Errors, Highland blow Gardena out of regionals

Gardena High’s softball team got the privilege of playing in the first ever CIF-Southern California Regional playoffs last Thursday.

Despite entering the playoffs with a 4-9 overall record but winning the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division II title with a 10-6 win over host Palisades on June 17, the Panthers broke down in the quarterfinals in a six-inning mercy rule 11-1 loss to Highland High from Bakersfield in the semifinals at Gardena.

Six errors, five of those in the first two innings, doomed Gardena as the Scots jumped on them for nine runs in the first two innings; seven of those in the top of the second as they quickly built a 9-0 lead.

“We didn’t adjust quick enough,” Gardena head coach Shar Woods said. “We made too many errors.”

Highland, which ended up winning the Division IV championship with a 4-3 final win over CIF-Central Section foe Holtville on Saturday at Holtville High (located about 15 miles northeast of Bakersfield), led 10-0 before the Panthers were able to avoid the five-inning mercy rule loss with their only run in the bottom of the fifth. Gardena scored on a base hit by Robin Gage that brought home Jazmine Beltran.

The Scots added a run in the top of the sixth and the Panthers were unable to add another run ending the game after six innings on the 10-run mercy rule.

Lilliani Gudiel was the losing pitcher for Gardena, which ended its season at 4-10. Mary Jane Venjejas relieved Gudiel, allowing one unearned run.

Marissa Campos sparked the Scots (15-2 overall) by going 3-for-4 with three runs batted in and one run scored. Mariyah Montoya went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs.

Winning pitcher Briana Solas pitched all six innings, allowing three hits, striking out nine batters and walking two. Highland was the CIF-Central Section Division V runner-up behind Holtville.

According to Woods, most of the Panthers were juniors and she is looking at a better showing. With Gardena winning the L.A. City Division II title this year, though, the Panthers are expected to move up to a more competitive Division I.

Hoping for a more normal year and that the COVID-19 pandemic will get cleared, Gardena hopes to have a good showing in the always rigorous Marine League, led by powers Carson and San Pedro.

Carson made the Division I regional playoffs but was eliminated by top seeded and host Los Alamitos 8-0 on June 22. Los Alamitos, though, lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Camarillo last Thursday.