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SOFTBALL : Gahr’s depth does it again as Lady Gladiators flex their muscles again, slams Cerritos



By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


A rivalry that has been interrupted several times over the past two decades was renewed last Thursday when Gahr High hosted Cerritos High. The two programs, which have had some of the best softball players in this immediate area, had not played from 2007-2013, then did not face each other the past two seasons.

But the Lady Gladiators were game for anything, even their city rivals, and they busted out the bats in a 13-3 victory that was stopped with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was the third straight win over Cerritos after the Lady Dons had swept a doubleheader against Gahr in 2014, then split a pair of games the next season.

On this day, the power of three continued as Gahr scored three times in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. In addition, Gahr collected 17 hits, just two days after a 16-hit attack against Bishop Amat High in the season opener.

“I haven’t coached this bunch and I haven’t seen them much,” said Gahr first-year head coach Rey Sanchez. “And I knew we could hit. I didn’t think we had a chance to be this explosive this early on because we haven’t played, and we haven’t seen live pitching. When you don’t see live pitching for a while because of the rains and all that, usually you kind of lose it. But there are some girls who are swinging it pretty aggressively right now.”

Gahr grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when senior third baseman Jazmine Hill reached on a fielder’s choice and came home on a two-out error. The next inning began with four straight hits off freshman pitcher Erin Gibbs, three of them not leaving the infield. In the third, Gahr collected four more hits including the second of the game for senior catcher Shasiel Fregoso and senior first baseman Johanna Rodriguez. Fregoso would go three for three after a two for two performance against Bishop Amat. The inning would also see the first of three straight hits for sophomore shortstop Taylor Stephens, who scored three runs and drove in four runs. She had a two-run double in the fourth and a two-out, two-run triple in the fifth. Two pitches after the triple, junior designated player Malia Luna (three for four, two RBI) ended the game with a single.

“Shas is definitely a pleasant surprise,” Sanchez said. “She’s waited patiently for her time and I gave her a start behind the plate. That’s a relatively new position for her, too. The [former Gahr] coaches told me she could always hit. But Taylor also on the same token, I think she has a ton of RBI’s.”

Seven starters collected at least one hit while in the circle, sophomore Ashley Benavides scattered four hits and gave up a run in the third and two more in the fourth. For Cerritos, which dropped to 1-4 after the game, five different players all had a hit. Junior first baseman Elise Gibbs, senior second baseman Niki Ibarra and freshman catcher Natalya Mendiola had successive hits in the fourth leading to their two runs. And despite the blowout, Sanchez was very impressed with Erin Gibbs and freshman Jadyn Nielsen, who replaced the starter in the bottom of the fourth.

“I really like both of their pitchers,” Sanchez said. “They’re youngsters, but I really like both. Anytime you throw a lefty on the mound, they’re different. They’re ball spins a little different, freaks out most hitters, most righties don’t like hitting off lefties. It presents a different dimension in a different angle that girls aren’t used to.

“I love the grit in that second pitcher,” Perez continued. “She plays hard and she just gets after it. The perfect word to describe her is gritty. I love that. You can tell she has an instinct for the game. I have a feeling they’re going to be pretty good on the bump for years to come.”

Cerritos would smash St. Joseph High 17-6 this past Tuesday and is not scheduled to play until Wednesday when it faces off with San Pedro High in the first game of the Torrance National Tournament. Gahr was scheduled to host La Habra High on Mar. 7 and will also be in the Torrance National Tournament where it will open with Bryan (TX) High. As for the future of the Cerritos/Gahr rivalry, at least one coach is a big proponent of it.

“There is no doubt we should keep Cerritos on the schedule,” Sanchez said. “I’m a big believer in rivalries. I love it; I think it brings on school spirit for both ends. I played [baseball] at Gahr and I remember when we played Cerritos, it was all about we were going to take them down as hard as we could.”