La Mirada~The La Mirada high school baseball team began its defense of the Suburban League title yesterday by beating the Bellflower Bucaneers 7-0, behind a strong pitching performance from Ali Anthony and assists from a shaky Bucaneers defense.
La Mirada shared the title with Mayfair last season, with both teams finishing 10-2. The Matadores have won 12 of the last 13 league crowns.
As in recent years, the Matadores this season have battled a tough pre-league schedule, so they entered league play with a losing record.
After getting out of a couple of jams early, Anthony settled down and pitched a complete-game shutout. He gave up just 3 hits, allowed three walks, and had four strikeouts-two looking. He also hit two batters.
Anthony also starred at the plate going 3-4 and driving in 2 runs.
The game got off to a precarious start when Anthony gave up a leadoff single to Brandon Polizzi in the first inning. A stolen base and fielder's choice followed, and the Bucs had a runner on third with one man out. Then, Bellflower's Victor Zepeda hit a sharp ground ball to La Mirada shortstop Austin Rojo who recorded the out with a nice play of knocking down the ball and holding the runner. Ali struck out the next batter to end the inning.
In the third inning, Ali this time gave up a leadoff triple, again to Polizzi. He responded by retiring three straight batters, one on a called third strike. In the bottom of the frame, Ali drove in a run with a single, and the Mats went up 2-0 after scoring in the previous inning.
The Matadores blew the game open in the fourth against Buc starter Jimmy Rodriguez scoring four runs, being helped by two Bellflower errors; they had three for the game. Cody Kruip had a two-run single to extend the lead to 6-0.
In the fifth, the Bucaneers (7-6, 0-1), seemed to be rallying against a tiring Ali. A single and hit batter put runners on first and second with nobody out. This prompted a visit to the mound by Coach Kim Brooks.
"He told me to concentrate on getting outs," Ali told the La Mirada Blog.
Luckily for the Mats, the Bucs Frank Armenta then hit a screeching liner down the first base line which was snared by Matadore first baseman Blake Wilson, who then easily walked over and doubled the runner of first, and for all intensive purposes, squelching the rally as the next batter grounded out to third.
"I had a sigh of relief after that play,' said Ali, "I knew I needed just one more out (to end the inning)."
Ali (2-2), then retired seven of the next eight batters for his fourth complete game of the year.
He said, "It wasn't my best game, but I stuck with it and had to trust in my pitches, and let them hit the ball to my teammates, which they did, at the right time."
Jeffrey Murray had a very hard-hit, impressive solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to cap the scoring for La Mirada.
The Matadores conclude the home-and-home series this Friday at Bellflower starting at 3 p.m. The following day, Saturday, the Mats play North High School of Torrance at 11 a.m. in Redondo Tournament pool action at La Mirada High School.
Photo: Teamates look on as Ali Anthony gets ready to collect one of his three hits