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SOFTBALL: Cerritos Dominates Valley Christian Behind Caneda, Nielsen, and Pua 



Cerritos High sophomore third baseman Toafaoalii Pua is all smiles as she is congratulated by head coach Todd Denhart after hitting her first home run of the season as the Dons routed Valley Christian High 10-1 last Friday. It was her third hit of the season in five games played. The home run was part of a four-run top of the first inning. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


March 7, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


When the Cerritos High softball team is on, there is no stopping the Dons. Or at least that’s what head coach Todd Denhart would like to think as he tries to get the most out of a short non-league season.

Entering last Friday’s contest at Valley Christian High, Cerritos had played in four games, winning three of them by a combined score of 29-1 while the only loss for the Dons was to Gahr High, an 8-1 setback on Feb. 22 The Dons flexed their muscles against the two-win Defenders to the tune of 10 hits for the second straight game and came away with a 10-1 win on a windy and blustery afternoon.

“I think we can throw strikes and play defense pretty well,” said Denhart. “We need to do a better job swinging the bats. I think that’s the biggest drop-off from last year. I knew there was going to be a little drop-off because we lost three of our better hitters last year in the seniors who graduated. But it’s a little steeper than I had imagined.”

Cerritos wasted little time in getting its offense going as senior shortstop and University of Hawai’i-bound Jadyn Nielsen doubled on the game’s first pitch and moved to second when senior second baseman Katelyn Caneda and University of Nebraska commit was hit by a pitch.

Both would steal a base and Nielsen came home on a sacrifice fly from senior first baseman Makayla Sur. Caneda would eventually score on a wild pitch and after junior center fielder Camile Lara reached on the first of four errors, sophomore third baseman Toafaoalii Pua cracked her first home run of the season over the centerfield fence.

The Dons added a pair of runs in the second inning when Nielsen singled, stole second, and came home on an error. Sophomore pitcher Kylie Manibusan was safe on an error and would score on a base hit from Caneda. In the third inning, freshman catcher Alianna Calderon was hit by a pitch and scored on an error while in the next inning, Caneda tripled to the right field gap and came home when Sur grounded to shortstop.

Meanwhile, V.C. was held in check for most of the game and got its lone run in the first when freshman shortstop Britton Brown singled, stole a pair of bases, and came home on a single from sophomore third baseman Bella Bulthuis. The Defenders would load the bases when Manibusan walked senior pitcher Chelsea Azevedo and sophomore first baseman Julie Gonzales but couldn’t get any more out of it.; the rest of the game, the Defenders would get 10 runners on base, but none got to third base.



Cerritos High star senior shortstop Jadyn Nielsen steals her second base in the top of the first inning, getting in just ahead of the tag from Valley Christian High sophomore third baseman Bella Bulthuis in last Friday’s 10-1 win over the host Defenders. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


“They came out knowing that they have a lot of friends on [Cerritos],” said V.C. first-year head coach Chet Kingery. “We tried to talk to them about, ‘hey, it’s war out here and we can be friends after [the game]’. But it just seems they came out more for friends today instead of competing.

“It just showed we can score runs off them,” he later said. “We just put the good part of the bat on the ball and we can score runs. Unfortunately, their pitcher did a good job and kept us off-balanced and we hit a lot of balls at them. They made some good defensive plays and just held us down.”

Nielsen went four for five and scored twice, Caneda had a pair of hits in as many at-bats, scored twice and drove in two runs and Pua went two for three. Manibusan went the first three innings while sophomore Natalie Gardea worked the final four frames of two-hit ball while striking out a pair of batters.

It was the third straight game Denhart started a different pitcher. Senior Erin Gibbs pitched against Gahr and Nielsen got the nod against Portola High on Mar. 1 in which she threw a no-hitter in a 20-0 victory.

“Erin graduates this year; we have to find somebody to fill in the circle next year,” said Denhart of his pitching staff. “Today was the day. We have two sophomores that gave it a shot. They did fairly well. I think they represented themselves pretty well today. And it also gives us a chance to get some of the kids in there swinging the bat.”

Cerritos will be off until Tuesday when it hosts Warren High. After that, the Dons have their 10 605 League games plus meetings with La Mirada High and Mayfair High left on the regular season docket. Meanwhile, it’s a different story for V.C., which is trying to find its grove. The Defenders are now sitting at 2-7-1 as they visited Mayfair this past Tuesday, but Kingery says that record is deceiving. V.C.’s next action will be Thursday at Mira Costa High.

“We’ve been in every game,” said Kingery. “We’ve blown a lot of leads late in games. [Against] Ontario Christian, we were up 5-3 and we blew it in the seventh. There are about five games where if we make simple plays, our record is the other way around.”

Despite the team’s record, one bright spot has been Brown, who is quickly showing she can be a force for the next four seasons. Brown had the lead-off hit and had a pair of three-hit games against Troy High and Westminster High in the team’s first two games of the season on Feb. 12.

“Britt’s awesome; the kid’s a stud,” said Kingery. “Just the confidence I have in her in the box… knowing that she’s going to hit something hard and do something to get on base to start a rally. She has top-notch speed, [her] baserunning is superior and she just swings the bat well.”




Award-winning HMG-CN is a  hyper -local community news and investigative reporting print newspaper in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  Covering Cerritos, Artesia, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Norwalk, La Mirada Lamplighter Community Newspaper, La Palma, Commerce, Downey, Bellflower, Pico Rivera.