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LA MIRADA SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT – La Mirada tinkers with lineup against depleted John Glenn team in tournament victory

March 20, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That was the situation when the John Glenn High and La Mirada High softball teams met in the first round of the annual La Mirada Softball Tournament last Saturday morning at Glenn.

The former Suburban League combatants were facing each other for the first time since May 7, 2018, and the results were still the same despite both teams missing key components. The Matadores scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the next inning for the only runs in an 8-0 win. La Mirada would then lose to Tesoro High 2-1 later in the day while the Eagles were slammed by Bishop Amat High 13-1 later in the day.

“We had to take care of business,” said La Mirada head coach Brent Tuttle. “We kind of knew what was going to happen. When the seeds came out, we were the number one seed; they were the number 16 seed. I just told them we have some girls that don’t play a lot and we let [junior pitcher] Montse [Reyes-Cardenas] hit today. We worked on getting the ball deep and hitting the ball. We don’t take the bats away from kids, so we let them do what they have to do and just come out here and treat it like [any] game.”

La Mirada has been without the services of freshman Riley Hillard all season and junior Amanda Urbina since the first week of the season while the Eagles are missing junior pitcher Carissa Galvan, who injured her elbow during her travel ball season. Her doctor told her she could pitch until she feels she can’t handle it. With that said, she was reevaluated following Glenn’s game against Valley Christian High on Mar. 1 and was told she was going to be out the next four weeks.

Adding to the injury woes for Glenn is senior third baseman Aileen Lopez, who injured her knee before the regular season and needs surgery. She will not play at all this season. Senior catcher Sienna Contreras, who injured her back against Cerritos High last Friday and didn’t play against La Mirada, and junior right fielder Erin Perez, who injured her knee last Wednesday and will be out another week to two weeks are two other players currently shelved.

The only chance the Eagles had to do anything against freshman pitcher Alison Ortega was in the top of the first inning when Ortega walked senior shortstop Kristy Galindo and advanced on an infield single from senior center fielder Diana Bravo, who has also been nicked here and there. The two would steal third and second base respectively before Ortega struck out eight straight batters. Junior pitcher Quira Castillo replaced Ortega and got Bravo to fly out to left field for the first out of the fourth inning, then struck out the next five batters to end the game.

“I’ve told the girls over and over that this game is mental,” said Glenn head coach Javier Galvez. “We’ve been preparing all year, just talking to the girls [about] different situations, even the way we approach the game when we’re hitting around the field. They know that with the injuries we have, somebody has to step up and we don’t have that many girls on the roster. But I feel that a lot of the girls who are being asked to play certain positions are stepping up and doing a great job at it. They’re trying their best.”

On the third pitch that she saw, freshman second baseman Reese Hillard doubled to get the ball rolling in the bottom of the first inning. Junior pitcher Joslyn Guerrero, making her first start of the season, then walked junior left fielder Angelina Ratzlaff, junior shortstop Alyssa Avila and senior first baseman Amber Valdez, the last two on eight straight pitches, making it 1-0.

A single from freshman center fielder Megan Avila and a walk to senior right fielder Melanie Perez increased the score to 3-0 with the bases still loaded. The inning concluded with a sacrifice fly from sophomore catcher Dani Lopez, a single from junior third baseman Angelyna Conde, who would leave first base early, and a double from Ortega, who would leave second base early for the final out.

In the next frame, a walk to Reese Hillard and singles from Ratzlaff and Avila loaded the bases again before base hits from Valdez and Avila plated Hillard and Ratzlaff to cap the scoring. La Mirada collected a dozen hits with the first five in the lineup going a combined eight for 10 with seven runs and four runs batted in.

La Mirada, ranked seventh in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 poll, is more than halfway through the season and has seen some of the top teams in the section and some of the top players in the state. Of their three losses, the Matadores lost by three runs to Huntington Beach High, ranked fourth in the division, and a run each to #2 Orange Lutheran High and Tesoro High, ranked ninth in Division 2.

“What I told our kids was now, we have to be able to beat the exceptional pitching,” said Tuttle. “We tied a really great Great Oak pitcher, probably the best pitcher in the state. It was 0-0 and both pitchers were going at it, and our two losses were to [Orange Lutheran], who has Brianne Weiss, one of the best pitchers in the state, and the other one was to Huntington Beach, who has Zoe [Prystajko]. So, we lost to two quality pitchers. That’s where we need to get over the hump.”

Tuttle has never been shy about putting together one of the toughest non-league schedules around. Through the first 16 games, half have been against Division 1 teams and four more from Division 2. But what makes this season unique is the record the Matadores have despite missing Urbina and Riley Hillard. The latter broke her right hand at practice the week before the regular season began and has not played a game yet. She is slated to get her cast off this week and make her season debut as early as Saturday. Urbina, who dislocated her left wrist on a swing, then hyperextended a nerve, has been out since the first week of the season. She is listed as day to day.

“A lot of people don’t know that we’re 11-2-2, but we have probably two of our biggest bats out of our lineup,” said Tuttle. “That’s what I’m proud about this team, is that the kids are stepping in and helping out; grinding out and getting the job done while two of our biggest bats are out of the lineup. If we get both of them back in our lineup, it’s going to be scary lineup for pitchers to go through.”

Since Apr. 16. 1999 when Glenn defeated the Matadores 6-3 at Glenn, La Mirada went on a 31-game winning streak over the Eagles, posting 23 shutouts with15 of them by at least a 10-0 score. The streak was snapped on Apr. 27, 2015 when the Eagles edged La Mirada 1-0. Then the Matadores won seven straight games by a combined score of 68-7 until last Saturday.

“I guess I really didn’t think about it because we practice here every day,” said Tuttle. “So, we know all those girls. Both teams like each other. There were no weird feelings because it’s like playing your little sister. They knew coming in that it was going to be a tough game for them. We knew what type of game it was going to be. But we went out and did what we had to do, and they did what they did. It was just a fun game.”

After two decades of near futility, Glenn has gone 40-23-1 the past three seasons, thanks in part to a stellar freshman class from the 2021 season that made school history by advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time ever. But now, only four of those freshmen, now seniors, are on the team and only Bravo played last Saturday.

“It was a good corps of girls,” said Galvez. “We had a great run last year. Obviously, we had about seven of those who were playing last year as starters and were injury free. I think the setback this year are the injuries. A lot of our squad this year are junior varsity players that we had to move up, and they’re still developing.”

Glenn, which lost to Pioneer High 17-2 this past Tuesday to fall to 2-7 overall and 0-2 in the 605 League, will visit Artesia High on Friday, go to Whitney High on Tuesday and host Whitney on Thursday. In between, the Eagles will have two more games in the tournament on Saturday.

After getting past Downey High 2-0 this past Tuesday, the Matadores (12-4-2, 2-0 in the Gateway League) were home to Warren High on Mar. 21, will play two tournament games on Saturday before going to Gahr High on Tuesday and entertaining Mayfair High on Thursday.

“The Gateway League is going to be tough,” said Tuttle. “Downey is better this year and Gahr has always wanted [to get] us. I told the girls we’re going to get the best of all of them. We’re going to see their number one pitcher every time and they’re going to give us their best effort just because they want to beat La Mirada. That makes their season. we try not to take any game lightly.”