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GATEWAY LEAGUE BASEBALL – Calvo, Corns combine on four-hitter as La Mirada blanks Gahr, stays alive for league title

April 24, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

The final week of the regular season arrived with the much anticipated three-game series between Gahr High and La Mirada High duking it out for supremacy in the Gateway League. The host Gladiators held a one-game lead, and a victory would have given them at least a share of their first league title since 2019 while the Matadores were hoping to stay alive for at least a share of their eighth straight league crown.

Behind the strong pitching of senior Walker Calvo who gave up two hits over four innings, and sophomore Kaden Corns, who worked the final three innings, also yielding two hits, the Matadores shutout the host Gladiators 4-0 to forge a first-place tie with two games remaining before the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

“We had to come in this week just [taking it] one game at a time,” said La Mirada head coach Jimmy Zurn. “Talking before the game, we know that whoever wins two out of three is going to go in as the [number] one [team in the league]. Obviously, now it’s all squared up with two to play. We came here; we did what we’re supposed to do. We’re really proud of…we played good team baseball. Pitching was great, defense was great, [and] I thought we executed really well from sac bunts to sac flies. [We had] four hits, but we made the most of them, and I thought we had some hard outs, too.”

It was a classic pitching matchup between Calvo, who is now 7-2, and sophomore Jake Ourique, who lost for the first time in seven decisions. He went five innings, struck out five and gave up one earned run.

“Baseball is a unique game,” said Gahr head coach Gerardo Perez. “Give them credit, first. They did some things right and we did some things incorrectly. I actually think Jake pitched exceptional. He had more strikeouts than [Calvo]. He was more efficient, he pitched to contact better, but their guy put up a zero. Credit to him as well. I don’t want to take anything away from him, but I thought we hit some balls really hard, too.”

The game was decided in the first inning on both ends with the Matadores (19-6, 9-1), who are tied for fifth in the Division 1 polls, scoring twice while Gahr (17-8, 9-1) stranded the bases loaded with one out. On the second pitch of the game, junior third baseman Maverek Russell doubled to center and came home on a base hit from junior right fielder Kevin Jeon. He would advance to second on the throw home as Russell touched home plate, moved to third on an error and scored on a groundout from junior shortstop Aiden Aguayo.

After that, Ourique retired the next five before senior left fielder Tyler Primanto was safe on an error. Russell then laid down a sacrifice bunt good enough to send Primanto to third where he made it 3-0 following a sacrifice fly from Jeon. No other runner would get past second base until the last inning when junior Matthew Escobar was on the mound.

“They did a good job in the first inning,” said Perez. “I believe Jeon hit a single and then he took 90 feet on the throw from the center fielder to the first baseman. He ended up scoring [and] that was a pretty big play. Our catcher forgot to cover third base on a bunt and that runner ended up scoring. Obviously, we made some defensive mistakes which led to some innings and some leadoff walks.”

The two runs would be more than enough for Calvo, who worked out a jam in the bottom of the first. Gahr sophomore shortstop Andres Gonzalez was safe on an infield hit and Calvo walked senior third baseman Jose Perez. Following a deep flyout from senior designated hitter Mike Lee, Calvo walked junior first baseman Matthew Sandoval to load the bases before getting sophomore right fielder Jojo Eljaik to pop up and sophomore catcher Oscar Grijalva to hit a comebacker to Calvo. After that, Calvo would walk junior left fielder Adrien Ramirez twice and give up a base hit to Eljaik over the next three innings.

“That’s what seniors do, right,” said Zurn of his ace hurler. “This isn’t his first rodeo, so he was the right guy to have on the mound at that time. When you think about getting out of that first inning, everyone was kind of like, whew. We scored two in the first and to put a zero up there, no matter how long or ugly it was, was a big momentum booster for us.”

The last run of the game came with one out in the seventh when Russell was safe on the third error of the game and Jeon singled to right. With Russell on third, Aguayo’s deep fly to center plated Russell. Jeon went three for three and the four hits marked the fifth time the Matadores have been held to under six hits.

“At this point in the year, runs are runs,” said Zurn. “We’ll take advantage any way we can, and that’s a tribute to us. We haven’t given up a lot of runs this year. I think we’ve given up the least amount of runs in our division, which is a tribute to our staff and our defense. So, we’re going to have a chance to be in every game with the way we pitch and play defense.

“He’s just having a superb year,” he later said of Jeon. “He’s been our leading hitter all year long and he’s been consistent all year long and that’s why he’s having the special year he’s having.”

While this was La Mirada’s 12th shutout of the season, five in the last six games, the Gladiators were blanked for the third time. The Matadores have won four of the last six meetings with Gahr with two games (both last season) decided by a run and another by two runs. The third game, which will decide who wins the league outright or who wins the season-series, will be on Friday at Gahr.

“Before I talk about Thursday [Apr. 25], I’m going to talk about…I told our guys don’t even think about it,” said Perez. “You have to think about what you have to do right now, which is clean up this place. And then we have to think about practice, then we have to think about getting our minds right. You can’t think about Thursday and Friday.

“We’re both in the same boat,” he continued. “Whether they won today, or we won today, this is a three-game battle, and it is what it is.”