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GATEWAY LEAGUE SOFTBALL – La Mirada’s loss keeps door open for others as first Gateway League title heats up

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April 10, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Halfway through Gateway League action, one team was undefeated, one was winless and the other three all had a pair of losses. La Mirada High was that team standing all alone in first place, hoping to distance itself from the rest of the pack while eliminating one of those three from league title contention.

However, visiting Warren High had some plans to put those distance plans on hold as it took advantage of some uncharacteristic and unusual plays to get past the Matadores 3-1 last Thursday afternoon at John Glenn High. La Mirada falls to 14-7 overall, 4-1 in league while the Bears avenged an earlier 4-3 loss to the Matadores and improved to 3-2 in league action.

“We didn’t put the hits together,” said La Mirada head coach Brent Tuttle. “It’s tough; we tried to sneak one in there. [Sophomore pitcher Quira Castillo] threw a great game. We made some uncharacteristic plays out there in the outfield, then the weird play where the concussion happened, and we had to switch catchers. But in the end of the day, we didn’t hit.”

La Mirada was without the services of sophomore Amanda Urbina, who was in Oregon on a personal invitation camp. Urbina is regarded as one of the top players in the nation, according to Tuttle. The Matadores also started Castillo in place of sophomore ace Montserrat Reyes-Cardenas, who had just defeated Gahr High the previous day and was sporting a 5-1 record with all decisions coming within La Mirada’s past 10 games.

Castillo had faced the minimum through the first two innings and got a key double play to get out of some danger in the top of the first inning. Offensively, the Matadores had trouble getting timely hits with runners in scoring position stranding nine on base in the game and putting a runner on base in all seven innings. The Matadores would collect just one hit with a runner in scoring position.

Sophomore shortstop Alyssa Avila was hit by a Shelbee Botello pitch to begin the bottom of the second and was sacrificed over by junior left fielder Amber Valdez. The next two hitters would groundout. In the next inning, junior catcher Rebecca Eckart reached second on an error and Botello walked sophomore third baseman Angelyna Conde. Both would move up a base on a sacrifice from sophomore second baseman Angelina Ratzlaff but neither would touch home plate.

Only one runner would get to third and she would score La Mirada’s lone run. In the sixth, Avila reached on an error, went to second on a sacrifice from Valdez and came home on a base hit from freshman designated player Danni Lopez.

Meanwhile, the Bears got on the board in the third inning when Alyssa Bueno doubled, went to third on a sacrifice from Gabriella Padilla and scored on a wild pitch. With two outs in the fifth, Lexi Cortez, the number nine hitter in the lineup, cleared the left field fence with a home run and Warren added the insurance run in the seventh in an unusual way. Bueno reached on an error with the count 1-2 when some thought Bueno had struck out. Padilla then singled to center, but when the ball was misplayed, Bueno went to third and Padilla to second. Cortez then hit a bullet to Conde, who tagged Bueno for the first out, then threw to second to get Cortez out for the second out. While all that was going on Padilla scampered all the way from second to make it 3-1.

“It was a whole weird situation,” said Tuttle. “I honestly thought [Bueno] was out at first, but it’s the umpire’s judgement. So, when we got the out [at third] and [at second], we’re sitting there [thinking] there were three outs. That was our fault and they got that run across.”

La Mirada still had a chance to at least tie the contest in its half of the seventh as Analeigh Herrera, who replaced Botello to begin the sixth, walked Eckart, got Conde to lineout and walked Ratzlaff before striking out senior first baseman Natalie Craig and sophomore pinch hitter Luna Cruz to end the game.

The Matadores collected only four hits, tied for the second fewest in a game all season, but Castillo held her own and danced out of danger in four of the five innings she worked, scattering half a dozen hits, striking out one and walking one.

“They’re top of the lineup is as good as any’s,” said Tuttle. “We got out of some big situations and what’s weird is that their number nine hitter was the one who hit the home run. But we got out of the situations and she did a great job. They deserved to win but we just made some uncharacteristic plays out there and just gave them a little bit more than what we should have given them.”

When the regular season began, the Matadores were ranked 25th out of 27 CIF-Southern Section Division 1 teams based off power rankings and a weighted power point system from the past two seasons. La Mirada has gone 2-2 against Division 1 teams with Norco High on the docket for Apr. 22 and has gone 2-1 against Division 2 teams, including a split against Warren.

“That’s why we play the toughest schedule like we did before,” said Tuttle. “Everybody looks and [says], ‘oh, you have six losses’. Meanwhile, we go out there and we’re playing the top of the top. We scheduled a game with Norco, we’ve already played Los Alamitos. We played the top team from Nevada and the top team from New Mexico. So, we’re ready for games like this.

“It could have been a little bit of a lull from yesterday, too,” he continued. “[We’re] missing our big hitter and we decided not to throw Montserrat to start the game. It was a big layover from yesterday’s win over Gahr.”

Another component that makes La Mirada a force to reckon with for the next few seasons is the youth has this season. Of the 18 players on the team, eight are sophomores, four are juniors and two are freshman. Only Craig is the lone every day senior starter, however, senior pitcher Elisa Castro has a 3-1 record, all coming within the first 11 games of the season. La Mirada, off this week during Spring Break, will next be in action on Tuesday at Gahr before hosting Mayfair High two days later.

“We have a really good young team, and I told them people are seeing who you guys are,” said Tuttle. “They’re looking and we’re playing a team like Downey who has 12 seniors [and Warren] has 10 seniors. If we end up winning this league, and that’s our goal, then everybody is going to be looking at us for a couple of years. But we don’t want to use the excuse we’re young…we want to learn from these and hopefully battle back in a week or two when we come back.”