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 championships and 25 league crowns. In only eight years, Port Of Los Angeles has won three CIF-LACS titles, while Mary Star has claimed 18 league titles and reached two CIF-Southern Section finals appearance in 2013 and 2018.
Last year was one of the best in five years as San Pedro and Mary Star both had CIF runner-up showings each knocking off a top seeded team along the way, while POLA won an eighth straight league title. All three will look to do something that has never been done before, win a league crown together in the same season with Mary Star providing the best chance to win a league crown.
Here's the preview on all three schools.
SAN PEDRO (19-14-1 in 2018) – The 45th season of Pirate softball will bring about the illustrious program’s seventh coach, as Samantha Gyerman is now in control.
The former Iowa/Long Beach State star comes into 2019 with loads of talent and promise as San Pedro is coming off two straight CIF-LACS championship appearances, winning the 2017 Division 1 title and coming up short in a bid to repeat with the inaugural Open Division championship, as they were dethroned by Chatsworth, the prohibitive favorite.
A dangerous hitting lineup awaits with returning All-City junior P/INF Briana Velazquez eager to build off a phenomenal 2018 where she hit 12 home runs, including a pair of walk-off game winners. All-Marine League returning junior Brianna Talamantes, another great contact hitter, will likely be the starting catcher but will be pushed by incoming freshman Miah Owens.
Don’t forget All-Marine League sophomore third baseman Sierra Sandoval is a lethal threat in the lineup, as are junior outfielder Priscilla Andrade, alongside sophomores Jordan ‘Jo Jo’ Krause and Kirstin Sanchez.
Carson is the defending Marine League champion, but the Pirates and fellow Harbor Area neighbor Banning are legitimate threats as always. All three are expected to return to the Open Division playoffs.
MARY STAR (21-7 in 2018) – No one saw the Stars coming as hard as they did in 2018 as they made a marvelous run to the Camino Real League title and CIF-SS Division 6 finals, where they finally fell to Highland, but ending a perfect run attempt by Carnegie Schools of Riverside in a 5-2 semifinal upset was the top softball story in town.
The Stars aim for an even better 2019 as Jesse Espinoza returns for his second term as head coach… and that definitely should provide more incentive for a dynamite year for returning All-CIF and Cal-Hi Sports All-State selection in junior pitcher Alessandra Samperio.
The velocity of Samperio’s fastball has risen to 65 MPH but she also had a strong summer where she hit three home runs in a travel ball game alone, one more than she had all of 2018 for the Stars.
Mary Star still boasts the only verbal commit of anyone in town in junior shortstop Ashley Rico (San Jose State), another returning All-CIF selection and the top hitter by average of all. The awesome sister tandem of senior Rose & junior Sofia Amalfitano, along with sophomore Arianna Bautista and all-league returning junior outfielder Sarah Leyba providing more shine to the Stars.
With Cantwell and powerhouse St. Anthony now gone from Camino Real League competition, repeating as league champs might be even more realistic due to St. Genevieve and St. Monica being added in, making Bishop Montgomery and Pomona Catholic the top challengers to the Stars’ throne.
POLA (13-7 in 2018) – The Polar Bears had the earliest exit of any team in their already rich history, as they were eliminated in the first round of the CIF-LACS Division 1 playoffs by Venice, but still overcame the lack of a quality pitcher and a coaching change to capture a share of their eighth straight Coliseum League title.
Now POLA and second-year coach Antonio Vargas enter the new Imperial League as the slight favorite but will get tested by King-Drew and Harbor Teacher Prep.
In a year where underclass players will be the focal point at all three schools, POLA has the best trio of seniors in C/INF Allison Torstensen, shortstop Yolanda Racaza and the return of Melanie Arent, who took a year off to focus on travel ball.
The Polar Bears will also be paced by the likes of the Mercado sisters: junior shortstop Angelina and sophomore catcher Larissa, along with rapidly improving junior outfielder Briana Vigil and junior infielder Tori Palomino.
Sophomore Faith Torstensen appears to have the best outlook of being the top pitcher for POLA, and her twin sister Gracie Torstensen gives the Polar Bears a third option at catcher.
TOP GAMES TO WATCH
February 26 – Pomona Catholic at Mary Star (2:15 pm)
March 28 – Carson at San Pedro (3:15 pm)
April 2 – Banning at San Pedro (3: 15 pm)
April 5 – King-Drew at POLA (2 pm)
April 5 – Mary Star at Redondo Union (6 pm)