Not a rough beginning in the Redondo Union Tournament to start the 2017 season, a challenging previous week where the Pirates lost four of seven games, a rough start to this week in a Marine League opener at Carson, not even a tight game with defending league champion Banning of Wilmington, or in the case of senior catcher Andrea Cline, a 1-and-2 pitch count.
"I was looking for a pitch that I would be able to drive hard and forward," the four-year veteran said. "I knew I had to protect with two strikes."
Cline would foul off six consecutive pitches from Banning freshman left-hander Angelina Devoe, and then finally, the pitch she was able to drive came, and Cline got it all for a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning for the visiting Pirates to prevail, 3-1 over the Pilots at the Wilmington Athletic Complex.
With this monster victory, San Pedro (9-7-1 overall, 1-1 league) proved to a lot of doubters, and made believers out of everyone else, that they are a dangerous team with seven seniors and six juniors in spite of what the Pirates had to endure this week alone, letting a 3-0 lead get away in a 8-3 loss to Carson on Monday, followed by rallying to win 5-3 over a talented West Torrance team on Wednesday.
"It felt great to get the win," San Pedro senior shortstop Deanna Gonzalez said. "I truly believe in my teammates to push through. I'm proud to call them my team."
Added junior left fielder Taiya Reyna: "We're finally playing as one and we kept fighting."
Devoe and San Pedro senior pitcher Cindy Robles were dueling it out pitching five scoreless innings each, although the Pirates left runners on first and second in the first inning, two in scoring position in the third inning, and senior shortstop Deanna Gonzalez's towering double in the top of the fourth with two outs wasn't enough to produce a run. Robles wheeled and dealed four no-hit innings before surrendering a leadoff single to Banning sophomore right fielder Gladys Garcia in the bottom of the fifth.
Cline would lace a double to the left-center field fence with two outs in the sixth inning, then a ground ball hit by San Pedro junior right fielder Anessa Quiroz seemed like a sure out when Banning junior shortstop Jayda Su'e fielded it, but her throw to first was errant, allowing freshman courtesy runner Sofia Gomez to score for a 1-0 lead.
Garcia would blast a no-doubt-about-it, first-pitch solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning for Banning (9-3, 1-1) to knot the score at 1-1, sending the game into extra innings.
San Pedro would put the pressure on early in the top of the eighth with Reyna's leadoff single, then senior third baseman Ricki Justiniano, who struck out three times against Devoe, worked a four-pitch walk. Banning sophomore third baseman Ameyalli Vargas would field San Pedro junior designated player Hannae Seller-Tousseau's ground ball, smartly touched her base to double up Reyna before retiring Seller-Tousseau for the double play, setting up Cline.
Ten pitches later, Cline's flair for the dramatic on her two-run shot to left field put San Pedro ahead for good, and provided a jolt of electricity and encouragement to her teammates who greeted her at home plate.
"It was amazing that she clutched up and did her job to help the team out," said Reyna, who went 2-for-4 at the plate for San Pedro. "Especially Cindy, because she pitched her heart out for eight innings."
On cue, Robles would strike the side out in the bottom of the eighth to secure the win for San Pedro, finishing with a sparkling and gutsy two-hit performance with eleven strikeouts, only walking Banning second baseman Sarahy Martinez in the second inning, and two hits, both to Garcia who finished 2-for-3 for the Pilots.
Robles only had one clear game plan in mind when dealing with Banning's outstanding hitting lineup.
"I had to be mentally focused and hit all my spots," Robles said.
Probably even more important than Robles' pitching and Cline's home run, was how the defense played a part for San Pedro, as they played flawlessly without a single error. Reyna was key with three outfield putouts, and Gonzalez (2-for-4, double) was extra effective at shortstop, as was senior second baseman Mackenzie Winkle.
"I believe that we can do that every game for Cindy because we have all the right mechanics," Reyna said. "We just need to communicate more."
San Pedro will next host Gardena on Tuesday.