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605 LEAGUE BASEBALL-Cerritos continues to go in the Wright direction as Dons blank improving John Glenn

Cerritos high school logo, don

March 27, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

Not much has changed for the Cerritos High baseball team since the 605 League was formed prior to the 2018-2019 academic year. The Dons have carved through the circuit, winning 34 of their 35 games entering last Friday’s home game with John Glenn High.

Add another victory to that total as junior Christian Wright threw a complete game shutout, the first for any Cerritos hurler this season, needing 99 pitches to do so, scattering four hits, striking out eight and walking three in a 12-0 decision. Suddenly, Wright has been the team’s best pitcher, now sitting at 4-1 with no one else getting more than two victories.

“I’m really proud of him,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Matt Joyce. “Christian is a junior and he’s come a long way, and this was great. Getting this 99-pitch complete game…think about what this will do for us down the road, knowing that he can do this; he can accomplish this and knowing that his arm and his body is capable of doing it, is huge for me. We’re going to need him to win big games down the road if we want to make a run. In my opinion, this was a very good game for his growth.”

The Dons have now won 10 straight meetings and 12 of the last 15 with Glenn following an 11-game winning streak by the Eagles in the series. And the way the game began, one would think this might be a tighter game. Wright walked senior shortstop Luke Mason to lead off the game, who went to third on a base hit from sophomore pitcher Bert Rodriguez. However, he would be picked off at first and Wright would sit down the next two batters on five pitches to get out of early trouble.

“Our young guys are anxious,” said Glenn first-year head coach Juan Loza. “Our number three batter, who hasn’t played in a month and a half as well, came up swinging at the first pitch [and] popped up to shallow left. The guy who got picked off at first base in the first inning…was anxious to get something going. I would rather play that than backwards. This is easy for me to control. I can’t push them to be aggressive.”

While the Eagles would go hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Dons would open the scoring in the second inning by batting around but collecting two hits. Senior center fielder Johan Gibbs reached on an error and Rodriguez walked junior third baseman Fabian Mejia. Gibbs would then steal third and come home on a base hit from senior first baseman Elijah Pannell. He and Mejia would steal second and home respectively before Rodriguez walked junior shortstop Adrian Regis. The last two runs would come courtesy of a base hit from senior outfielder Noah Gapuz and a fielder’s choice from senior catcher Jonathan Masella.

That would be more than enough for the Dons, who had two runners reach in the third but came away with nothing before pouring it on in the fifth with seven runs on two hits and six reaching on a walk, all but one coming in to score.

“I think what’s happening, and I talked to the guys about it, is it’s a hard situation for these young men to understand,” said Joyce. “They’re going into a game knowing that they’re better than their opponent. But then also, I think they start pressing and they start going, ‘hey, why is it 0-0 in the second inning’? They start getting out of their comfort zone because they’re supposed to beat these guys. Well, the reality is they still have to execute, and we still have to be ourselves and let our athleticism show.

“The reality is a couple hits here and there and they might have had a couple of runs,” he later stated. “There’s a reason we play the games. It’s because hey, anybody has a shot any given day. So keeping them focused is very hard.”

The Dons would get just five hits from five different players while Glenn pitching walked 10 and had another two reach on an error. Masella, sophomore second baseman Justin Sagun and senior pinch hitter Logan Alezander all drove in a pair as the Dons have scored at least 11 runs in their last three games while posting their third shutout. Cerritos has now won five in a row after a three-game skid to improve to 10-3 overall, 2-0 in league.

Despite being shutout for the first time this season, Glenn had a runner reach base in every inning except the sixth. Four different players had singles with three more getting on by way of walks. Three runners got as far as second base and another two made it to third base.

“We had a few mental errors that is due to us being a young team,” said Loza. “We have five sophomores in the starting lineup and I’m going to take the errors because they’re going to end up producing in the future.

“There have been control issues, but it has nothing to do with today,” he later said. “Today’s pitcher has not pitched in a month and a half. This was his second game [of the season] pitching today.”

“My message to the was with our pitchers, the defense and offense, is we’re getting lucky by getting out of those jams,” said Joyce. “Yeah, we’re skilled and we’re making pitches and [Wright] would bear down. But man, it would really be nice to if we can get that strike one, our one. We can’t rely on coming from behind or working our way out of counts or working our way out of jams because there’s going to come a time this season, and it doesn’t matter the opponent, where we’re not going to be able to get out of that jam.”

The Eagles, as a program, have been the opposite of the Dons, going 2-22 in league action following the 2020 Covid season after three straight seasons of a winning league record. But, while the Dons are still doing their thing, it’s been the Eagles who have been turning eyes for the most part in 2023.

Glenn is now 6-6, 0-2 and has one more win than last season. One more victory will match the combined total from 2020-2023. The Eagles may not make the playoffs this season as they opened the campaign with nine sophomores and three freshmen as part of their team. But Loza, who had never coached high school baseball before, is still keeping a positive attitude, knowing what he has for the future. He is a proponent of old school baseball and is taking the program back to where it was before the Covid season, and even before when the Glenn baseball culture was strong. From 2007-2019, the Eagles had 11 seasons of at least 10 wins and eight winning seasons.

“I took over the team in August and they had no idea how to warm-up,” said Loza. “They don’t understand baseball; they don’t understand that we play seven innings. It’s just a culture change that we’re going through.

“We are .500 and the kids have been working since August,” he continued. “When we first talked, [they asked], ‘hey coach, we’ve never played fall ball, what are we doing’?. That was new to them. So that’s good to see that they’re playing. The will is there for them; they want to. They’re following direction, now. For example, they’re willing to work pitchers versus going after the first pitch most of the time. They understand that we’re young and even if we don’t hit .500 or go to the playoffs this year, we will over the next two. It’s exciting; I have no reason to be upset about anything.”

Glenn, which wrapped up its fourth game in as many days, blasted Whitney High 22-1 this past Tuesday to get that seventh win of the season and entertained Compton Early College the next day before a road game at Whitney on Mar. 28. The Eagles will host Long Beach Jordan High on Tuesday, Mark Keppel High on Wednesday and San Gabriel High on Thursday.

For the Dons, who are ranked 10th in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 poll, they had no problems with Artesia High this past Tuesday in a 13-0 win. After visiting the Pioneers on Apr. 28, Cerritos will be home to San Marino High on Friday.

“I’m really excited for it,” said Joyce of the games against Artesia. “Again, and this is no disrespect to any of [the league opponents], I think it’s just the fact we’re going to show up to most of these games in our league and we’re going to be more talented than the other team. But it’s all about the fight. They’re going to fight; they’re going to work hard to beat us. They’re going to want to beat us. If they get a couple of guys on, I guarantee you Artesia will be a lot louder than Glenn was, and they’ll try to get into our heads.”