_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


CIF-SS Div. 1 SOFTBALL SEMIFINALS-Gahr’s run through Division 1 playoffs ends with shutout loss to Roosevelt


Gahr High junior third baseman Hayley Olivas receives a throw from sophomore catcher Larissa Flores in the top of the first inning and throws to senior second baseman Mika Huskey………



…who tags out courtesy runner Emily Garcia at second base for the second out of last Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 semifinal game against Roosevelt High. Gahr was blanked by the Mustangs 3-0 as it was limited to four hits. PHOTOS BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.


By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Several things were going in favor of Gahr High’s softball team entering last Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 semifinal game against visiting Roosevelt High. The Gladiators were riding the high emotions of a trio of big innings in each of their three playoff games, had scored seven runs in each of those playoff games, had been shutout only once this season and had won 14 of their last 16 games.

But on a hot early mid-May afternoon, Gahr would run into a buzzsaw named Priscilla Llamas, who scattered four hits and struck out three, and any chances of the program’s first divisional championship were wiped out in a 3-0 loss. Gahr also stranded five runners on bases and only one of them would reach third base.

“It obviously hurts,” said Gahr head coach Rey Sanchez. “These girls…they bought in to what we do, and they bought into the system; of Gahr softball, and they went hard every day. When you put everything you’ve got into it every day, it’s hard when the end of the season happens. I told the girls going into this, our goals are always to win league and to win the last game of the season.”

Early on, it looked as if the game would be a low-scoring game decided by a run. Gahr junior pitcher Jordan Cathey had faced the minimum through the first two innings, yielding just a leadoff walk to Llamas to begin the game. But courtesy runner Emily Garcia would be caught stealing. Two innings later, Jordan Elias was safe on an error but would be stranded at third.

Meanwhile, Llamas walked senior first baseman Amanda Ta’amu to begin the bottom of the second before a double play erased that chance.

The Mustangs, who won the Big VIII League and had lost three games, got on the board in the fourth inning when Kayla Lyon struck out but reached on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch put her at second and she came home when Ashlee Annett singled and moved up on an error. Roosevelt iced the game in the seventh when Emily Carr singled with one out and Cheyenne Castillo, pinch-hitting in the No. 9 spot, homered on a 2-0 count.

“I’m kicking myself a little bit because in both situations when they scored runs, we were in a ‘walk them’ situation,” said Sanchez. “We had a base open and they got us. Their first run…we were trying to stay away from the girl, and we had a base open and we didn’t execute a pitch. Sometimes it comes down a pitch, or two, and that’s what it came down to in this game.”

Even though they were down 1-0, the fourth time the Gladiators had trailed within the first four innings in the playoffs, they refused to go down without a fight. In the bottom of the fourth, senior second baseman Mika Huskey beat out an infield single before being erased on a double play. Ta’amu then doubled but the inning ended when sophomore designated player Marley Cortez, who replaced Cathey in the circle in the top half of the inning, was half a step out at first on a bang-bang play. Sanchez, and others, initially thought Cortez was safe and when the out was called, he immediately jumped up from his position at the third base box and had some words with the umpires. But evidence from the photographers up the first base line showed she was out.

“Anytime you’re in a game like this and it’s a tight game…blues pay a part,” said Sanchez. “But it’s part of the game; it is part of the game. He’s umpiring for both teams and sometimes when you’re in a game, you think they’re favoring their more than ours. We view our game with our hearts a lot and so it’s easy [to complain]. Initially, I had Marley safe. But my girls and myself and my coaching staff are going after it 100 percent. That’s the only way to do it.”

Llamas walked sophomore center fielder Natalia Hill to begin the fifth. A one-out single from junior right fielder Sophia Magcale and a fielder’s choice from sophomore shortstop Rio Mendez moved Hill to third where she was stranded. In the sixth, a deep fly ball from Ta’amu with two outs was caught just in front of the right field fence and in the last inning, a two-out double from junior left fielder Hailey Sanchez was all Gahr would get. The Gladiators would have eight baserunners off Llamas.

“We talk about one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time,” said Rey Sanchez. “You put your heart and soul into that pitch. You put your heart and soul into that inning, and you try to win that inning. In games like this when you’re playing top opponents; great teams, it comes down often times to a pitch or two, and that’s what this game came down to.

“We had our chances; we definitely had our chances,” he continued. “Not just those two opportunities, but we had some opportunities to knock girls in. Our girls, as they have all year have come through. But it didn’t work out. It’s okay; that’s the game. We’re playing such a tough game and you’re facing such a tough pitcher and a tough team. I’m proud of the girls.”

Rey Sanchez went on to say that the two San Gabriel Valley League games against Warren High prepared the Gladiators for the playoffs and because of that, he gives a lot of credit to Warren.

Gahr (23-9) began the playoffs with a 7-3 win over Westlake High with all seven runs coming in the bottom of the fifth. Against La Serna High, the Gladiators scored three times in the top of the fifth and twice in the eighth and two days before the semifinals, scored four runs in the top of the seventh for a 7-3 win

“I’m proud of them,” he continued. “They gave it a great run; beat three solid teams. Westlake is a good team. La Serna is another great team. Obviously, Orange Lutheran is one of the top teams.”

There is still a slight chance Gahr’s season may not be over as the Gladiators could garner a spot in the CIF Southern California Regionals, which begin on May 31. There will be 20 entries from the Southern Section and considering there are seven divisions, some of the semifinal losers could see their seasons extended.

“I would love that opportunity,” said Rey Sanchez. “A lot of it hinges on girls going to [their] travel ball [teams]. There are some [travel] coaches out there that want their girls to do travel. I would love the opportunity, right? Because I think we were right there in this game and in every game we’ve played. It could happen. I’m hopeful; I’m going to prepare my girls for that.”