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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 2 SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS: Cerritos stunned by Edison in late innings, upset in first round

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

When the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 2 softball brackets were released on May 14, there may have been a brief smile on the face of Cerritos High head coach Kim Ensey. On the 12thline of bracket was the opponent the Lady Dons would face in the first round, one that Ensey is very familiar with-Edison High.

Ensey may have been smiling early in the week, but not so much towards the end as the Chargers scored once in each of the final two innings to pull out a 2-1 victory last Thursday. The Suburban League champions finished the season at 18-6.

“Playing the Chargers, it’s not only my alma mater, but where I coached previous to being at Cerritos,” Ensey said. “It’s a great program and I knew it was going to be difficult just knowing the culture that’s there. I knew we had our work cut out for us.”

With Cerritos leading 1-0 entering the top of sixth inning, Bella Martinez singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Katie Volk. With one out, Volk stole second and scored on an error when Gio Liggett singled.

In the next inning, Edison loaded the bases when Grace Caswell singled, Mikalla Pancino reached on an error and Serena Starks singled. After senior pitcher Jennifer Morinishi struck out Shelby Saffell and got Martinez to line out, Nancy Clyne hit a bouncing single into left field to plate Caswell.

“I don’t think anything really went wrong defensively,” Ensey said. “I think they were putting balls in play and making stuff happen, and they were taking advantage of some opportunities that they had. We played pretty solid all game. But the longer the game went, they were just putting more and more balls in play.”

Before those two innings, Morinishi was dodging one jam after another as the Chargers had runners on base in every inning except the second. She struck out Martinez in the third with runners on second and third and she got Bella Espinosa to ground back to her in the fifth with two outs and a runner on third. Morinishi, who will be attending Biola University in the fall, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

“Jenny did absolutely everything she could to keep us in the game,” Ensey said. “She pitched really well. She was very smart about her pitches and she threw a ton of groundball outs back at her and made some great defensive plays as well.”

The Lady Dons jumped out to a quick start in the bottom of the first when Talia Hannappel walked sophomore center fielder Essence Gibbs and Morinishi reached on an error that allowed Gibbs to get to third. Jenna Bloom replaced Hannappel in the circle and despite a pair of wild pitches which sent Gibbs to open the scoring, she proceeded to strikeout the first three batters she faced. After that, Bloom struck out the side in the second and allowed two hits the remainder of the way. With two outs in the third, Morinishi singled just past third base and senior courtesy runner Sydney Arevalo moved to second on a passed ball.

Then with two outs in the sixth, senior first baseman and future California State University, Northridge standout Kiara Crockett-Pope dropped a single into shallow right. But she couldn’t get to second. Bloom faced 23 batters, striking out 14 of them and getting five groundball outs.

“We prepared for both,” Ensey said. “We knew that Jenna Bloom was going to be very difficult; she has tons of movement. Our game plan changed in how we approached our at-bats, but she just threw a phenomenal game.

“I believe that Jenna’s going to be the strongest pitcher that we’ve seen all year,” Ensey later said. “In our league, we have some decent pitchers, but no one at the caliber as Jenna’s ability. It’s somewhat difficult when you go from seeing mid 50s pitching to mid 60s pitching all within one week. But the girls did a good job trying to make adjustments and getting some bunts down and making some stuff happen.”

Cerritos was seeking its fourth 20-win season in the past five seasons. But following a 14-game winning streak, the Lady Dons dropped their final two games of the season. With the graduation of the five players, including its battery and its top hitter, Ensey will have her work cut out for next season as the Lady Dons move into the new 605 League.

“We just talked about the fact that we did reach our goals that we set out this year,” Ensey said. “Our goal was to win a league championship. Our goal was to make it to CIF and compete in CIF and I truly believe we competed in this game.”