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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Norwalk continues torrid streak as potential Mid-Cities League title looms ahead

April 6, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

If last season was a breakout season for the Norwalk High baseball team, then the Lancers are putting on a superb encore for this season. A trio of pitchers combined on a one-hitter against Lynwood High and Norwalk posted its sixth shutout, five coming in league action, as it blanked the Knights 10-0 this past Wednesday.

“The team right after we came out of Covid, we missed the playoffs by one game,” said Norwalk head coach William Wenrick. “These guys…last year making the [CIF-Southern Section playoffs] and now, with all the seniors, it’s the best season I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The Lancers went 4-19 in 2019, then split eight games in the Covid-shortened season. In 2021, Norwalk went 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the Suburban League before ending a seven-season playoff drought by going 14-13 last season.

But look at what the team has done this season. Since falling to El Rancho High 4-3 in eight innings on Feb. 17, the Lancers have now won 12 in a row with nine coming in league play. Norwalk needs two more victories to match the total the 1999 and 2005 teams had. And there are still six more league games plus three in the St. Paul Tournament left in the regular season. For added measure, the Lancers are ranked seventh in the Division 6 poll.

Senior pitcher Kaleb Nakano got the start and worked the first three innings, facing 10 batters, throwing 32 pitches, striking out four and walking one. Senior Gabriel Cancino worked the fourth and needed 11 pitches while senior Angel Rudy Gonzalez worked a perfect fifth and sixth innings, striking out three and throwing 16 pitches.

Offensively, senior center fielder Randy Martinez and junior first baseman Joseph Davis each had a pair of hits with Martinez collecting two doubles while Cancino touched home plate three times. Eight of the nine starters had at least a hit.

“Like today’s game, early in the game, they made a few mishaps, and we were able to score some runs, and I liked the way we finished the game,” said Wenrick. “We were hitting the ball hard; hit a couple of ground rule doubles and we got a home run from Gabriel. So, the last five runs we scored, I was proud of the team there.”

In the nine league games, the Lancers (14-2, 9-0) have outscored their opponents 102-7 and have yielded 27 hits. Even outside of league, Norwalk has quality wins over California High and La Salle High, both in Division 3 and Mayfair High, a Division 4 opponent which figures to battle Norwalk for the league title. It’s two losses have been to California and El Rancho, another Division 4 team. But Wenrick is not going to make excuses for the new league, which has presented the program a golden opportunity to win a league title for the first time in over 26 seasons.

“These guys take it upon themselves,” said Wenrick. “They get motivated for games like that. They’re a mature team and they can kind of see what is out there and what they need to do to win. They really get up for the games.

“Our pitching is the strength,” he later said. “We knew going in our pitching was the strength. During practices in the winter, we did a lot of inter-squads, having our guys face our guys because we knew our pitching was going to be that good, and I think that helped.”

The Lancers, who have 10 seniors out of a team of 15 will host Firebaugh High on Friday before facing San Pedro High on Saturday and Leuzinger High on Monday in pool play action. The final game of the tournament is slated for Wednesday before the team is off until Apr. 17. Not to look too far ahead, but the games to circle on the calendar will be Apr. 21 and 26 when Norwalk visits Mayfair.

“I’ve never won a league title and it would be nice to make a run in the playoffs, especially with these guys,” said Wenrick. “It’s a special team for me because I’ve built relationships with these kids and it’s been a nice year so far.”

In other baseball action, Artesia High, ranked 10th in Division 7, began a home and home series with Pioneer High this past Wednesday with the second game today on the road. The Pioneers (4-8, 0-2 in the 605 League) will also host Costa Mesa High on Saturday before visiting Kennedy High on Tuesday, Estancia High on Wednesday and Godinez High on Thursday.

Gahr High, the top-ranked team in Division 2, began the week with a 7-6, nine-inning win over Aliso Niguel High this past Monday and a 6-0 victory over Laguna Beach High the next day in the Ryan Lemmon Tournament. The Gladiators (13-2-1, 4-0 in the Gateway League) wrapped up the tournament this past Wednesday and will get back to league play on Monday with a road game at Downey High before hosting Warren High on Tuesday and going to Warren on Thursday.

Valley Christian High has dropped three straight Olympic League games plus a 2-1 non-league contest to Bishop Montgomery High this past Wednesday to see its record fall to 5-9, 3-4. The Defenders wrapped up their home and home series with Village Christian on Apr. 6 and will host Torrance High on Thursday.

SOFTBALL

Artesia went to 8-4 overall and 2-1 in league after slamming Oxford Academy 16-1 this past Monday before falling to John Glenn High 2-1 this past Tuesday. The Pioneers went to Whitney High on Apr. 6 in their last action until Apr. 18.

Cerritos High defeated Pioneer 9-1 this past Monday and Oxford Academy 14-0 the next day to move to 8-2, 3-0. The Dons visited Pioneer on Apr. 6 and will be off until Apr. 18.

Gahr fell to La Mirada High 7-1 this past Wednesday to drop to 9-8-1, 2-2 in the Gateway League as the Gladiators will visit Mayfair on Apr. 6 while Glenn, ranked sixth in Division 6, improved to 9-0-1, 4-0 as it visited Oxford Academy on Apr. 6 ahead of its home game against Bell Gardens High on Tuesday. The Eagles will then visit Pioneer on Thursday.

A 5-1 win at Downey this past Tuesday and the win over Gahr sent La Mirada to 14-6, 4-0 as the Matadores hosted Warren on Apr. 6.

Norwalk got past Paramount High 7-5 this past Monday and blanked Lynwood 15-0 the next day to move its mark to 10-5 overall, 5-0 in the Mid-Cities League. The Lancers went to Firebaugh on Apr. 6 and will entertain Legacy High on Monday.

Valley Christian got by Village Christian 5-4 this past Tuesday to improve to 4-2, 2-0 as it wrapped up its season series with the Crusaders on Apr. 6 while Whitney lost for the fourth straight time after a 13-0 defeat to Pioneer, falling to 4-5, 0-4.