NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Artesia baseball rallies late, then holds off Gabrielino for long-awaited playoff victory

By Loren Kopff • @Lorenkopff on Twitter

May 4, 2022~For a program that hasn’t made the CIF-Southern Section playoffs since 2007, the Artesia High baseball team made a dramatic appearance in a Division 7 wild card game in 2022. The Pioneers hosted on last Wednesday, Gabrielino High and the two remained scoreless in four innings before the Eagles broke the tie at the top of the fifth.

Then the Artesia bats woke up and tacked six runs in the sixth before Gabrielino netted twice in the seventh. But junior pitcher Richard Saad initially knocked out Julian Sandoval to end the game and retain the 6-3 win. The Pioneers, who defeated Pioneer High last Friday to determine third place in the 605 League, improved to 14-11 and travel to United Christian Academy for a first-round game today.

“Great game,” exhaled Artesia head coach Jose Serrano. “Once again the kids didn’t stop and kept going. It’s all about being positive; have a good attitude and don’t give up. I think that’s what I’m trying to change in the program.”

Senior designated hitter Frankie Medina led from the bottom of the sixth with a double to the left field fence, leveling the game when freshman pinch hitter Victor Sanchez followed with a single to the right. Jalen Sandoval then walked freshman catcher Daniel Carbajal and passed an infield single to junior center fielder Joshua Peck to load bases.

Serrano went back to his bench and called freshman pinch hitter Alex Escobar, who responded with a single to left to plate senior pinch runner Andrew Serrano. Two batters later, senior shortstop Juan Munoz got a fielder’s pick, and Carbajal came home. A two-run single by junior second baseman Phineas Shahon followed. After junior third baseman Reggie Steele was hit by a pitch to reload bases, a base hit by Medina Munoz scored to end the furious rally.

The Pioneers constantly pressured Gabrielino starter Elias Diosdado throughout his five innings of work as he walked six and gave up two hits. Artesia had at least two runners on base in the first four innings but left seven on base in five innings.

“In the second inning I realized how deep [in the pitch count] he got,” said Jose Serrano. “We had to be patient. One thing that we’ve been working on and I got that from a great player who played here, Cole Garner, and he was right. You want to get your pitches and make sure you’re swinging good pitches. In the last few weeks we have done that.”

But even a 6-1 in the seventh inning was not a matter of course. Junior Brandon Garcia, who had pitched 75 pitches up to that point, loaded the bases with the first three batters. That’s where Saad came in, and after delivering a two-run first pitch to Sandoval, got Eloy Zarate flying left for the second out.

“This kid threw 87 pitches in an inning last year to throw 87 pitches in a full game this year,” Jose Serrano said of his starting pitcher. “I think that’s where it changed so much. He threw so well, shot after shot, pounding the strike zone. I think he’s improved a lot this year.”

The Pioneers also got some excellent defensive plays as freshman right fielder Jose Garcia made a running catch to end the third inning. Peck fell to thwart a base hit by Nash Castillo with an on and two out in the fourth inning and made another dive catch in the sixth to stop Jordan Garcia from a potential two-run base hit.

“That’s something I as a player… I was more of a defensive guy and now as a head coach I understand how this game works,” said Jose Serrano. “Defense wins championships; of course we know that. But I tried to change that this year and focus on the defensive, because that’s what we were missing.”

The 14 wins are the most by an Artesia team since 2007, when that team went 16-12 and lost in the second round after three straight playoff games. The Pioneers had won a total of 15 games from 2016 to 2021. Today’s game winner meets Tuesday’s Santa Clara High/Wiseburn DaVinci High game winner.

In other playoff baseball action, Cerritos High, champions of the 605 League for the third straight season and ninth in Division 3, hosts Riverside Poly High in a first round game today. The Dons, who have won all 26,605 league games since coming out of the Suburban League, went 22-5 in the regular season, the most wins the program has had in at least 25 seasons and only the second time in three full seasons for the Dons have achieved at least 20 wins. Poly placed third in the Ivy League and has an overall score of 11-13. The winner meets either Cajon High or Summit High on Tuesday.

SOFTBALL (all first round matches will be played on May 5th)

DEPARTMENT 1

Gahr High (20-8), champions of the San Gabriel Valley League for the first time since 2019, hosted 10th ranked Westlake High (20-5), the second-ranked representatives of the Marmonte League. The Gladiators took a 9-1 lead in the league and beat their SGVL opponent 132-17 with three shutouts. It is the sixth time since 2015 that the Gahr program has won at least 20 games. The winner will face either Huntington Beach High or La Serna High on Tuesday.

La Mirada High (21-6), which won the Suburban League with nine abandoned heats in eight competitions, was home to Olympic gold medalist Whittier Christian High (18-7) in a battle of unranked teams. The Matadores have recorded five shutouts and given up a run in 10 other games. The winner faces either Roosevelt High or Upland High on Tuesday. Gahr and La Mirada could meet in the semifinals if they go that far.

DEPARTMENT 3

Unranked Cerritos (15-2) and 605 League winners received sixth-placed Heritage High (20-4), who finished second in the Ivy League. The Dons allowed 28 runs with seven shutouts this season, losing their February 22 loss to Gahr (8-1) and April 7 loss to La Mirada. The winner will face either Culver City High or Western Christian High Tuesday.

DEPARTMENT 5

Artesia (10-12) beat John Glenn High 13-8 last Thursday to win the 605 League third-place game, drawing away Orange Coast League champion Calvary Chapel Santa Ana (16-8). The Pioneers are in the playoffs for the fourth time since 2017 and have won at least 10 games for the fourth time in that span. The winner meets either Banning High or fifth-place San Jacinto High on Tuesday.

Norwalk High (18-7), tied for second in the Suburban League with Mayfair High and tied for seventh, hosted Providence High (17-5-1), the second-place team in the Prep League. The Lancers finished the regular season with three straight shutouts and won 11 of their first 14 games to start the season. The winner meets either at Montclair High in 10th placethor Victor Valley High on Tuesdays.

BOYS TENNIS

Two teams from the region won their first round games last Wednesday when Cerritos, the top-ranked Division 4 team, defeated Thatcher High 12-6. The Dons (12-8), who finished second in the 605 League, travel to San Dimas High today.

In Division 3, Whitney High (12-6) defeated La Serna High 11-7 and will host fourth-place St Margaret’s High today.

Valley Christian High fell 12-6 to sixth-placed Westminster High in a Division 5 first-round game last Wednesday to end the season 9-7.

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