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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 1 BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Gahr sets the tone with three-run first inning, doubles up Chaminade in opening round

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


In the Division 1 baseball playoffs of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section, you must always be ready to play and jump on every opportunity that comes your way, especially early in the game. While that may be true in the other divisions, the best that Southern California has to offer reside in Division 1.

Gahr High has been in Division 1 for two seasons and went 10-6 against other Division 1 teams this season. If head coach Gerardo Perez wanted to seal his ninth 20-win season in his 14 seasons with the Gladiators, his team would have needed to beat visiting Chaminade High in a first round playoff game. That’s exactly what the San Gabriel Valley League champions did, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first and holding on for a 6-3 victory last Friday at Tom Bergeron Field.

“We scored three [in the first inning and] the one thing that I feel is when you play our schedule and you play the teams we have, things don’t go right a lot more than when you don’t play those teams,” Perez said. “And you get punched in the mouth, or in the gut. You test your resiliency and if you’re a competitor, which we are, you get back up. And when you get back up, it makes you better.”

With two outs, junior second baseman Tyrese Turner struck out but still made it to first on a wild pitch and advanced on an error. Patrick Collins then walked senior designated hitter Julian Mungarro and after Turner moved to third on another wild pitch, he scored the game’s first run when freshman right fielder Matthew Polk was safe on an error. Four pitches later, senior third baseman Delvan Gomez doubled to left to plate two more runs.

After the Eagles scored twice in the top of the second, the Gladiators added to their lead in the next inning when Collins walked junior catcher Edward Morales, who would eventually come home on a sacrifice from senior center fielder Brandon Shiota. The lead went to 5-2 in the fourth when Shiota reached on an infield single, bringing in senior shortstop Michael Perez, who was safe on Chaminade’s fourth error in four innings.

Gahr scored its final run in the fifth when junior left fielder Xavier Estrada singled with two outs and came home on a double to the left field gap by Michael Perez, who will be showcasing his talents at the University of California, Los Angeles in the fall. The Gladiators, who have had a history of playing small ball, had 17 batters reach in some fashion. Chaminade pitchers walked five, hit one and saw another reach on a wild pitch. Two of Gahr’s hits went for infield singles and two more reached on errors.

“I think we had a chance to execute with either Polk scoring runners or with Delvan moving runners, and ordinarily they do those things,” Gerardo Perez said. “And they didn’t do those things. So, I think we have to make sure that we’re clear that we have to do those things better.”

Meanwhile, Gahr got stellar pitching from junior lefty Jason Dressel and junior righthander Joel Martinez. The former worked into the fifth inning, scattering five hits and striking out one while the latter pitched two innings, yielding two hits and an unearned run. Senior left-handed hurler Darius Garcia got the final two outs of the game and left runners at second and third base.

“We had a game plan going in,” Gerardo Perez said. “This juggernaut of Division 1 playoffs, I think we might need to use both lefties in a game. I’m trying to get through today and also trying to have the conventional wisdom of the future of trying to prepare us for that. I like the combination of having both lefties in one game. It’s really difficult for some people.”

In addition to the pitching and the hitting, Gahr’s defense came up huge several times. In the second, Chaminade’s Shane Fausner grounded into an inning-ending double play with junior first baseman Jayden Cruz throwing out Tyler Olivas at home. In the fourth Jared Stark was picked off by Dressel and the next inning, Morales threw out Roc Riggio trying to steal second.

“Jay also picked a ball out of the dirt and Jay also came and got a bunt and got an out on a bunt,” Gerardo Perez said. “Even though from afar J.J. offensively didn’t have…he’s had better games, I’m very proud of the fact that it didn’t let up his defense and his aggressiveness and his willingness to kind of make up for that.”

The Gladiators would edge Mira Costa High 2-1 this past Tuesday to improve to 21-8 and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 and fourth time since 2005. Gahr will visit third ranked Orange Lutheran High Saturday at Hart Park.