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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The wind was blowing hard when the John Glenn High baseball team met Cerritos High last Friday in the back end of a home and home series. After the host Dons came away with a 1-0, 10-inning victory two days earlier, they were looking for a sweep and a better position in the Suburban League.
But the Eagles, who went nine up and nine down in the first three innings and again in the fifth through seven, scored three times in the top of the fourth and edged Cerritos 3-2. Coupled with a 4-2 win over Bellflower High this past Wednesday, Glenn is now 15-9 overall and 6-3 in league action. The win over Cerritos was just what head coach Jack Brooks needed as he joked about getting roughly 15 minutes of sleep after losing earlier in the week despite seeing his team load the bases in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
“The opportunities that we had in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings that we had, and then the way that we lost the game…that’s why you don’t go into coaching,” Brooks said. “But look, give credit to these kids. That was a really tough loss to bounce back [from]. High school sports is about building character. These kids learn something about stepping up, keep on fighting and in life, that’s what it’s all about.”
The Dons grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when sophomore right fielder Matthew Pinal and sophomore left fielder Matthew Aguinaga both singled with one out. Freshman third baseman Alex Manibusan then got a ball past the outstretched arms of Glenn junior second baseman Alex Alcaraz to plate Pinal.
A walk to senior designated hitter Alex Hinds loaded the bases and when senior catcher Brett Wells reached on an error, Aguinaga had touched home plate. Freshman pitcher Evan Vasquez then grounded into a double play to end further damage.
Vasquez had breezed, no pun intended with the 15 mile per hour winds with gusts up to 25 mph, through the first three innings on 33 pitches. But sophomore third baseman Joseph Angulo greeted him in the fourth with a double to left field followed by a single to left from sophomore shortstop Joseph Figueroa. Both would advance on a balk, making it 2-1. Junior pitcher Humberto Chiquito then singled to put runners at the corners and one out later, the Eagles received consecutive singles from senior designated hitter Alfredo Hernandez and Alcaraz to make it 3-2.
“We had a couple of good at-bats from Figueroa and Chiquito, and Alcaraz had that big single up the middle,” Brooks said.
“The fourth and fifth are normally the toughest innings you have to get through,” said Cerritos assistant coach Brooks Walling. “The top of the lineup is coming through again, normally.”
The remainder of the game would be a pitching duel between Vasquez and Chiquito, just like it was in the first game with freshman Dee Vizcarra going eight innings of three-hit ball and Angulo scattering seven hits through nine innings. Chiquito would allow two hits over the final five innings, striking out three and getting a key double play in the fourth. Figueroa came in the seventh to strikeout Vasquez after walking Wells. Chiquito threw 107 pitches and yielded five hits.
“He’s just a great kid,” Brooks said. “He competes. It was hard to play today with this wind. California kids are not used to this. It was really hard to command the breaking stuff in this type of wind. He wasn’t sharp early on, but from the third inning on, he really rolled.”
Vasquez was just as brilliant, going the distance, striking out five and retiring the final 11 batters he faced, seven of those were of the groundout variety.
“I thought we swung the bats okay all the way around,” Walling said. “Glenn played pretty stellar defense again. The double play balls killed us this week. So, at least we had a chance.”
The fact that these two teams played in another one-run affair comes as no surprise to anyone associated with the programs. Cerritos was starting four seniors, three sophomores and three freshmen while the Eagles had two seniors, four juniors and four sophomores in their starting lineup. Last season, the two teams split their two games with Cerritos winning 13-7 in 10 innings on the road, two days after falling 5-1 at home. In 2015, the Eagles swept the Dons and have now won 11 of the last 13 league meetings with Cerritos.
“Our clubs are very similar,” Brooks said. “We’re both real young. We start one senior; they start three. We both have two good pitchers an offensively, we’re not there yet.”
“We’re very similar types of ballclubs,” Walling said. “[We’re] both light on the stick because we’re so young. Both have two arms and we have two more that they haven’t seen. So, going down the road, when we do get that new  league, I think it’s going to be us and Glenn. It’s going to be a war.”
Glenn will visit Bellflower today before wrapping up the regular season at Mayfair High on Tuesday and again at home with the Monsoons on Thursday.
“We had two one-run ballgames from last year; we lost one in extra innings,” Brooks said of the Bellflower series. “We have to pick it up offensively. That’s a fact. We have to score more than three runs to have some success. We have to find a way to at least get the split.”
Cerritos (17-11, 5-4), which trounced Norwalk High 17-6 this past Wednesday, will host the Lancers today, then face league-leading La Mirada High on Tuesday and Thursday with the first game at home.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Walling said. “If we take care of business against Norwalk and say we did drop two against La Mirada, we’re 6-6. La Mirada knows we’re no slouch. We had them last year on the ropes.”