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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE BASEBALL : Gahr’s win over Downey forces a winner-take-all for San Gabriel Valley League title


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


Nobody likes to lose on senior day, especially when a league championship is on the line and the Gahr High baseball team was facing that situation. The Gladiators were hosting Downey High this past Tuesday, a game behind the Vikings for first place in the San Gabriel Valley League.

Head coach Gerardo Perez had seen his team win nine straight games at Tom Bergeron Field. So, he and his team weren’t about to see the Vikings celebrate a league championship on his field. That didn’t happen as the Gladiators scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning, then put the game away with five more in fifth for a 9-4 victory. The win set up a winner-take-all situation on May 10 as both teams entered the final league game of the season at 8-1.

“Both things I wish I could tell you I was a little bit more aware of,” Perez said. “The emphasis with high school is in the minute and the moment and I thought we came out with the right mindset today. Sometimes it’s not easy to have all the distractions of senior day on a big game. It’s almost better off having it in a not so big game so you could really give the undivided attention to the people that have supported the kids for four years.”

Senior center fielder Brandon Shiota got the scoring started when he came home on a double from junior Tyrese Turner in the bottom of the first. But with one out in the third, the hosts got consecutive singles from junior second baseman Xavier Estrada and Shiota and a double from Turner.to make it 2-0.

Senior designated hitter Julian Mungarro then reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Shiota to score and shortly after that, freshman right fielder Matthew Polk’s sacrifice fly plated Turner. For Shiota, he was just glad he could contribute as this was his second game back following a back injury that had sidelined him for the past few weeks.

“Seeing myself in the second spot [in the batting order], I didn’t want to put any pressure,” Shiota said. “I tried to keep it simple and just get on base. Luckily, I was able to sneak one over the third baseman to start it off and score first. That’s what we like to do here-score first, keep the pressure on and add on.”

The Vikings would get on the board in the top of the fifth but the Gladiators, 18-8 overall, iced the game with five runs in the bottom half. Estrada was walked to begin the inning before Shiota laid down a bunt to move him over. But, a throwing error put Shiota at second and two batters later, senior pinch hitter Carlos Perez was walked to load the bases.

Polk then came up with a clutch double to bring in a pair of runs. Junior third baseman Delvan Gomez would strike out for what would have been the second out. But another throwing error allowed him to be safe at third with Mungarro, who was reentered as a pinch runner, and Polk scoring ahead of Polk. A double from junior Jayden Cruz brought in Gomez for the final run. Gahr collected seven hits with Shiota and Turner each going two for three.

“He’s very consistent,” Gerardo Perez said. “You know what you’re going to get from him regardless of who’s playing and who’s pitching whatever the case may be. He does a tremendous job for us.”

“Coming into it, our [assistant] coach Jose Miranda gave us a pep talk, saying this year we have talent, and this could be the year we can do it,” Shiota said. “It definitely got the boys fired up. Coming into it, everyone had energy.”

Gerardo Perez had to slightly alter his batting lineup as his son Michael, the team’s primary shortstop who will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles, was scratched due to a stiff neck. He tried to take infield practice at second base but still couldn’t go. So, the 14-year veteran head coach moved Estrada from the ninth spot to the leadoff spot and put him at second base while moving Turner to shortstop.

“Sometimes this year, we’ve had a ‘kind of know your team’ thing and we do good when we break it up,” he said. “Sometimes kids need to come in in the middle of an inning; shorten the inning, have a little success and then go back out rather than just start the inning from the get go. Instead of getting three outs, sometimes it’s easy to get one out or two outs.”

The Gladiators will also host JSerra High today in a makeup game from the Newport Elks Tournament that was been rainout twice. The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 wild card playoffs will begin on Wednesday with first round action starting on Friday.

“I can’t think the coaches enough,” Shiota said. “They changed me as a person and I’m happy the way I am. I feel like going into college, I’ll be ready for the game. They taught me the life lessons and morals I’m going to need. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back and pass some things on.”