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605 LEAGUE BASEBALL – Combined no-hitter allows Cerritos to inch closer to possible league title

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


With two weeks remaining in the regular season, three 605 League opponents had failed to solve the all-around team effort put forth by the Cerritos High baseball team. Then it was Whitney High’s turn and the Wildcats got to see why the Dons are the clear-cut favorites to win the league’s inaugural championship, and in the front end of a home and home series, it was all about the pitching.

A trio of pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter, needing 55 pitches and facing one over the minimum in a five-inning game as Cerritos remained tied for first place in the circuit after blanking the hosts 10-0 this past Tuesday at Cerritos Park East. The Dons, who had won eight straight games before falling to Long Beach Poly High 4-3 in eight innings last Saturday, improved to 16-7 overall and undefeated in seven league contests. They are looking for the school’s first league title since 1996 and ninth overall.

“I thought we had a little more energy,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Brooks Walling. “We dropped one to Poly [last] Saturday that we were upset about. I don’t think we should have; I don’t think the team should have. But we showed up against Whitney and had some fun today.”

Senior Matthew Pinal got the start and worked three innings, throwing 35 pitches and striking out four batters. His only blemish came when junior Rudy Lopez III reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the second inning. But he would be picked off first base shortly afterwards. Freshman Owen Gott worked the fourth, getting the first two outs before hitting senior catcher Michael Campos. Senior Rene Moran needed seven pitches to get through the fifth to complete the no-hitter.

“We’ve been close so many times this year,” Walling said. “I think we have five one-hitters. We still haven’t given up an earned run in league yet. Our pitching carries us; we know that. We have two legit guys on the mound and another freshman in the game today, Owen Gott. I thought he threw well.”

The Wildcats were hoping to pull a rabbit out of their hats and keep their very slim CIF-Southern Section playoff chances alive. What had begun as a promising start to the season at 7-4 has now turned into three straight losses and a 2-5 league mark. Whitney can still get into the playoffs for the first time since 1988, but must win at least two of the final three games of the regular season

“If we kind of went based on record, you could probably come to a conclusion of disappointment,” said Whitney head coach Jason Tani. “That’s not the word I’m going to use. The goal was to get to [the playoffs]; it’s still the goal. I just need one [win] and then we’ll see what happens after that.

“But the truth is, disappointment is not the word I would use,” he continued. “Most high school coaches know when their year is coming, their year to really make a run. Honestly, this wasn’t that year. Next year is our year to make a good run.”

The Dons scored once in the top of the first inning when Whitney junior pitcher Jedi Hernandez walked senior right fielder Matthew Aguinaga, who would come home on a groundout from sophomore third baseman Nick Hill. In the next inning, back to back singles from senior first baseman Bernie DeLeon and Gott allowed junior pitcher Evan Vazquez, who had reached on an error, to score. Cerritos then put the game away with an eight-run top of the third inning. The Dons sent 12 batters to the plate collecting half a dozen hits. In seven league contests, Cerritos has outscored its opposition 72-3 and the pitching staff has yielded 12 hits. In fact, both coaches are in difference as to what is more impressive.

“I run the offense, so I’m going to say the offense,” Walling said. “If you ask our pitching guy, our infield guy, he’s going to say the defense. I think all around we’ve done a pretty good job. It’s hard to get motivated day in and day out. I think this group has done a decent job of doing that.”

“As a former pitcher, Class of ’92 at Cerritos High School, I’m always biased towards the pitching,” Tani said. “If you can give up three runs in an entire [league] season to some really tough schools, and I’ll include Whitney in that group…I’d like to see the record books because that is impressive.”

Pinal went three for four with a pair of runs batted in while DeLeon added a pair of hits and drove in a pair of runs. It’s only the fifth time this season that Cerritos has scored at least 10 runs and the fourth time the pitching staff has not given up a run. The Dons swept Artesia High 19-0 and 20-0 on Mar. 26 and 28 respectively and blanked Pioneer High on Apr. 12. In 10 other games, the Dons have allowed less than four runs. Cerritos hosted Whitney on Apr. 18 and will face San Pedro High on Saturday in one semifinal game of the St. Paul Easter Tournament. The Dons will play for the championship or third place game of the tournament on Monday before ending the regular season with a league title showdown against Oxford Academy on Tuesday and Thursday, the former being at home.

Whitney will end the regular season with a home and home series against John Glenn High, which entered its Apr. 18 contest at Pioneer with a 3-4 league mark. So, the Wildcats still have a glimmer of hope.

“Did I expect a victory [today],” Tani asked. “No. But did I expect a better showing, especially offensively? Yes.”

The game did have an unusual distraction with two outs in the top of the third inning when a lead pipe mysteriously fell in the Cerritos dugout and hit a pair of players on the head. The game was stopped for roughly 30 minutes as the players were attended to by paramedics. One of the players had to be taken off on a stretcher The lead pipe, which was running across the dugout about 10 feet above the ground, was not welded in, screwed in or attached in any way and there was no evidence of foul play by any of the players.