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605 LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Cerritos gets another complete team performance, runs away from Artesia late

March 24, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


Cerritos High had gone two weeks between games when it began 605 League action last Friday at Whitney High. The Dons blasted the Wildcats 22-2 in that contest, then hosted upstart Artesia High this past Tuesday, hoping to keep the momentum going.

Despite playing in its seventh game, Cerritos showed there isn’t much rust as it took care of the Pioneers 11-2, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third inning and four more in the sixth inning

“That’s a good team right there; that’s a good pitcher,” said Cerritos head coach Todd Denhart, pointing to the Artesia dugout. “That’s the best pitcher we’ve seen in three weeks. You can simulate live pitching all you want, but until you actually see it…I thought we had some good hacks there. There was a little bit of a lull swinging the bat in the middle of the game, whether we got comfortable with it or [something else].”

Denhart was referring to Artesia sophomore pitcher Maya Torres, who just came back to action last Friday against Oxford Academy after being absent for a good chunk of the season. Torres injured her index finger on her pitching hand in practice a month and a half ago, according to head coach Ed Blanck. She missed three weeks, then when she came back, she began to feel sick and was gone another week and a half.

Swinging the bats was the one concern Denhart had after the team had not seen live action since Mar. 4 prior to the Whitney game and after collecting 10 hits against the Wildcats, the bats came out in full force against the Pioneers early and often. In the bottom of the first, with senior shortstop Jadyn Nielsen aboard on a walk issued from Torres, junior center fielder Camille Lara laid down a bunt towards third base with the speedy Nielsen taking third. Three pitches later, senior second baseman Katelyn Caneda doubled in both runners before being thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple. Senior first baseman Makayla Sur then doubled, senior pitcher Erin Gibbs was walked and sophomore left fielder Natalie Gardea was hit by a pitch to load the bases before a groundout ended any further damage.

Two more runs came across in the next inning, both with two outs when Caneda tripled in freshman catcher Alianna Calderon and Sur’s base hit plated Caneda. The Dons (6-1 overall, 2-0 in league) made it 7-0 in the third, highlighted by a run-scoring double from Gardea an infield single from sophomore right fielder Kylee Manibusan, a sacrifice fly from Calderon and a double steal from Nielsen and Manibusan, the latter coming home.

“What she was struggling with was with her spins, and all of those rise balls weren’t rise balls,” said Blanck of Torres. “Those were supposed to be curves and she was struggling with her movement.”

Artesia broke through in the fourth inning when Gibbs walked senior second baseman Alexis Duenas, who then scored on an error. The Pioneers made it 7-2 in the sixth inning, but the hosts made sure to put the game on ice in their half of the frame. Singles from sophomore pinch hitter Mia Rafael and Calderon, the latter with the bases loaded, brought in senior courtesy runner Madeleine Morante and sophomore third baseman Toafaoalii Pua. A sacrifice fly from Nielsen and a base hit from Lara completed the scoring.

Every starter reached base, all but one starter had at least one hit and seven starters scored at least once as the Dons pounded out a season-high 15 hits. The second, third and fourth hitters in the lineup-Lara, Caneda and Sur-combined to go seven for 13 with five runs batted in.

“If we’re going to have any success, that’s what it’s going to have to be like,” said Denhart of the offensive performance. “We don’t have two or three kids who are going to carry us. We’re going to have to, no matter who we’re playing, chip away. That seven, eight, nine hitter is going to have to come up big at some point in the game.”

Gibbs, who had not pitched in exactly one month, yielded one hit-a two-out single to Soto in the sixth, struck out seven and walked four. Against Whitney, Gibbs allowed a pair of hits.

“She’s not where she was at this this last year,” said Denhart. “But I saw some good things out of her today. She threw well against Whitney the other day and she came out and threw strikes today. With her, the more she pitches, the sharper she gets.”

Despite the one hit, the Pioneers had runners on base in five innings, but stranded freshman center fielder Alea Medina at second with one out in the first inning, senior left fielder Miriam Estrada at first with one out in the third and sophomore first baseman Allisiah Valenzuela at third after Soto’s hit.

“They didn’t give up when they were up at bat,” said Blanck. “They were struggling, and they laid off the rise ball, which I was really happy with them. I just still need them hitting their pitch.”

The two teams faced each other at Artesia on Mar. 24 and the Dons will be home to Pioneer High on Tuesday while Artesia, which dropped to 4-9, 1-1 entertains Whitney on Tuesday. All four of the Artesia wins, including three in the last six games, have been shutouts.

“Maya would have been awesome if we would have had her,” said Blanck. “But I’m still struggling on my defense, and I have a young defense. They’re all sophomores, so I’m working on them having the positive attitude.”