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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Cerritos softball answering all the questions, moves closer to another 605 League title

April 20, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Coming out of Spring Break, the Cerritos High softball team was playing back to back games against the top and bottom of the 605 League. This past Tuesday, the Dons hooked up with John Glenn High in a battle of the last two undefeated teams in the league and easily won 14-1. The next day, the Dons trounced an improving Whitney High program that 24 hours earlier won its first league game since 2019.

As the final score showed the defending league champions breezing to a 13-0 victory this past Wednesday, it’s clear to say the Dons are showing that even with the graduation of half a dozen players from a team which went 15-3, they are still the queens of the circuit as they have not lost a league contest since 2019.

“The last two years it’s kind of been on auto pilot,” said Cerritos head coach Todd Denhart. “We graduated eight, 10, 11 kids, some of them pretty darn good. They’re playing college softball right now. There were some question marks; we needed some of those younger kids that have been here for the last two years and played different roles or didn’t play at all…we needed them to step up. Going into the season, I didn’t know if they were going to or not. And we’ve had some kids step up. A couple of freshmen have come in and have been big time contributors. We still have a long way to go.”

A trio of pitchers combined to allow one hit, strikeout nine batters and face four over the minimum while the offense pounded out 13 hits. Cerritos (11-2, 6-0) scored just once in the bottom of the first inning, then exploded for six in the second, four in the third and two more in the fourth. Senior center fielder Camille Lara and sophomore shortstop Katherine Villegas each went two for three with Lara scoring three times while junior third baseman Toafaoalii Pua went three for four and drove in three runs. Even freshman second baseman Ava Ceron had a solid day batting in the ninth spot, collecting a pair of hits, scoring twice and driving in two runs. She also pitched the third and fourth innings, facing seven batters and yielding the lone hit.

“She’s been in the starting lineup since she was a freshman, but it was never really all on her,” said Denhart of Pua. “She was hitting in the bottom of the lineup with no pressure, and she did a good job. This year was her time to step up and she has. The league coaches know who she is; she’s got three intentional walks in the last couple of games and in the last three weeks, has dialed it in and is swinging the bat really well.

Freshman Danielle Baca worked two perfect innings, throwing 23 pitches and striking out five of the six batters she faced before Ceron replaced her. With one out in the fourth, sophomore third baseman Monicka Manni broke up the perfect game with a single to right field.

For Whitney, Stephanie Machado came in as the head coach last season and the Wildcats went 1-14. Slightly better than the 0-13 campaign the previous season. But it has been pleasantly different in 2023 as the team won its first three games, then went 1-6 before knocking off Oxford Academy 9-3 this past Tuesday.

“I think one of the biggest things we’ve been working on is the skill is there, but kind of like with Artesia, one error leads to more errors,” Machado said. “We’ve been working really hard staying in the moment and not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

“Number one, she’s doing a good job over there,” said Denhart. “They were better last year; they’re better this year. She has them going in the right direction.

In a blowout game like the one against Cerritos, Machado said she wanted to get a lot of the girls, who don’t play a lot, more game action. Manni pitched against Oxford Academy, so senior Bianca Contreras started in the circle. Even in the fifth inning, the Wildcats (5-7, 1-6) loaded the bases when sophomore first baseman Chiugo Anyama reached on a walk, stole a pair of bases, Contreras reached on an error and junior second baseman Kristen Sutton was walked.

“I was happy today we had some girls get on base,” said Machado. “Last year, we had a lot of three ups, three downs. I didn’t want to leave them on base, but I was still proud they got on base.

Cerritos faces Whitney again, this time on the road, on Friday before closing out the final week of the regular season with home games against Artesia High on Monday and Oxford Academy on Tuesday. Denhart said he won’t know if or when the second game against Glenn will be played until after the results of Friday’s league action. According to the CIF-Southern Section calendar, the last allowable league contest is Thursday, the same day as the league’s third place tiebreaker contest.

Whitney will host Oxford Academy on Monday before closing the regular season on Tuesday with a home game against Pioneer High.

In other softball action, Artesia was upset by Pioneer 5-3 this past Tuesday, but bounced back to defeat the Titans 801 this past Wednesday, improving to 10-6, 4-3. The Pioneers, who are in third place in the 605 League, will host Oxford Academy on Friday, go to St. Joseph High on Saturday and will conclude the regular season on Tuesday at home against John Glenn.

Glenn (12-1-1, 6-1) will host Pioneer on Friday while Norwalk High all but clinched the Mid-Cities League, with a 13-0 win over Paramount High this past Tuesday, sweeping the Pirates this season and improving to 14-5, 7-0. Norwalk hosted Bellflower High on Apr. 20 and will entertain Dominguez High on Tuesday before going to Lynwood High on Thursday,

Valley Christian High eased past Maranatha High 15-5 this past Monday and improved to 5-3, 3-1 in the Olympic League. The Defenders hosted Whittier Christian on Apr. 20 and will visit the Heralds on Friday before ending the regular season with a home and home series against Heritage Christian on Monday and Wednesday, the latter being at home.

BASEBALL

Artesia dropped a tough 4-3 decision to second place Oxford Academy this past Tuesday to fall to 8-11, 2-3. The two will meet on Friday at Artesia, then the Pioneers will host V.C. on Saturday, go to Glenn on Tuesday and host the Eagles on Thursday.

Cerritos (15-8) was edged by Kennedy High 4-3 last Saturday and will host Fullerton High on Saturday before going to Long Beach Poly on Monday. Then the Dons will face Oxford Academy for the league title on Tuesday and Thursday with the second game at home.

For the first time all season, Gahr High has lost two in a row, as the Gladiators were blanked by Oaks Christian High 3-0 this past Monday and fell to Warren High 3-1 this past Tuesday. Gahr (18-4-1, 7-1 in the Gateway League) went to Bellflower High on Apr. 20 and will visit Hart High on Saturday before facing La Mirada High on Tuesday, Thursday and next Friday which will decide the league title. Tuesday’s game will be at Gahr before the scene shifts to Glenn for the next two games.

Glenn picked up its first league win, a 6-5 conquest at Pioneer this past Tuesday to improve to 5-9, 1-4. The Eagles will host Pioneer on Friday while Norwalk defeated Paramount High 5-1 to move to 17-4, 11-0 in the Mid-Cities League. The Lancers go to Mayfair High on Friday with a chance to win the league. Those two will meet again on Wednesday before the Lancers travel to Lynwood on Thursday.

V.C. lost to Whittier Christian 4-3 this past Tuesday to fall to 5-11, 3-6 as the Defenders will host the Heralds on Friday, go to Heritage Christian on Tuesday, visit St. Anthony High on Wednesday and host Heritage Christian on Thursday.