With the holidays around the corner, POLA Softball Program will be pre-selling Christmas Trees, wreaths, and garland in an order to fundraise for uniforms, tra…
That was the final rallying cry for the Port Of Los Angeles High softball team after they came away with a dominating and decisive performance against crosstown neighbor San Pedro.
In a highly anticipated showdown between two established CIF-Los Angeles City Section powers, it was the Polar Bears, the reigning three-time Small Schools Division champion, who came away with a resounding and eye-opening 11-0 victory over the 16-time City champion Pirates at Harbor College. It was a game that POLA felt like they needed to make a statement to prove they belong in Division I this season, and they surely looked the part.
"Coming into the game, everyone was excited and ready to play," POLA senior first baseman Allison Bayer said.
One player in particular, junior pitcher Nicolle Miranda, thrived in the atmosphere of playing in a big game.
Miranda got the game started off right for POLA (20-5 overall) by striking out the side, then senior shortstop Kelsea Short was able to blast a shot to left field the ricocheted off San Pedro junior left fielder Cayla Ezelle, resulting in a lead-off double. Short would score on a two-out sacrifice fly by Analise De La Roca for a 1-0 POLA lead in the bottom of the first inning.
San Pedro (14-5) would put runners on first and second with two outs on a single by freshman designated player Andrea Cline, but Miranda fanned San Pedro senior pitcher Jocelyn Kondash to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Polar Bears' first two batters were retired by Kondash, but were able to scratch four unearned runs all with two outs due to a pair of San Pedro fielding miscues and an RBI-single by Miranda for a 5-0 POLA advantage.
"We had a game plan and I was proud my girls never wavered," POLA co-head coach Melissa Bugarin-Espinoza said of that third inning, two-out rally. "San Pedro never rolled over so we knew we had to keep punching and worrying about us.
True to Bugarin-Espinoza's words, San Pedro refused to lay down as singles by junior catcher Alexa Ponce and senior first baseman Armida Roman once again put runners on first and second with one out in the top of the fourth inning, but another potential threat got snuffed out by a heads-up play by junior right fielder Kristi Gutierrez.
San Pedro senior shortstop Angelina Boskovich stroked a line drive right at Gutierrez, who then saw Roman straying too far off first base and promptly fired a dart towards Bayer at first to double up Roman for an inning-ending double play, and the momentum stayed in the Polar Bears' camp.
"I knew that I needed to make the play and when I saw (Roman) off the bag I knew that I had to get her as well," Gutierrez said. "We came out hungry as ever and this means everything to our program."
Not satisfied with their current lead, POLA would explode for three runs in the fifth inning on Bayer's RBI-double, Bayer scoring her second of three runs off a wild pitch, and then an RBI-single by junior second baseman Rosemary Garcia, who transferred from San Pedro the prior year. POLA would scratch another run off in the sixth inning but they had one more thing left before that inning came to a close...
And that was the finishing touch. That's where Miranda came into play.
With the count 2-and-1, Miranda would turn on an inside pitch from San Pedro freshman relief pitcher Cindy Robles and it was launched off the top of the left field fence, and bounce over for a two-run home run to cap off the Polar Bears' extraordinary day.
Yes, it was that kind of day for POLA, and Miranda.
"Right when I hit the pitch, it felt so good I knew it was going over," said Miranda, who finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and hurled a complete game four-hit shutout with a walk and ten strikeouts. "Our victory shows that we're not just a small school. We are a legitimate program that can compete with the bigger schools."
Bugarin-Espinoza gave Miranda her props on just another thrilling effort.
"Nikki is my gamer," Bugarin-Espinoza says. "She is a warrior of a competitor and really shows up in the big games. She is a solid player and I am proud of her performances this week. It has been a long week for us and she has not broke down once."
This was POLA's second victory this season over a Marine League school, as they also own a 8-2 win over Narbonne of Harbor City on March 27.
With the El Segundo Tournament looming, POLA and San Pedro could potentially meet up again on Saturday, and it's a rare second chance that the Pirates are definitely looking forward to.
"That's what's great about sports, you always get a chance to fix it," said Ponce, who went 2-for-3 with a double for San Pedro and also ended the fourth inning by gunning down POLA freshman center fielder Shelby Younkin as she tried to steal second base. "Everyone is beatable and everyone can win, it just matters who can play together as a team."
POLA will play their fourth game in five days this week later today with a Crosstown League game at Bloch Field against Harbor Teacher Prep of Wilmington, but they will no doubt revel in this victory for the next 24 hours since this was their second straight win over San Pedro in three all-time meetings (POLA is 2-1).