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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE SOFTBALL Gahr squanders chance for rare season-series sweep over Warren

By Loren Kopff

DOWNEY-The last time a Gahr High School softball team swept Warren in the same season was 2008. That was also the last time the Gladiators, who were hoping open up a two-game lead in the standings, won a San Gabriel Valley League title.

Gahr was aiming to do the former last Thursday while getting closer to achieving the latter but the team stranded 10 runners including the bases loaded in the first and seventh innings and made a couple of blunders on the base paths in a 2-1 loss to the Bears.

“It was a tight ball game but obviously, they were the better team today,” said Gahr head coach Shawn Quarles. “In any given day, I think they’re good enough to beat us.”

All three runs were scored in the first inning as both teams played in the rivalry’s lowest-scoring contest since Gahr edged the Bears 2-1 in 2007. Quarles altered his lineup a bit, putting freshman first baseman Malia Quarles at the lead-off spot and freshman catcher Alyssa Kumiyama in the second position, followed by junior first baseman Celeste Gonzalez and sophomore center fielder Alyssa Cuffia.

In the first meeting on Apr. 8, Malia Quarles and Kumiyama, who have batted third and fourth throughout most of the season, were walked twice each within the first three innings. Last Thursday, Malia Quarles flied out to begin the game while Kumiyama was hit by a Courtney Sheldon pitch. After Gonzalez reached on an error, sophomore pinch runner Alyssa Rodriguez would score on a base hit from Cuffia.

“I figured we would get them the most at-bats as possible,” Shawn Quarles said. “It kind of worked but obviously it didn’t get us the result we were looking for.”

“A few years ago, we did it.” said longtime Warren head coach Mary Starksen. “We had a real good hitter, Tina Iosefa, and we put her at leadoff because she kept getting walked. That’s good coaching strategy; you try to throw the other team off. Those two girls are so explosive and very good batters.”

In the bottom of the inning, junior pitcher Destiny Vasquez walked Alyssa Hanks and gave up a base hit to Ashley Machado. One out later, Neddie Gutierrez doubled to right field to plate both runs.

After that, it was all pitching on both sides, poor base running on Gahr’s part and some strategy by Sheldon towards Kumiyama. In the third inning, Kumiyama was plunked again by Sheldon but the home plate umpire didn’t think she made an attempt to get out of the way. Eventually, she struck out. Kumiyama was hit again in the fifth and seventh innings.

“We talked about a plan about going screwball, Starksen said. “That was our intent; to throw inside. Not to hit her, but just to throw inside and maybe back her off a little, and then change the pace and throw low and away. She’s the type of kid who just hung in there and took it.”

“I know they were coming in tight but I don’t know if they were trying to hit her on purpose,” Shawn Quarles said. “It is what it is. Those girls know each other and I don’t think they were trying to do it on purpose.”

After Kumiyama struck out, Gonzalez and Cuffia singled but the former was out on a fielder’s choice from Vasquez and junior left fielder Sabrina Quarles flied out to right to end that scoring opportunity. In the next inning, a double play with runners on first and second ended that threat and in the fifth, Rodriguez was caught leading off of second following a Sheldon strikeout of Cuffia.

Meanwhile, Vasquez was doing her job keeping the Bears in near hibernation mode. After the first inning, only one Warren runner reached third and Vasquez retired the final seven batters of the game and nine of the last 11. All seven hits off of Vasquez occurred in the first three innings.

“I thought she was pretty much nails and that’s what we were hoping for,” Shawn Quarles said. “But sometimes you give up two in the first inning and it is what it is.”

Vasquez struck out four and threw 80 pitches while Sheldon struck out eight and needed every one of her 113 pitches to avoid losing to Gahr again.

“I think they’re both great pitchers,” Shawn Quarles said. “I have to give [Courtney] credit. She had a game plan and she executed. She was hitting her spots and it was good enough to get the job done.”

Gahr, which held on for a 7-6 home win against Paramount this past Tuesday, improved to 13-9 overall and 6-1 in league. The Gladiators visited Downey on May 8 and will wrap up the regular season with home games against last place Dominquez on Tuesday and fifth place Lynwood on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

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