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BASEBALL: Cerritos Tested by Tougher Competition, Falls to Division Three Foe Millikan

 BY LOREN KOPFF • April 30, 2021

LONG BEACH-If the Cerritos High baseball team wants to go deep in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs this season, it needs to beat teams in the regular season who are in the same division or higher. Entering last Thursday’s baseball game at Millikan High, the Dons were sport-ing a 7-2 record and were ranked eighth in the division while the team they were facing was the fourth-ranked team in the division.

Six of the seven victories came against teams from Divisions 4-6 with the other win was against Division 3 Mary Star of the Sea High, a 6-3 decision on Apr. 6. The Dons still have Long Beach Poly High, the ninth ranked team in Division 2, on the docket later in the season and 11 other games against teams from Divisions 4-7.

Cerritos head coach Brooks Walling called the Millikan game, a 4-1 loss, a measuring stick to see how the Dons can be against tougher competition. Two of the three losses thus far have come against a Division 2 team and Millikan.

“With Pacifica yesterday [and] Millikan today this is a test to see where we’re at,” Walling said. “We’ve had a weak schedule [so far]; we’ve handled everybody and we’re fine. I want to see where we’re at. We showed up. We had one bad inning versus Pacifica. We gave up [nine] sin-gles [against Millikan] and they scored four runs.”

Walling said he wanted to have a tougher non-league schedule. But, because of the COVID-19 situation, a younger team this season and only six returning players from last season’s squad with five of them being seniors, he had to back out of a tournament because he had a week to get ready for the season. Cerritos had practiced for two weeks before the season began and the Dons won all five of their games from a scaled-down Newport Elks Tournament, outscoring those opponents 41-19.

“Our approach this year [is] we’re not worried about rankings, obviously” Walling said. “We’re here to win games and compete against ourselves. We’re not looking ahead; [we’re] trying to play game by game.”

The Dons had a chance to get on the board first with a two-out rally in the top of the first inning. Freshman third baseman Carter Chi and senior shortstop Jared Pugrad each singled, before senior pitcher Edgar Lorenzo grounded into a fielder’s choice. Over the next five innings, Cerri-tos would get three runners on base with two of them stranded at third base.

Meanwhile, the Rams got on the board in the bottom of the second when Sam DeCarlo singled, stole second and came home on a wild pitch. They would put the game away in the next inning, scoring three runs with the highlight being a two-out two-run single from Gabe Ceja. Five pitches later, a single from Anthony Godfrey plated Ceja.

In the top of the sixth, Millikan pitcher Jaden Alba walked junior catcher Owen Gott, who ad-vanced on a pair of wild pitches. But a pop-up and two flyouts ended that scoring chance. The Dons avoided the shutout in the seventh when senior first baseman Matt Rezendes singled with one out and a walk was issued to senior pinch hitter Aaron Deleon. Both would advance on a fielder’s choice from freshman right fielder Johann Gibbs, which would be followed by a base hit from Gott.

“That’s the advantage teams like Millikan have,” Walling said. “These big 5,000 [plus] enrollment schools…they go to a lefty to face our three-hole [pitcher] and we don’t have that opportunity. We’re scrapping and we’re one hit away from tying that game up.”

The Dons, who got four hits against Millikan, began 605 League competition this past Tuesday at Artesia and came away with a 19-0 victory that pushed their record to 8-3. Rezendes threw a no-hitter against the Pioneers and the Dons collected a dozen hits. Cerritos will host Artesia to-day before visiting Paramount High on Monday and Wednesday.