2018 Prep Softball Preview: SP Aims To Repeat, MS & POLA Are Solid

If there is one sport in San Pedro, California that has brought about the most success in the high school sports world, it's definitely softball.

San Pedro has won 17 CIF-Los Angeles City Section titles. In only seven years, Port Of Los Angeles has won three CIF-LACS titles, while Mary Star has claimed 17 league titles and reached their first and only CIF-Southern Section final appearance in 2013.

The 2017 season saw the Pirates return to glory for the first time since 2009 when it captured the CIF-LACS Division 1 championship, and will look to once again reign supreme. POLA looks to be in a rebuilding stage with a brand-new coach, and Mary Star looks to take the next step after its return to being a threat in the Camino Real League.

Here's the preview on all three schools

SAN PEDRO (25-9-1 in 2017) - For the first time since he took over as head coach, Robert Whitney, now in his fourth season, will have a team all on his own after the last five under the regime of former legendary coach Tony Dobra led the charge in putting San Pedro back on the map after three straight CIF-LACS first round playoff exits.

Last year was very memorable as the Pirates overcame a ragged first half of the season to win 18 out of their final 20 games on the way to the CIF-LACS Division 1 championship, where it edged Marine League rival Banning of Wilmington, 2-1. However, the Pilots will return all but one from last year's roster and is the prohibitive favorite for the league title again. Carson also remains solid, but don't expect San Pedro to concede their hard-earned crown easily.

Losing Cindy Robles (Long Beach State), 2017 CIF-LACS Division 1 Player Of The Year Andrea Cline and Ricki Justiniano will sting no doubt, but Whitney still returns some talented players, paced by senior outfielders Taiya Reyna and Anessa Quiroz, a Monroe College (New York) signee.

Reyna makes the move to shortstop to accommodate incoming freshman O/P Kirstin Sanchez, who along with returning senior Quincy Greenwood and sophomore Briana Velazquez will look to solidify the pitching staff.

Sophomore C/INF Brianna Talamantes, senior outfielder Kierah Murillo and fellow senior outfielder Gidget Gutierrez, who missed all of last season due to injury, are other key returners for San Pedro.

MARY STAR (14-9 in 2017) - Hector Rivera returns for his second season as coach, and the Stars will be highly motivated after last year's 6-6 Camino Real League mark (tied for second with Pomona Catholic), and last year's league champion St. Anthony of Long Beach, returning loaded after last year's CIF-Southern Section Division VI championship run.

Sophomore pitcher Alessandra Samperio is now the top pitcher in San Pedro Prep Softball after striking out 209 batters in 2017, and paces a team that will be likely powered by the underclass players.

Ashley Rico, a talented sophomore shortstop, has verbally committed to San Jose State. Fellow sophomore outfielder Sarah Leyba is fresh off helping the girls basketball team at Mary Star reach the CIF-SS Division 5-AA semifinals. Junior first baseman Rose Amalfitano is coming off another all-league girls soccer campaign, and her sister, sophomore Sofia Amalfitano, emerges as the new starting catcher.

Top seniors for the Stars are outfielder Jillian Duran and four-year veteran third baseman Miranda Marquez.

POLA (31-2-2 overall in 2017) - Last year's Polar Bear team made it all the way to the CIF-LACS Division 1 semifinals for the fourth straight season before falling 3-1 to Banning, marking their first ever loss at Leland Park and ending the illustrious career of two-time CIF-LACS Pitcher Of The Year Analise De La Roca (New Mexico State).

The 2018 season will provide a brand new challenge for POLA, as Antonio Vargas steps in as the new coach, and not only do the Polar Bears, the seven-time Coliseum League champions, have to deal with traditional rival Harbor Teacher Prep, two more Coliseum teams in King-Drew (Division 2) and View Park (Division 3) both won CIF-LACS championships a season ago and will be heavily improved looking to end the Polar Bears' league dominance.

With De La Roca gone, POLA will go with a pitcher-by-committee outlook with senior P/OF Noelany Benitez, sophomore P/3B Angelina Mercado, senior P/INF/OF Angie Vargas and incoming freshman Faith Torstensen to weather the storm.

Vargas and Benitez are both power hitters, while Mercado, sophomore second baseman Tori Palomino and junior shortstop Yolanda Racaza will look to legitimize the infield. Junior catcher Allison Torstensen also returns for POLA as she will team up with her freshman twin sisters Faith and outfielder Gracie for the first time in high school.

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