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SUBURBAN LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Jones’ home run lifts Cerritos to second straight, and final Suburban League championship

After defeating Mayfair High 5-1 to clinch at least a share of the Suburban League championship last Thursday, the Cerritos High softball team celebrated senior day this past Tuesday with a 5-1 win over Artesia High to win the title outright. This will be the final season Cerritos will be in the Suburban League.


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


LAKEWOOD-Several Cerritos High athletic programs have been doing their best to make lasting impressions in their final seasons as Suburban League members. Now, you can add the 2018 softball team to that list.

The Lady Dons, who had won six league titles since leaving the Mission Valley League, made it seven after taking care of what will now be former league nemesis Mayfair High. Behind a two-run home run from freshman designated player Samiya Jones and another stellar performance in the circle from senior pitcher Jennifer Morinishi, Cerritos clinched at least a share of the title in a 5-1 victory.

Coupled with a 5-1 win over Artesia High this past Monday, the Lady Dons won the championship outright for the fourth time in the past five seasons and sixth as a member of the Suburban League. On top of that, head coach Kim Ensey now has a record of 38-11 in her two seasons at Cerritos, third best of Cerritos coaches in their first two seasons with the Lady Dons.  Sue Garrison went 49-14 in 2000 and 2001 and Mike Freeman went 40-12 in 2014 and 2015.

“It’s a little surreal in this moment because even though you had that expectation and you set those goals in the beginning of the year, until it actually happens, you take it game by game,” Ensey said. “One game at a time, that’s what it takes. If you look too far ahead, then you could stumble and miss some important games. And in our league this year, there hasn’t been any games that we could really take lightly.

“It’s a really good feeling because I know these girls have worked really hard for it,” she continued. “For some of them, it’s their last year and that’s all they wanted; a league championship and the last year in the Suburban League, too.”

Jones put Cerritos up 2-0 in the top of the second inning with a blast over the right center fence which came three pitches after a single from junior shortstop Niki Ibarra. That was all Morinishi, needed as she scattered six hits and struck out seven.

“Samiya wins every home run contest that we have, which is surprising to people” Ensey said. “But she just hits the ball so hard. She has great bat control. She excels on the pitching that we’ve seen so far.”

The Lady Dons made it 3-0 the next inning when sophomore center fielder Essence Gibbs singled to center and Morinishi was safe on an error. That set the stage for senior first baseman Kiarra Crockett-Pope, probably the most feared hitter in the league. The California State University, Northridge signee never got to showcase her talents as a pair of Mayfair pitchers intentionally walked her all four times she came up to bat. Following a two-run first inning home run against Mayfair on Apr. 10, she never got a chance to swing the ball in seven at-bats against Mayfair pitching.

“The first time I got intentionally walked, I didn’t know what was going on because of the new rule,” Crockett-Pope said. “The first couple of times it was really frustrating. But the more it kept happening, it’s just respect, and I have to respect that respect they’re giving me.”

“Well, it’s definitely something we don’t want to happen,” Ensey said of Crockett-Pope getting free passes. “But at this point, we expect it to happen. So, we really work on our entire lineup producing runs. With Kiarra getting very few at-bats…in this entire league I think she has been walked more than she has been pitched to. Having Elise behind her, who has the power, has good average, it doesn’t get to her [of] the pressure of having someone walked in front of her.”

One pitch after walking Crockett-Pope to load the bases, junior left fielder Elise Gibbs plated Essence Gibbs with a sacrifice fly to center. Then in the fourth, her single brought home senior right fielder Kristina Mendez and a fielder’s choice from Morinishi allowed freshman second baseman Lauren Lejano to close out the scoring for the Lady Dons.

“Elise does a really great job of having my back when I get intentionally walked,” Crockett-Pope said. “For a while, she was hitting 1.000 with me getting intentionally walked. So, my teammates have my back every single time.”

After that, Cerritos didn’t get another hit and reached base twice, both on intentional walks to Crockett-Pope. Meanwhile, Morinishi, who will be going to Biola University in the fall, walked Mariah Melendez to lead off the bottom of the fourth. She would advance on a wild pitch and score when Sarah Clausen was safe on an error. Besides the lone run, only one other Monsoon advanced to second base, and that came with two outs in the sixth when Kara Spoolstra and Clausen each singled. Morinishi has pitched in every inning of every league game, allowing 49 hits. It’s numbers like those that are worthy of getting the league’s pitcher of the year award. Last season, she was denied that opportunity as the league coaches picked someone else.

“That’s a hard thing to comment on, but yes, Jenny has pitched phenomenal, recording her first no-hitter [against Norwalk] in her career,” Ensey said. “Also, being undefeated up to this point…she’s putting herself in good contention.”

Crockett-Pope and Morinishi (2015, 2017, and 2018) now join Celeste Borza, Destiny Lucero and Lailoni Mayfield (2014, 2015 and 2017) as the only Cerritos softball players to win three Suburban League crowns. Senior catcher Alyanna Hernandez and Mendez were brought up at the end of the regular season in their freshmen season. The other Suburban League championships came in 1999, 2000 and 2011.

“It’s really exciting,” Crockett-Pope said. “Since freshman year, coach Mike [Freeman] being our [head] coach, he pushed us to another level that we didn’t know that we could reach. And then Kim coming in really changed our attitudes towards everything, and I feel she did a really good job of being the new coach and winning league.

“The seniors will be remembered as league champions as Cerritos’ last time in this league, and I feel like that’s really special for Jenny and I because we’ve been on varsity for four years and we’ve worked our way through the program and only tried to better it,” she later added.

Cerritos ended the regular season at 18-5 overall and 11-1 in the circuit after falling to La Mirada High 4-1this past Wednesday and will begin the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Thursday at home.