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605 LEAGUE BASEBALL – Burton’s masterpiece gives Cerritos a share of 605 League crown

Cerritos high school logo, don

April 2, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

One streak ended on Apr. 25, but Cerritos High senior pitcher Dylan Burton made sure another one continued as the Dons hosted Oxford Academy last Thursday in the regular season finale. In just his second league start of the season, Burton put together a gem, striking out six, allowing two hits and two walks and falling one out short of a complete game as Cerritos blanked the Patriots 6-0, giving the hosts a share of the league crown with Oxford Academy.

Since the inception of the league, which kicked off the 2018-2019 school year, the Dons had won 34 straight games without a blemish in league action. Then came a 6-4 loss to the Patriots on Apr. 25 in which the Dons had leads of 3-0 and 4-1 before surrendering four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. First-year head coach Chris Masella thought his team was looking ahead to another undefeated league campaign, but after the loss, the Dons came into the rematch with a chip on their shoulders.

“We went into Tuesday kind of underestimating them a little,” he said. “Tip your cap to them; they’re very well-coached. They scouted us very well and I think we were a little lackadaisical and we came back out today, gave the ball to our senior and he took care of business.”

“I came in here knowing we were better,” said Burton. “We should have [won] the last game; we came out a little short. But I trust my team and we got the win [today].”

Trust is what Burton got as the defense behind him played one of its best games of the season. Oxford Academy’s Sorataro Suzuki struck out but went to first on a wild pitch. He wouldn’t be on the base paths too long as senior catcher Ryan Martinez threw a dart to senior second baseman Paul Kim to deny Suzuki a stolen base, Burton then retired the next six he saw before hitting Ethan Loya in the third.

But Loya wouldn’t reach second as on a 1-1 count, Joseph Han hit into a double play and just like that, Burton had faced the minimum through the first three innings. Over the next three frames, Burton would give up a one-out single to Mac Tiettmeyer in the fourth and walked Viren Mehta with two outs in the fifth before setting down the next five batters.

“He kept us in the game from the very beginning,” said Masella. “Every inning, he came up with a big pitch when he needed to. Like I said, pitching to contact and I still believe we have one of the best defenses around. We really do. Our infield and our outfield can get after any ball with the best of them. So, pitching to contact is definitely 100 percent of our game.”

“I trust my catcher out there,” said Burton. “I felt the momentum coming in. We wanted to win really bad today. We came in and executed.”

Burton entered the seventh inning having thrown 89 pitches and got Bear Spessert to ground out for the first out. But Burton would walk Josh Loya and give up a base hit to Carter Senglaub on a full count. After striking out Alex Madrigal, Burton would be replaced by junior Carter Chi as he had reached the maximum 110 pitches allowed for the week. Chi struck out Oscar Zepeda, but Burton had done more than enough to ensure Cerritos would get the victory.

“I felt more comfortable on the mound,” said Burton. “That runner [in the fourth] didn’t affect me. I knew if I threw my strikes, I trust my defense to get the out.

“It sucks a little bit, but I liked who we put in after,” Burton later said of not completing the game. “I knew he could get it done for us.”

Offensively, the Dons (17-9, 7-1) only got four hits from four different players and had runners on base in three innings, scoring at least a run in those innings. Senglaub served up a double to Chi in the bottom of the first and Kim drove him in with a one-out sacrifice fly. In the next inning, Senglaub walked senior first baseman Raymond Sierra and gave up a double to junior center fielder Johann Gibbs. After a strikeout, sophomore left fielder Braxton Reed was safe on an infield single to load the bases.

The ninth batter in the lineup, junior right fielder Noah Gapuz, would single on a 2-2 count, driving in Sierra and Gibbs. But an error on the play allowed Reed to come home and make it 4-0. The final two runs came in the fifth as Chi was walked again, went to third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly from sophomore shortstop Dalton Chi. Senglaub then walked Kim, who stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored when junior designated hitter Elijah Pannell was safe on an error.

“You could see that we peppered the ball all over the ballpark,” said Masella. “Again, tip your cap to their coach. They scouted us very well and he’s playing his guys in the right position. We can’t really help…we’re line-driving balls right through them. As far as seeing the ball and putting good swings on it, I think our offense was there. If we play them again, those balls fall in.”

In eight league meetings with the Patriots, Cerritos has outscored Oxford Academy 69-10 and in the two dozen 605 League games, the Dons have posted 19 shutouts. But since 2016 when the program ended a 17-year playoff drought, Cerritos has reached the second round once, and that was because it earned a first-round bye.

“It’s great for the program and it’s great for the kids,” said Masella. “This is what it’s all about; win league, go into the playoffs and roll the dice once we get in there.”

“We honestly have the talent on the team,” said Burton. “I know we can go the distance. As long as we believe and we execute and do everything right, I think we’ll come out with a win next Thursday.”

Cerritos will host San Clemente High, the second place team from the Sea View League, in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs on May 4 with the winner to face either second-ranked Valencia High or Westlake High in the second round on Tuesday.