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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 1 BASEBALL QUARTERFINALS : Gahr can’t find that Winn-ing formula against Orange Lutheran, blanked for first time this season

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


ORANGE-There was just too much Cole Winn for the Gahr High baseball team to handle in last Saturday night’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals. Winn, who was awarded the Gatorade state player of the year earlier this week and is expected to be a first-round draft pick in next month’s Major League Baseball amateur draft, completely dominated the Gladiators with his arm and his bat.

Winn, who has given up just two earned runs all season long and has a microscopic earned run average of 0.23, scattered four hits over five innings, struck out a dozen batters and went two for three with two runs batted in as the Lancers blanked Gahr 4-0 in front of standing room only crowd at Hart Park. In one stretch, Winn retired nine in a row with eight of them being strikeouts.

“He might be the best I’ve seen in high school, period,” said Gahr head coach Gerardo Perez, who just wrapped up his 14thseason at Gahr. “He [throws] 94, 95, he’s a first-rounder as predicted to go. He’s a competitor, and he does a good job of holding runners on. He throws multiple pitches for strikes.

“I knew we didn’t have a whole lot of room for error,” he continued. “I thought our kids really battled and were prepared as good as they can for a bunch of mighty mites. I’m very proud of the program and where it is now. The senior class won four league championships and 10 or 11 guys now are moving on to four-year schools.”

On Winn’s fourth pitch of the game, senior shortstop and University of California, Los Angeles commit Michael Perez singled. But Winn would pick him off first, which would prove to be a crucial point that early in the game. With one out, junior second baseman Tyrese Turner, who has verballed to California State University, Northridge, singled to center and stole second. Then Winn walked senior right fielder Brandon Shiota (University of La Verne) before striking out freshman center fielder Matthew Polk.

In the next inning, the Gladiators kept putting more pressure on Winn, as he would throw 30 pitches in the inning to raise his pitch count to 49. Senior third baseman Delvan Gomez, who will be attending San Jose State University in the fall, singled to right and advanced when Winn walked junior designated hitter Andrew Householder with two outs. But Michael Perez became strikeout victim number five to end that threat.

The only other Gladiator who would reach base in the game came in the fifth when Michael Perez singled with two outs. Winn departed after the inning having thrown 102 pitches and at least five pitches to 12 of the 20 batters he faced. Christian Rodriguez worked two innings of flawless ball, striking out five and getting a groundout on a total of 29 pitches.

“Hat’s off, I thought we were ready,” Gerardo Perez said. “We didn’t have a lot of room for error. They have power guys on the mound and we have guys who pitch to contact. It’s difficult; it’s not easy. If we had just a little bit more, another year…I’d like to see how we would do with more guys a year older.”

Meanwhile, junior Jason Dressel was doing his part to keep the game close, facing two over the minimum through the first three innings. In the bottom of the fourth with one out, Caleb Ricketts singled to left and came home on a double from Winn. In the next inning, Gahr used five pitches as the third-ranked Lancers scored three runs on two hits, but had three other batters get walked. Dressel, followed by junior Joel Martinez, seniors Julian Sotelo (Fresno State University), Darius Garcia (University of California, Irvine) and Anthony Diaz, combined to yield five hits but walk seven and strike out a pair of Lancers.

“I thought he did well,” Gerardo Perez said of Dressel. “I’m very proud of him. I just thought he hit a wall a little bit and we had to go to the bullpen.”

Gahr, which was unranked and was not shutout until last Saturday night, ends the season at 22-9. The Gladiators reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 and the program was seeking to get back to the semifinals for the first time since 2012. This was the ninth time that Gerardo Perez has ended a season with at least 20 victories.

“Their coach mentioned that he was very proud of our guys,” Gerardo Perez said. “We were the toughest team that [Winn] had faced this year. I appreciate that and all that stuff. I’m very grateful and I’m very appreciative and thankful I’ve had an opportunity to coach this great group of kids.”