It's March Madness.. San Pedro Prep Softball style.
A wild intersectional hometown showdown ended with a St. Patrick's Day delight on a Friday afternoon for Mary Star Of The Sea High softball.
With two outs and two in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied, Mary Star junior shortstop Janelle Vega blasted the first pitch from San Pedro freshman Jenna Ortega into center field, driving in freshman second baseman Mariah Candela for the 9-8 home victory.
This was a back-and-forth encounter that had a lot of twists, turns, and like the NCAA basketball tournaments, it was also a game of runs, especially in the fifth inning.
With San Pedro ahead, 3-2, the Pirates struck for three runs to push their lead up to 6-2, strengthened by a pair of RBI-singles by senior designated player Marissa Markel and senior left fielder Layla Jelenic, who stole second on a double steal that also saw sophomore Bri Rodela steal home uncontested, but the host Stars (5-3) were undaunted, and came into the bottom half of the inning ready to counterattack.
It all got started with an innocent ground-ball out by Vega, but once senior center fielder Tele Jennings drew a one-out walk, Mary Star was ready to unload, and San Pedro came stunningly unraveled.
Back-to-back hits by senior third baseman Destiny Contreras and junior 1B/P Mina Tala made it 6-4, with Tala's second RBI hit of the afternoon bringing home Jennings. San Pedro's first error of the inning plated Conteras, and then junior P/1B Jocelyn Mayorga blasted an opposite-field RBI-single to right for Tala to score. Suddenly, Mary Star was only down 6-5 but on the next pitch, Candela's grounder to third ate up San Pedro senior Bella Chavez, loading the bases.
Mayorga and junior left fielder Alaina Velardez then score off a wild throw from San Pedro junior shortstop Madison Fao towards first base on what should have been the final out of the inning, then two pitches later, Vega's first RBI-hit of the day plated Candela for an 8-6 Mary Star advantage.
True to form, San Pedro (3-4) kept battling, and once the seventh inning surfaced, they wasted little time in making their comeback bid.
Fao led off the inning being hit by an inside pitch from Tala, then Markel's booming double to right allowed Fao to score from first. Jelenic's one-out ground-ball out drove Markel in to even the score at 8-8 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Not easing up, Mayorga drilled a single on the first pitch before being forced out on a fielder's choice at second on Candela's grounder to Chavez. Then Candela advanced to third on Velardez's one-out single, followed by senior right fielder Lilly Vega striking out, but Rodela dropped Ortega's pitch recovering quickly to throw to first for the second out.
And then, it was Janelle Vega that got her shine on.
Jennings, bound for UC San Diego, went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, scoring twice for Mary Star. Tala earned the win in relief of Mayorga, scattering three runs on five hits, striking out four. Contreras, Mayorga and Tala all had two hits each with Tala also delivering with 2 RBIs. Markel went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for San Pedro, while Jelenic went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs.
Fao, Chavez (2-for-4) and junior first baseman Addison Patapoff all belted doubles for the two-time defending Marine League champion Pirates, who got a solid four innings of work by junior pitcher Bella Miller, only allowing two runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts.
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