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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Gahr High was hoping to clinch another San Gabriel Valley League baseball championship when the Gladiators hosted Downey High last Friday. The slugfest featured nine pitchers, 24 hits, 15 runs and three errors.
When the three-hour contest had finished with the winning run standing at second, the Gladiators had just fallen short of its third rally of the game and lost to the Vikings 8-7 in eight innings. Gahr head coach Gerardo Perez called the game good, but unusual. It had rallied from a 2-0 first-inning deficit and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. Then trailing 8-6 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, senior center fielder Je’Von Ward and sophomore right fielder Andrew Householder each singled. On a full count, sophomore third baseman J.J. Cruz doubled to center to bring in Ward. But on the same play, Householder was trying to tie the contest until he has tagged out at home to end the threat and game.
After beginning league play with five straight shutouts, the Gladiators fell to Paramount High 4-3 on Apr. 28, then outlasted the Vikings 5-2 in nine innings on May 2.
“That demonstrates some growth from a young team,” Perez said. “Obviously, we had a different approach as far as the pitching staff. We didn’t pitch [senior Josh] Haley. We kind of wanted to give some guys an opportunity to not only play, but pitch.”
Junior Darius Garcia was making just his third start of the season and quickly gave up two runs with two outs in the top of the first. But he settled down and had a perfect second and got a key double play behind him in the third. Junior Julian Sotelo then worked into the sixth inning, yielding just three hits and not allowing a run.
Meanwhile, the offense, which had been silent through the first three innings, got things going in the fourth when Householder was hit by a pitch and advanced on a pair of wild pitches. Jorge Arellano then walked Cruz before sophomore second baseman Tyrese Turner put down an infield single that allowed Householder to come home.
A sacrifice fly from Haley tied the game and Turner, who stole second, would give Gahr a 3-2 lead when he scored on a wild pitch. The Gladiators then added two more runs in the fifth on a run-scoring hit from Householder and a sacrifice fly from Cruz.
In the top of the seventh, the Vikings would score four runs to take a 6-5 lead. The big hits were a two-out double from Adrian Valtierra, making it 5-4 and a two-run double from Emiliano Reyes.
But staying with the two-out theme, the hosts came back in their half of the frame. Thomas Maloney walked Turner, who then stole second. Haley followed that with a single to tie the game and was at second following a single from sophomore catcher Edward Morales. But a fly-out ended that rally.
Cruz, Householder, Turner and Ward all collected a pair of hits but the Gladiators stranded 10 runners on base.
Gahr would still clinch its fifth league crown in the past six seasons after knocking off last place Dominguez High 14-1 this past Tuesday. The Gladiators (13-14, 7-2) would travel to Aliso Niguel High this past Wednesday and come away with a 3-0 victory before ending the regular season at home against Dominguez on May 11.
“That’s one of the goals that we set out to do, and we did that,” Perez said of winning the league. “And I’m very proud of our guys for that. We’ll go to the playoffs; we’ll host a playoff game.”