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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Artesia baseball rallies late, then holds off Gabrielino for long-awaited playoff victory

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

May 4, 2022~For a program that has been absent from the CIF-Southern Section playoffs since 2007, the Artesia High baseball team made a dramatic entrance in a 2022 Division 7 wild card game. The Pioneers hosted Gabrielino High this past Wednesday and the two were scoreless through four innings before the Eagles broke the tie in the top of the fifth.

Then the Artesia bats woke up and tacked on six runs in the bottom the sixth before seeing Gabrielino score twice in the seventh. But junior pitcher Richard Saad picked off Julian Sandoval at first to end the game and preserve the 6-3 win. The Pioneers, who had to defeat Pioneer High last Friday to decide third place in the 605 League, improved to 14-11 and will travel to United Christian Academy today for a first round game.

“Great game,” exhaled Artesia head coach Jose Serrano. “Once again, the kids didn’t quit, and they kept going. It’s just being positive; having a good attitude and not giving up. I think that’s what I’m trying to change in the program.”

Senior designated hitter Frankie Medina led off the bottom of the sixth with a double to the left field fence and tied the game when freshman pinch hitter Victor Sanchez followed with a single to right. Jalen Sandoval then walked freshman catcher Daniel Carbajal and gave up an infield single to junior center fielder Joshua Peck to load the bases.

Serrano went to his bench again and called on freshman pinch hitter Alex Escobar, who responded with a single to left to plate senior pinch runner Andrew Serrano. Two batters later, senior shortstop Juan Munoz reached on a fielder’s choice with Carbajal coming home. That was followed by a two-run single from junior second baseman Phineas Shahon. After junior third baseman Reggie Steele was hit by a pitch to load the bases again, a base hit from Medina scored Munoz to complete the furious rally.

The Pioneers put constant pressure on Gabrielino starter Elias Diosdado during his five innings of work as he walked six and gave up a pair of hits. Artesia had at least two runners on base in the first four innings but left seven on base through five innings.

“By the second inning, I realized how deep [in the pitch count] he was getting,” said Jose Serrano. “We had to be patient. One thing that we have been working on, and I got this from a great player who played here, Cole Garner, and he was right. You want to get your pitches and make sure you swing at good pitches. In the past couple of weeks, we have been doing that.”

But even a 6-1 going into the seventh inning wasn’t a sure thing. Junior Brandon Garcia, who had thrown 75 pitches up to this point, loaded the bases with the first three batters. That’s when Saad came into the game and after yielding a first-pitch, two-run single to Sandoval, got Eloy Zarate to fly out to left for the second out.

“This kid threw 87 pitches in one inning last year to throwing 87 pitches in a complete game this year,” said Jose Serrano of his starting pitcher. “I think that’s where it has changed so much. He’s been throwing so well, strikes after strikes, pounding the strike zone. I think that’s where this year he’s been improving a lot.”

The Pioneers also got some stellar defensive plays as freshman right fielder Jose Garcia made a running catch to end the third inning. Peck tumbled to thwart Nash Castillo of a base hit with one on and two out in the fourth inning and again in the sixth, made a diving catch to prevent Jordan Garcia of a possible two-run base hit.

“That’s something that me, as a player…I was more of a defensive guy, and now as a head coach, I understand how this game works,” said Jose Serrano. “Defense wins championships; we know that, of course. But that’s what I tried to change this year and concentrate on the defense more than anything because that’s what we’ve been lacking.”

The 14 wins are the most by any Artesia team since 2007 when that team went 16-12 and lost in the second round after three straight road playoff games. The Pioneers had won a combined 15 games from 2016-2021. The winner of today’s game will face the winner of the Santa Clara High/Wiseburn DaVinci High game on Tuesday.

In other playoff baseball action, Cerritos High, champions of the 605 League for the third straight season, and ranked ninth in Division 3, hosts Riverside Poly High today in a first round game. The Dons, who have won all 26 605 League games since coming from the Suburban League, went 22-5 in the regular season, the most victories the program has had in at least 25 seasons and just the second time in three full seasons the Dons have reached at least 20 victories. Poly finished in third place in the Ivy League and has an overall mark of 11-13. The winner will face either Cajon High or Summit High on Tuesday.

SOFTBALL (all first round games played on May 5)

DIVISION 1

Gahr High (20-8), champions of the San Gabriel Valley League for the first time since 2019, hosted 10th ranked Westlake High (20-5), the second place representative from the Marmonte League. The Gladiators went 9-1 in league action and outscored SGVL opponents 132-17 with three shutouts. It’s the sixth time since 2015 the Gahr program has won at least 20 games. The winner will face either Huntington Beach High or La Serna High on Tuesday.

La Mirada High (21-6), which won the Suburban League with nine runs given up in eight contests, was home to Olympic League champion Whittier Christian High (18-7) in a battle of unranked teams. The Matadores have posted five shutouts and have given up one run in 10 other games. The winner will face either Roosevelt High or Upland High on Tuesday. Gahr and La Mirada could meet in the semifinals if they get that far.

DIVISION 3

Unranked Cerritos (15-2) and winners of the 605 League hosted sixth ranked Heritage High (20-4), which came in second place in the Ivy League. The Dons allowed 28 runs this season with seven shutouts with their losses coming to Gahr (8-1) on Feb. 22 and a forfeit loss to La Mirada on Apr. 7. The winner will face either Culver City High or Western Christian High on Tuesday.

DIVISION 5

Artesia (10-12) outslugged John Glenn High last Thursday 13-8 to win the 605 League third place play-in game and drew Orange Coast League champion Calvary Chapel Santa Ana (16-8) on the road. The Pioneers are in the playoffs for the fourth time since 2017 and won at least 10 games for the fourth time in that span. The winner will face either Banning High or fifth ranked San Jacinto High on Tuesday.

Norwalk High (18-7), which tied Mayfair High for second place in the Suburban League and is ranked seventh, hosted Providence High (17-5-1), the second place team from the Prep League. The Lancers ended the regular season with three straight shutouts and began the season winning 11 of their first 14 games. The winner will face either Montclair High, ranked 10th, or Victor Valley High on Tuesday.

BOYS TENNIS

A pair of area teams won their first round matches this past Wednesday as Cerritos, the top-ranked team in Division 4 defeated Thatcher High 12-6. The Dons (12-8), who finished in second place in the 605 League, will travel to San Dimas High today.

In Division 3 action, Whitney High (12-6) knocked off La Serna High 11-7 and will host fourth-ranked St. Margaret’s High today.

Valley Christian High fell to sixth-ranked Westminster High 12-6 this past Wednesday in a Division 5 first round match to see its season end at 9-7.

 

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