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605 LEAGUE SOFTBALL – John Glenn doubles up Artesia in regular-season finale to force play-in game

April 27, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

When John Glenn High visited Artesia High in last season’s regular season finale, third place was on the line as the two had identical 5-4 league marks. They played an epic 12-inning contest that featured 29 combined hits and 16 errors in a 9-8 Artesia win.

While Glenn still advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 playoffs as an at-large team and made it to the quarterfinals, the Eagles found themselves in a similar position this past Tuesday evening in the last game of the regular season. The Pioneers were sitting in second place at 6-3 in the circuit while Glenn was a game behind. To spice things up, Pioneer High had knocked off Oxford Academy and Whitney High earlier in the week to surge into the playoff mix at 6-4.

On Glenn’s senior night, it was one of the three the program was celebrating that helped guide the Eagles to a much-needed 4-2 victory that forced a three-way tie for second place. A coin flip was already conducted with Pioneer claiming second place and Artesia and Glenn having to play again on Apr. 28 to see who gets in as the league’s third place representative. Those three teams split the season series with each other.

“Early on, we thought we had to fight for third place,” said Glenn head coach Larry Leal. “So, we talked to the kids and told them what was going on. If we won, we would have to play again on Thursday. The kids all got together and talked and really motivated each other. They held together at the end. I’m really proud of them.”

“It’s so frustrating because I reflect back to the Cerritos game where one ESPN catch…we could have been co-champs,” said Artesia head coach Ed Blanck. “That’s the way I see it. And with all the things that are going on with my team, all the difficulties that we had to go through…it really hurts to look back.”

He was referring to a highlight reel catch from Cerritos High junior center fielder Camille Lara that snuffed out what would have been the game-winning runs in the bottom of the seventh back on Mar. 24 in a 7-6 setback.

Glenn senior pitcher Gabriela Ortega had one of her best pitching performances of the season, scattering six hits, five of them being singles, to six different players, struck out five, walked one, had two perfect innings and induced five batters to fly out to sophomore center fielder Diana Bravo six times.

Glenn (15-12 overall) quickly gained a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when freshman shortstop Carissa Galvan tripled to the right field gap and came home on a base hit from sophomore catcher Julia Cole. But Artesia (9-12 overall) would tie the game in the top of the third inning when senior left fielder Miriam Estrada reached on an infield single, stole second and scored ween sophomore pitcher Maya Torres reached on an error.

In the bottom half of the frame, and with one out, Galvan and Bravo laid down back to back bunts ahead of a single to center from Cole, making it 3-1. Artesia was looking to get back in the game in the next inning when sophomore catcher Arianna Franco singled. But with one out, sophomore shortstop Irma Gonzalez sharply lined out to Galvan, who then doubled up Franco at first to end the inning.

“I could see that the first baseman wasn’t coming in and the third baseman wasn’t coming in,” said Leal. “So, I knew our top batters [in the lineup] could bunt and get on base, especially Carissa. We just tried to move them over and everything fell in place.”

The Pioneers would get a run back in the fifth inning when freshman center fielder Alea Medina singled and senior second baseman Alexis Duenas doubled with two outs. But after that, the next four outs would be sent Bravo’s way. Meanwhile, the Eagles iced the game in their half of the inning when Torres walked Galvan who would later come home on a wild pitch.

“Diana was outstanding out there in centerfield,” said Leal. “She didn’t let anything get by; she caught everything. Anything that fell in front of her, she went and got it in. My daughter at second base, [sophomore] Janessa [Leal] did really good. Carissa at shortstop…she doesn’t really play there, but she did excellent. [Junior] Beatriz [Galvez] at third…she doesn’t play there, but we put her there today and she did good. And [sophomore] Anais [Perez] at first base…she did great.”

When the teams met on Apr. 5 at Artesia, the Pioneers came away with a 13-0 win as the Eagles committed seven errors. This past Tuesday, Glenn had one miscue and while Artesia did not have any, there were too many mental mistakes that Blanck attributed the loss to. In addition, he was without the services of one of his top hitting starts, sophomore catcher Vanessa Soto.

“Errors, infield errors,” said Blanck. “We couldn’t cover the bunt. That was the big thing. And then, we had some good, solid hits but they went right to their center fielder and shortstop. They made the timely plays.”

A Glenn win in the play-in game would knock the Pioneers out of the playoff chase since they don’t have at least a .500 record and would also be a season-ending three-game losing streak. However, a Glenn loss would be a second straight season of wondering if the Eagles get in as an at-large team. The brackets will be released Saturday morning.

“We just have to continue [on] Thursday what we did today,” said Larry Leal. “Everybody has to stay focused and come to play. This is John Glenn’s first back to back winning seasons and the kids really did that. I just want the best for the kids and I think they’re going to pull it off.”