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BORAS CLASSIC-La Mirada haunted by poor defense again to another D 1 team, blanked by Huntington Beach

April 13, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

SANTA ANA-La Mirada High head coach Jimmy Zurn has seen his team play poor defense over the past few weeks and once again, the blunders wasted another strong outing by senior pitcher Eric Jeon. In one inning, the Matadores saw Huntington Beach High score five runs and the Oilers tacked on one more to blank the Matadores 6-0 in the first round of the 11th Boras Baseball Classic at Mater Dei High.

The six runs allowed are a season high and the five runs scored in the bottom of the third inning were the most La Mirada has yielded in any inning this season. Coupled with a 4-3 win against Santiago High this past Wednesday, La Mirada stood at 13-5 overall.

“Our defense let [Jeon] down,” said Zurn. “We should have been two outs, nobody on. We misplayed a fly ball in center, we overthrow a ball at third and then we kick a ball at first. We had three consecutive errors.”

The third inning began with Linkin Garcia sending what would have been a routine fly ball to center, but it was misplayed, and the speedy Garcia found himself at third with a triple. Three pitches later, on a 0-2 count, Ralph Velasquez hit a grounder that was air-mailed to first base, allowing Garcia to come home and open the floodgates.

Aiden Espinoza followed with an infield single and moved to second on a balk. Next up was Trent Grindlinger, who doubled to left field, making it 3-0 and on a 2-2 count, Colby Turner smacked a two-run home run over the left field fence.

“It’s very disappointing with the fact that that’s what we take pride in,” said Zurn of his defense. “We always have, we always will. And when you’re in close ballgames, low-scoring games, that’s what is going to make the difference. They got on us and we couldn’t recover. If we make routine plays, we’re in a 0-0 ballgame.”

The Oilers sent nine up to bat in the inning and Jeon would start the next inning hitting Garcia before Velasquez hit into a fielder’s choice. Jeon then walked Espinoza before getting the next two outs to keep it 5-0. Jeon, who tossed 71 pitches, scattered eight hits, struck out two and walked a pair, was replaced by sophomore Jason Rodriguez in the fifth inning.

“I thought Eric competed,” said Zurn. “Obviously after that, he gave up two hits in the inning. He gave up a double and a home run and now it’s 5-0. Other than that, they didn’t do a ton. But tribute to them; they made plays and we didn’t. That’s what it comes down to.”

Offensively, the Matadores couldn’t do much against H.B.’s Carson Lane, who pitched six solid innings. Senior second baseman Aiden Haller began the game with a first-pitch infield single, went to second on a groundout from Jeon and moved to third on a wild pitch. But Lane struck out senior right fielder Benjamin Kim and sophomore first baseman Maverek Russell to end that threat. In the third inning, Lane hit junior left fielder Tyler Primanto on the first pitch and after a sacrifice and a stolen base, the lineup turned back to the top of the order, but Pirmanto remained at third base, The Matadores would get three more runners on base off Lane, none getting to third and one going for a hit.

Then in the seventh inning. Gavin Pacheco walked sophomore shortstop Aiden Aguayo, who went to second on a wild pitch and stole third before a strikeout and two fly balls to right field ended the game.

The two hits marks the fewest for La Mirada this season, also accomplished on Mar. 8 against Bonita High in a 4-0 loss and on Mar. 9 against Oaks Christian High in a 3-2 victory. Both of those games came in the rain-shortened Perfect Game Showdown at Great Park in Irvine.

“We have to be able to put the ball in play with two strikes,” said Zurn. “We had our three-hole hitter up with a runner on third with less than two outs [and] we strikeout. Then obviously we struck out looking with Maverek, who’s one of our top hitters. We’ve got to continue working offensively and if you look at the formula for us, we’re 12-5 and four of our losses are by shutouts.

“That’s what you get,” he continued. “Everybody’s got good pitching; we’ve got good pitching. Like I said, I’ve got to tip my cap to their pitcher. Offensively for them, we gift-wrapped some runs in that inning for them.”

La Mirada is now 2-4 against CIF-Southern Section Division 1 teams with three more remaining in the regular season. Of those four losses, three were by shutouts and the other a one-run decision to Servite High and of the 16 teams in the Boras Baseball Classic, 12 are in Division 1 with the other four in Division 2.

“This tournament…if you want to hold onto this loss, this tournament will eat you up,” said Zurn. “We have to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow.”

The Matadores faced Corona High on Apr. 13 and will finish the Boras Baseball Classic on Friday against either Etiwanda High or Maranatha High. After the tournament, the Matadores will be one of the busiest teams in the Southern Section, playing seven games over the final 11 eligible playing days of the regular season. It begins by hosting Tesoro High on Monday and Downey High on Wednesday before going to Warren High on Thursday. La Mirada is 6-0 in Gateway League action with six more league games remaining, including three against Gahr High, which is also 6-0 in league action and the top-ranked team in Division 2.

“We’ve also had some D 1 teams that we’ve done well against,” said Zurn. “We play a good schedule; we always have, we always will. That’s something we have to figure out by the time the playoffs get here.”

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