_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


BASEBALL – Gahr’s Gonzalez helps Suburban Valley Conference’s top players defeat Moore League’s best

The Suburban Valley Conference All-Stars defeated the Moore League All-Stars 6-4 last Saturday. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.

June 9, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

LONG BEACH-Gahr High sophomore shortstop Andres Gonzalez remembered attending last season’s inaugural all-star game between the best of the Gateway League and the top players from the Moore League. He thought about what it would be like just to play in such an event.

As it turned out, it was probably better than what he expected as he was the most valuable player of last Saturday’s game, going two for three and diving in a pair of runs in the leadoff spot as the revamped Suburban Valley Conference rallied for a 6-4 victory against the Moore League at Long Beach City College.

This time around, at least one player from eight of the 11 schools that comprise of the Suburban Valley Conference was invited to the all-star game. Not everyone attended the game, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the ones who were there. Two of seven La Mirada High players invited showed up and Gahr was represented by five players. La Mirada senior Walker Calvo, juniors Aiden Aguayo, Travis Friend, Kevin Jeon and Maverek Russell opted not to play, as well as Norwalk High senior Ruben Ramirez and junior Angel Martinez.

“It was really fun; I was just excited to come out,” said Gonzalez. “I remember watching our seniors last year come play at Gahr and I [was thinking] I wanted to be there [this] year. I was glad to come out and play with some of the guys I’ve been playing with and against. It was a lot of fun.”

“It’s awesome,” said La Mirada sophomore first baseman and pitcher Jacob Oropeza. “There are very, very talented people out here. I got to compete out here with some of the best in the league and meeting new people from our league; getting to know more about them.”

Oropeza, who found out from L.M. head coach Jimmy Zurn following the team’s quarterfinal loss to Orange Lutheran High that he had been invited to play in the game, knew right away he wanted to play in the contest.

The Moore League, with 22 all-stars from all seven schools of that circuit, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Long Beach Wilson High’s Taylor Kirk singled, moved to second on an error, stole third and came home on a groundout from Ben Keisler of Millikan High. The Suburban Valley Conference would tie the game in the top of the third when Gahr senior right fielder JoJo Eljaik singled to the left field gap and scored on a two-out base hit from Gonzalez.

However, Kirk led off the bottom half of the frame with a double to the left field gap and made it 2-1 when he scored on a sacrifice fly from Keisler. Kirk would be named the MVP from the Moore League in the game.

“My first at-bat didn’t go too well, so I was definitely trying to redeem myself in my second and third [at-bats],” said Gonzalez. “In my second at-bat, I was really just trying to put some bat on the ball and try to find a hole. So, I did that and, my third at-bat, I was just trying to drive something. I definitely felt a lot more loose, more comfortable at the plate. It was a lot more easier to get some barrel on the ball.”

Unlike last year’s 16-5 Gateway League victory in a seven-inning game, runs would be hard to come by in the early innings last Saturday. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Mayfair High’s Michael Corrales doubled to the left field corner and scored two batters later on the second hit from Gonzalez. But the Moore League would regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth when La Mirada sophomore Kaden Corns walked Drake Merrill of Lakewood High and later scored on a bases loaded sacrifice fly from Aaron Mingo of Wilson.

Mikey Reyes of Downey High led off the seventh by reaching on an error and tied the game at 3-3 when Bellflower High’s Isaac Lacy grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. But the pendulum shifted again in the bottom of the seventh when Julian Arellano of Downey walked Merrill with one out, who advanced on a wild pitch and came home on a dingle from Enrique Lopez of Millikan.

The score remained 4-3 until the top of the ninth when Mayfair’s Ryan Diggle reached on an infield single, and Reyes was safe on the fourth error by the Moore League. Eljaik, who played the entire game, flew out to left field, scoring Diggle, and Sebastian Cortez of Downey was walked to put runners at the corner.

Lacy would then ground out with Cortez coming home to give the Suburban Valley Conference the lead. Three batters later, Warren High’s Fabien Ochoa doubled to single bringing in Cortez for the final run of the contest.

Oropeza, who also played the entire game, went two for four while Arellano and Angel Cervantes of Warren also collected a pair of hits each. Gahr junior catcher Oscar Grijalva went one for two while Gahr sophomore third baseman Jose Perez, who went one for two and drove in a pair of runs in last year’s game, went hitless in two at-bats.

“In my first at-bat, he threw me a change-up in the dirt and I [was thinking] he was going to throw me a fastball,” said Oropeza. “I was sitting on it and got a good one to hit. In my last at-bat, he was throwing me off-speed, so I was just going to throw my bat out there and try to hit something. I was lucky enough to hit a ground ball down the third base line for a double.”

On the mound, Oropeza pitched the third inning, throwing 11 pitches to four batters and giving up a run. He was followed by Corns, who threw 19 pitches over the next two innings, Gahr sophomore Jake Ourique pitched the eighth inning, facing four batters, giving up two hits while striking out one.