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CIF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DIVISION 1 SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS – La Mirada’s season ends with crushing defeat to Torrance

June 1, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Brent Tuttle and his La Mirada High softball team thought the season was over following a 6-5, eight inning loss to Pacifica High back on May 4 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Fast forward to May 19 when the head coach accepted an invitation to the CIF Southern California Regionals and just like that, the Matadores season wasn’t quite over.

La Mirada hosted Torrance High this past Tuesday in the first round of the regionals, just hours before four seniors were graduating, and an early lead turned into a romp by Torrance, which battered and bruised the Matadores 16-2. Not only did three of the four seniors depart the game before it was over so they could get ready for the graduation ceremonies at Whittier College, sophomore pitcher Montserrat Reyes-Cardenas left the game after two innings because of a little discomfort in her knees, according to Tuttle. He said she twisted her knee during a bullpen session on Sunday.

“For travel ball, she has to be 100 percent; this is a big recruiting year for her,” said Tuttle. “She wanted to go back out there, and it just wasn’t worth it. I not going to risk a kids’ future over a game.”

Reyes-Cardenas threw 15 pitches in a perfect top of the first inning, striking out the first two batters. In the bottom half of the frame, Emma Hayashida walked sophomore shortstop Amanda Urbina, who went to second on a sacrifice from sophomore center fielder Alyssa Avila. That was followed by a double to the left field gap from sophomore third baseman Angelyna Conde. Later in the inning, sophomore catcher Angelie Kennedy reached on an error, allowing Conde to score the second run.

But Kennedy would be the last baserunner for the Matadores, who collected a season-low one hit and surrendered a season-high 16 runs. On Feb. 18 in the last game of the Savanna Showcase, La Mirada fell to Edison High 16-11.

“We did what we had to do,” said Tuttle. “We came out, tried to field a team and after that third inning, we were kind of deflated a little bit.”

Torrance, which had winning streaks of six, four and 13 games in the season before losing to Huntington Beach High 12-1 in the first round of the playoffs, also on May 4, scored once in the second. In the third, the Tartars scored seven times, then another six in the fourth inning before closing the game with two in the fifth.

The first senior to leave the game was second baseman Kaylee Giron, who struck out in the second inning for the first out. Next was first baseman Natalie Craig, who sent a deep fly ball to the left field fence in the third inning. Craig left the game in the middle of the fourth inning and the last senior who played was Cambria Martinez, a replacement for Giron. Pitcher Elisa Castro, who didn’t play, is the other senior for the Matadores.

“We tried to get the game moved to Wednesday,” said Tuttle. “[Torrance] said they wouldn’t have enough players because they’re in the same boat. They only have 10 players and they said if we played tomorrow, they would have eight. So, we moved it up as early as we possibly could. You never know. Today at 4:00 or 4:30, if we’re still playing, I may have three or four seniors jumping in their cars and getting over they could shower and get ready for graduation.”

After throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, Hayashida combined for 40 over the next four innings. Every Torrance starter reached base and eight of them had at least one hit and scored at least one run. The top four in the lineup-Kaitlyn Wynia, DaCosta, Emily Schepp and Mazee Martinez-combined to go eight for 15 with 12 runs batted in and eight runs scored.

Despite the loss and everything going on leading up to the game, Tuttle said he still welcomed the fact that his team participated in the program’s first state regional, which is in its third year.

“It doesn’t matter; I’ll put them up against anybody in the state,” said Tuttle. “We’re not scared of anybody, but some of their minds were on graduation, the injuries, the illness…and they still came out here and played. They didn’t have to, but they did.”

La Mirada wraps up another great season at 18-9, winning the inaugural Gateway League with a 7-1 record. The Matadores went 4-4 against Division 1 teams from the Southern Section and 2-1 against Division 2 teams. They went 2-2 in the Savanna Showcase at the beginning of the season, 3-2 in the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions and 3-1 in the La Mirada Showcase. The pitching staff posted six shutouts and had eight more games in which it allowed either one or two runs. However, the Matadores lost at home to Pacifica after blowing a four-run first inning lead. Pacifica scored three times in the top of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead.

“I couldn’t have been happier with this season,” said Tuttle. “We lose Natalie, and that’s a big thing. But there’s some good kids coming. I know, as far as freshmen coming up. You never know who else is going to come into our program. But we know we have some local kids that are really good coming up. So, with that addition, and then the core coming back, it’s going to be a fun season. This was just a taste.

“Losing that Pacifica game was a learning curve for these girls,” he continued. “And now they know that hey, you score your four and you have to more on the board. You can’t put five zeros on the board [after that]. I can’t wait to get back on the field with this group. They’re going to go off and do great things in the summer and when we come back [in the fall], I can’t wait to get in the weightroom, do what we have to do and prepare them for next year.”