starksen] always puts a good game plan together and we know we’re always going to be in a battle regardless of what the score is at any given time.”

Gahr bashed four of those six home runs but the big blow came in the bottom of the third when senior center fielder Madison Huskey blasted a one-out grand slam to deep center. That was made possible after freshman catcher Grace Rivera, senior shortstop Dejaenae Davis and junior second baseman Giselle Tapia all singled, the last two of the infield variety. Five pitches after Huskey’s grand slam, junior Jazmine Hill hit a solo shot over the right field fence to make it 5-0.

But Huskey wasn’t done as in her next at-bat, she followed Tapia’s second hit with a two-run home run, this time over the left field fence to put the Lady Gladiators up 7-5. Then to no one’s surprise, she was intentionally walked in the sixth.

“In my first at-bat, the blue was calling low and he actually got me because I swung at a low pitch,” Huskey said. “In my second at-bat, I was just waiting for something up in the zone that I could do something with.”

“That girl is just a stud,” Quarles said. “If she’s in a zone, there’s not too many people who are going to pitch to her. She hits the ball square a lot of the time and she’s just seasoned. She’s played a lot of high level ball, and especially in situations like this, she’s definitely going to help her team out.”

With two outs in the fifth, senior first baseman Jade Wittman was hit by a pitch and scored on a double to center from sophomore designated player Johanna Rodriguez. Gahr wasn’t done with the hitting as in the next inning, sophomore pinch hitter Sydni Jones smashed a solo home run over the left field fence after seeing just two pitches. Later in the frame, Davis, who was walked following the home run, scored the 10thrun when Hill was safe on an error.

The Bears made it interesting in the top of the seventh when Karly Colenzo singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Arlene Martinez. Brooklyn Araujo would reach on a fielder’s choice with Martinez safe at second on a fielding error. That set the stage for Annmarie Sillas, who hit a three-run shot over the centerfield fence.

That would be the end for Gahr junior pitcher Danielle Martinez, who threw 135 pitches, gave up a season-high 11 hits and struck out half a dozen. Martinez (6-3) was replaced by senior Vanessa Foreman, who needed nine pitches to get two strikeouts and a groundout for her first save of the season.

“The good thing is we scored a couple of runs to give us a little cushion,” Quarles said. “Dani hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks, so I still wanted to see if Dani could come back and battle. She wasn’t on her best game, but she has tenacity and she fights. She’s the kind of girl who wants to get through it and finish the task.”

“I was just hoping we could get out if it,” Huskey said. “That’s why we have a pitching staff. We have two good pitchers that can get it done, not just one. So, we can rely on people to pitch and play defense and score runs.”

The Lady Gladiators, ranked third in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 poll, gave up a season-high nine runs as Warren (11-6, 2-1) also scored five runs in the top of the fifth. That tied for a season high in most runs allowed in one inning. Gahr yielded five runs in the top of the fifth in a 6-5 loss to Laguna Hills High on Mar. 12.

“I knew we had a tough game today because Warren is probably our best competition,” Huskey said. “I knew Dani was going to keep us in the game. So, I just had to have her back and score runs for the team.”

This was Gahr’s first home game in exactly two weeks but had opened league play with routs over Dominguez High (16-2) and Lynwood High (16-1) in which it combined for 38 hits. Gahr is now 18-26-1 against the Bears since 1998, but 10-10 at home. Tapia, Huskey and Hill, the second, third and fourth hitters in the lineup, went a combined six for 11 with seven runs batted in.

The Lady Gladiators visited Paramount High on Apr. 19 and will host Downey High on Tuesday to wrap up the first round of league action. Gahr will also host Dominguez on Thursday. The rematch with Warren, where the league title could be on the line, will be on May 3. Last season at Warren, the Lady Gladiators blasted the Bears 15-3 in what had been the most combined runs scored in the rivalry in over 20 seasons.

“I think it was good for us because we haven’t really been playing good competition because we started off with [Dominguez and Lynwood],” Huskey said of playing Warren. “We just had to be ready to play. It was a good game all throughout.”