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BASEBALL- Artesia holds off late Los Amigos rally in first game of doubleheader

April 20, 2022

By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter

FOUNTAIN VALLEY-Artesia High head coach Jose Serrano said junior pitcher Brandon Garcia was going to throw 110 pitches against Los Amigos High last Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader. Even when he ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh inning, Garcia was not going to leave the game.

With the tying and winning runs on base, it was a baserunning mistake that ended the game and gave Artesia a 6-5 win, assuring the Pioneers of no worse than a .500 record in the regular season. Artesia would drop the second game, 4-0, and enter Tuesday’s game at Pioneer High with a 12-10 overall record. Garcia finished with 97 pitches and scattered seven hits while striking out five and walking two.

“It was a good game; great pitching from Brandon,” said Serrano. “We’re short-staffed today; we have three guys missing. But the guys stepped up today. I told him he was going seven innings or 110 pitches. I needed him to go all the way, even though he got into trouble.”

Artesia was up 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh when Andrew Roybal singled before being forced out at second when Adrian Ramirez was safe on a fielder’s choice. After Garcia got Juan Gutierrez to flyout to left, he walked Chris Betancourt. Aaron Alarcon was then safe on a fielder’s choice, allowing Ramirez to score and a base hit from Maysen Navarro drove in Betancourt. But on the play, Alarcon was thrown out steps before reaching third base, ending the game.

The Pioneers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the top-ranked team in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 7 when junior second baseman Phineas Shahon and junior third baseman Reggie Steele each singled with two outs. That set the stage for senior shortstop Frankie Medina, who roped a double to center, bringing in Shahon and Steele. Artesia would make it 3-0 in the third inning on a run-scoring single from Medina, who plated junior first baseman Francisco Sandoval.

“I mentioned to the guys right now, this was the first time we scored with two outs in the first inning,” said Serrano. “We always find a way to not score. That right there, for me, was a big accomplishment because we haven’t done that all year.”

After the Lobos tied the game with one in the third and two in the fourth, the Pioneers regained the lead in the fifth. Gutierrez walked freshman right fielder Jose Garcia, who would move to second on an error as Sandoval was safe on a fielder’s choice. Four pitches later, Shahon singled to plate Garcia and on the next pitch, Steele was hit to load the bases. Medina would then ground into a double play as Sandoval came home.

The game-winner would be scored in the last inning when Sandoval laced a double down the left field line. He would be replaced by senior pinch runner Andrew Serrano, who scored on the second of two errors committed by the Lobos. The Pioneers touched up Gutierrez for 13 hits with Steele going three for four and Medina, Shahon and freshman first baseman Victor Sanchez all collecting a pair of hits.

“I think that why I’m glad we’re playing [Los Amigos] now, because as I was telling the kids, this is a team we’re going to play in the playoffs,” said Jose Serrano. “You can’t come in and take them lightly and not be ready to go because they’re a very good team. I hear good things about them, and you see it. It was a good team to beat.”

This season has been what Jose Serrano has been looking for since he took over the program last season. The Pioneers had not had a winning season since going 16-12 in the 2007 season and the 12 wins are the most for Artesia since that season, which was the last time the program advanced to the playoffs. On top of that, the 12 wins are two more than the entire total from the past five seasons. A win on Tuesday at Pioneer or a home win against the Titans on Thursday would officially clinch a postseason berth. Artesia, Oxford Academy and Pioneer could all finish anywhere from second to fourth defending on what happens in the final two weeks of the regular season. Oxford Academy began this past Monday tied with Artesia for second place and has a home and home series with Pioneer, who were sitting with a 1-3 league mark.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the year how it was going to come down to the last week against Pioneer,” said Jose Serrano. “It was either them or us for the third spot. Splitting with Oxford for us was a big comfort. I wasn’t expecting that, especially Oxford being a great team with a good coach.”