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BASEBALL – Jeon’s performance wasted by poor defense, untimely hitting as La Mirada falls to Servite

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April 6, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

ANAHEIM-La Mirada High pitcher Eric Jeon was cruising against Servite High to begin last Friday’s non-league game. But that’s nothing new for the senior who had entered the contest with a perfect earned run average over 19 innings of work in five of his team’s first dozen games.

But then the defensive walls caved in, making three errors in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Matadores came up short in a 4-3 loss. Three of the four runs Jeon allowed were unearned and he only allowed two hits in five innings of action.

“I thought he threw good the entire time,” said La Mirada head coach Jimmy Zurn. “We made three errors in one inning. He gave up one hit that kind of hurt us and that was on an 0-2 count with the infield up. He gave up two hits in that inning, but the one that really hurt us was the one on an 0-2 count.

“He’s tough to beat,” he later said. “He hasn’t given up a run all year and he still shouldn’t have given up a run if we can make routine plays. But we have to make routine plays.”

Through the first four innings, Jeon had thrown 45 pitches, struck out six batters, got four batters to groundout, one to fly out and the other to pop up. The only three-ball count he had to any batter was to Tomas Cernius but came back to throw three straight strikes to end the fourth.

However, things would change quickly in the next inning. An error allowed Austin Boatright to become Servite’s first baserunner. Avery Jones would replace him as a pinch runner and stole second, moved to third when Tyler Thorsteinson singled and scored on another error. A fielder’s choice from Luke Wilson put runners at the corner before a two-out base hit from Kyle Buchanan on an 0-2 count made it 3-0. He would score the last run for the Friars on the third error of the inning.

Despite the pitching of Jeon early on, the turning point of the game came in the top of the second inning when a bad call from the umpires cost the Matadores of at least one run. Servite pitcher Miles Scott walked Jeon to begin the inning and two pitches later, gave up a single to sophomore center fielder Travis Friend. After a strikeout, senior third baseman Alejandro Diaz laid down a bunt and a bad throw allowed Jeon to score the game’s first run.

However, the umpires ruled that Diaz ran inside the base line, drawing the ire of Zurn who argued with the umpires for several minutes before the crew got together to discuss the play. In the end, Diaz was out on an interference call, Jeon and Friend had to return to their respective bases and a bases-loaded walk to senior Aidan Haller allowed Jeon to score the only run in the frame.

“That was a bad call,” said Zurn. “The first baseman picked up the ball five to seven feet inside the line on the grass and happened to hit my runner. It would have been a bang-bang play. So obviously as we can see sitting here right now, the first base bag is inside that line. He has to come back inside to touch the base. He said my guy, when the ball hit him, was inside the line and I argued and said that he’s lunging for the base; he’s striding to first base. What more do you want him to do? If we stay in the running lane, we’re not going to touch first base. He said it was a lane violation and it was a turning point.”

La Mirada left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings and stranded 11 runners on base for the game. A strikeout with two outs and Jeon standing at second base in the third inning ended that threat and the bases were loaded with two outs in the fourth before a strikeout ended that opportunity. In the fifth, senior right fielder Benjamin Kim singled and stole second, then two outs later, junior left fielder Tyler Primanto was walked before a fielder’s choice kept it a 1-0 affair.

“We’ve got to do a better job getting runners [home],” said Zurn. “I thought our at-bats were absolutely incredible today. We had a lot of hard hit balls, we took a lot of tough pitches, we got guys on base all day. Those clutch hits will come and hopefully they’ll come when it matters the most come league time and playoff time. But we’ve been doing a good job all year long getting guys on. Now we’ve got to cash them in.”

The Matadores (9-4) chipped away in the last two innings with solo runs. First, a two-out base hit from sophomore first baseman Maverek Russell followed by a double from sophomore shortstop Aiden Aguayo made it 4-2. In the seventh, Jeon led off with a double to the right field gap, went to third on a single from Friend and scored when senior pinch hitter Jonah Rouwenhorst grounded into a double play. Jeon and Friend each had two hits while four other players accounted for the other four hits the Matadores got off four Servite hurlers.

“That’s the makeup of the group of guys we have,” said Zurn. “They’re going to fight to the very end. We say it every time before we take the field, ‘play seven, play hard’. Jonah hit that ball hard and the shortstop happened to be shaded right there. But even in the seventh, we threatened with a couple of base hits in a row, and he smoked that ball up the middle into a double play. I can’t fault that; you can’t direct where the ball goes. All you ask is that you want to hit the ball hard.”

La Mirada, which had two games from the Perfect Game Showdown at Great Park rained out Mar. 10 and 11, plus Gateway League contests with Gahr High and Warren High rescheduled for later this month, still has one more prestigious tournament on the docket-the Boras Classic, which will be played Tuesday through Apr. 14. But before that, the Matadores have a home and home series with Downey High with the second game being played on Apr. 6. On Saturday, they’ll makeup a Feb. 28 rained out game at Warren. La Mirada is currently 3-0 in league action.

“Downey is good; [head coach] Jess Gonzalez does a great job,” said Zurn. “They’re well-coached, they’re going to be scrappy, they’re going to make routine plays. We have to show up with the energy we brought today to have a chance to win. If we don’t, then it will be a dogfight.”