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EL DORADO STEAKHOUSE TOURNAMENT : Gahr loses two-run lead twice, continues rare early season slide in 10-inning loss to El Toro

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


Gerardo Perez has seen a lot in his 15 seasons as the head coach of Gahr High’s baseball team and even though the Gladiators are in unchartered territory, he had a good feeling coming into his team’s game against El Toro High this past Wednesday. Gahr entered the game with one win in nine games and had scored 16 runs but he felt the team was beginning to make some waves.

The Gladiators, playing their third of five games this season in the El Dorado Steakhouse Tournament led the Chargers by two runs on two separate occasions, only to fall 8-6 in 10 innings on a costly error.

“Our emphasis a little bit has been kind of figuring out who we need to be offensively,” Perez said. “We’ve had some offensive struggles. Defensively, we’ve cleaned it up a little bit from the start of the year. I know it wasn’t a perfect game. To play 10 innings at this time of the juncture and for it to be a throw that came up short…defensively I think we’re okay.”

Gahr (1-9) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Owen Huff walked senior third baseman Jayden Cruz, who would later come home on a sacrifice fly from senior left fielder Joey Lopez. After the Chargers scored twice in the top of the second inning, the hosts kept the momentum going with another run in their half of the frame.

Senior designated hitter Matt Estrada was hit by a pitch and would score on a base hit from senior pinch hitter Andrew Householder. In the next inning, sophomore right fielder Matt Kurata was walked and two batters later, sophomore shortstop Matthew Polk doubled down the left field line. Before the next pitch was thrown to Estrada, a pickoff attempt to get Kurata straying off third went bad, allowing him to score and move Polk to third. From there, a sacrifice fly made it 4-2 and at that time, Gahr had already scored the most runs in any game.

El Toro would tie the game in the next inning, only to see the Gladiators regain their two-run advantage. With one out, freshman center fielder Ethan Kang reached on an error and Cruz singled. Moments later, both would score on two more errors. After a scoreless fifth inning, the Chargers tied the game in the sixth on a big two-out single from Deangelo Yepez. After that, El Toro’s pitching staff of seven for the game shut down Gahr’s offense, allowing just two hits over the final five innings and getting out of a pair of jams.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Kurata was hit by a pitch for the second straight time and stole second. Lopez would then reach on an error, but in the process, Kurata was thrown out at home. Two innings later and with two outs, Cruz tripled down the right field line but Shayne Simpson, the sixth pitcher who took the bump in the bottom of the sixth inning, struck out Kurata to end the threat. Gahr would get a runner on in each of the last two innings but neither advanced to second.

Cruz went two for five while four other players picked up the other hits. Sophomore JaMore Ward pitched into the fourth inning, followed by senior Jason Dressel, who worked two and two-third’s innings.

“JaMore Ward, as a sophomore, has been toeing the rubber for us once a week and has done a pretty good job,” Perez said. “Today, he wasn’t at his best for whatever reason. I thought Dressel was effective a little bit. There was a big two-out RBI to right off Jason’s third inning that got them two runs. I thought that was a pretty big hit, where we had the lead 6-4.”

Gahr’s 1-9 start through the first 10 games is the worst Perez has been a part of during his time here. Two seasons ago, the Gladiators began 2-8 but bounced back to win the San Gabriel Valley League and finish at 15-15. Before that, the last time Gahr had a losing mark through the first 10 games was in 2008 (4-6). The nine losses already matches the 2018 total and Perez has never lost more than 16 games in any season.

“So, there’s a chance; there’s hope,” Perez joked about the slow start. “It took a while to figure it out. We don’t have overpowering pitching; we pitch to contact. In 10 games, that’s 70 innings. We only have about 35 strikeouts, I believe, or 40 strikeouts as a staff. So, our defense has to be at its best, and it’s gotten better.

“Offensively, we don’t have a whole lot of power,” he continued. “We’re station to station. We don’t have a whole lot of physicality, and the teams we face are all pretty physical. We’re going to have to play a pretty good game on a competitive level and I think we’ll get better as the season goes along. I’m looking for the growth; I’m not caught up in wins, championships…I’m caught up in the kids every single day and trying to get the most out of them and trying to prepare them.”

Gahr will host Tesoro High on Saturday in another El Dorado Steakhouse Tournament game before entertaining Hart High on Monday. The league opener will be on Tuesday when Paramount High pays a visit to Tom Bergeron Field.