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BASEBALL – Valley Christian ends losing skid with romp over city rival and league champion Cerritos

April 29, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

For the Cerritos High baseball team, it was an opportunity to get in a little extra work before the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. For Valley Christian High, it was a chance to end a six-game losing streak that basically cost the Defenders a berth in the playoffs.

Cerritos blanked V.C. 7-0 back on Feb. 10 in the season opener for both but last Saturday, it was revenge in a big way as the Defenders scored in every inning and routed the Dons 12-2.

V.C. reached double-digits in runs for the fourth time, half coming against league champions and the other half coming against Heritage Christian High, the last place tram in the Olympic League.

“It’s really hard to beat a team that’s double-digit with hits,” said V.C. head coach Tim Blume. “Our pitchers threw strikes and our guys hit the baseball today, and it was like we just kind of ended up on the better side of things today. It’s a little bit bittersweet in the sense because we had so many opportunities in the last couple of weeks to really take advantage of the talent that we have.”

“Basically, that’s what I would call it; a tune-up game and I think we can use it for positives,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Matt Joyce. “We can use it for positives because whoever we’re going to get on Thursday or Friday is going to be just as good, if not better than these guys. So we need to understand that we need to execute.”

On the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, junior center fielder Austin Abrahams was hit by a pitch and Cerritos senior pitcher Carter Chi walked junior shortstop Chip Mertz. After a pop-up and strikeout, junior third baseman Seth Dahlenburg doubled to the left field fence, scoring Abrahams and Mertz. Then senior catcher Gavin Murphy singled to make it 3-0.

In the next inning, sophomore designated hitter Lucas Witt doubled down the left field line to plate Abrahams and Mertz before the Dons finally got to senior pitcher Luke Garcia in the top of the third.

Senior left fielder Noah Gapuz was safe on an infield single, moved to second on an error and scored on a groundout from junior right fielder Braxton Reed. Senior pitcher Kai Delahanty would then walk sophomore second baseman Justin Sagun and later in the inning, give up a single to senior centerfielder Johan Gibbs, making it 5-2. After that, Delahanty and senior Cole Liebrecht, sophomore Joshua Hulse and junior Riley Jones combined to retire 10 straight batters and 12 of the last 13 of the game.

While the Defenders were having one of their best pitching performances of the season, the offense continued to pour it on. In the bottom of the third, Dahlenburg scored on a one-out, bases loaded single from sophomore second baseman Nico Villafana and in the fourth, Dahlenburg’s one-out single scored Mertz while two batters later, senior right fielder Joe DeYoung’s base hit brought home Witt.

In the fifth, Witt doubled to the right field gap to score sophomore pinch runner Max Douglas and Mertz. The scoring ended in the sixth when Mertz crushed a two-run home run with sophomore pinch hitter Nolan Dietz coming home. V.C. collected 14 hits, second most this season with Mertz, whom Blume says is the most valuable player of the team, going four for four and scoring five times and Dahlenburg going three for four with three runs driven in.

“I can tell you this, in half of those games, our guys hit the cover off the baseball,” said Blume of the six-game skid. “Unfortunately, they didn’t fall in the negative space. They were hit at guys and that was super unfortunate for us. The other part was half our pitching staff was either hurt or ineligible. With that being said, it made it pretty hard when we had three games each week. By the time we got to that third game, our guys were tired.”

Other than Cerritos and Maranatha, the Defenders also knocked off Citrus Valley High 7-3 in the third game of the season as those wins came against league champions. V.C. scored 34 runs against those three, but in the six losses leading up to last Saturday, the Defenders combined to score 11 runs.

“When we played Maranatha and we beat them, we were hitting like we hit today,” said Blume. “We hit some really good pitching against Maranatha. and we hit some good pitching today. That team is no slouch; that’s a very, very good team we just beat. And we beat them the right way.”

“We didn’t make any mistakes,” said Joyce. “They just scored in every inning and the only weakness we did was throw a bunch of balls, which has kind of been our M.O. all year. We have to outscore people; that’s what we do good, and today we didn’t, and we didn’t pitch well at all.”

The Defenders wrap up the season at 10-13 overall and 5-7 in the Olympic League, a game behind Village Christian High and Whittier Christian High. But on Apr. 6, they were 5-2 in league play, a game behind Maranatha. It’s the second straight losing season for V.C. and the third straight season missing the playoffs.

As for the Dons, who are ranked ninth in the division, they drop to 20-6 overall. The loss also snapped a six-game winning streak as Cerritos will host Hesperia Christian High on Thursday in first round action. Cerritos also enters the playoffs unblemished in the 605 League for the fourth time in the five seasons the circuit has had league contests. The 20 victories mark the third time since 2019 the program has reached at least 20 wins.

“For me, that is the standard,” said Joyce. “We shouldn’t lose a game in this league, and I believe that moving forward, and that should be the standard moving forward. And then we have to play good teams in the preseason to help us prepare for playoffs.”