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LOS ANGELES - Getting new alternate charcoal jerseys may have looked good on the outside for San Pedro High football but... There was a lot of fire on the…
The two got together one more time at Recreation Park to earn a spot in the El Segundo Tournament semifinals just two days after the Polar Bears administered a 11-0 whitewashing of the Pirates at Harbor College and for the first time all season, POLA would face some uncertainty after grabbing an early lead, only to watch the resilient Pirates take it away from them.
POLA would dig down deep and eventually rallied to once again defeat San Pedro, 4-2 in the El Segundo Tournament quarterfinal that would end after six innings due to the tournament time limit.
All it took was one long game of cat and mouse between POLA senior first baseman Allison Bayer and San Pedro senior pitcher Jaclyn Rivera in a crucial moment during the top of the fifth inning with one out, loaded bases, and the Pirates (15-6) trying to desperately cling to their 2-1 lead.
Bayer fell behind in the count 1-and-2, fouled off three pitches, then drew a ball. Bayer fouled off another pitch before drawing ball three. Bayer was determined not to strike out like she did in her previous encounter with Rivera, then fouled off five more pitches before finally driving in POLA senior right fielder Sarah Maldonado for the tying run with a sacrifice fly to center field. In all, that at-bat lasted for an incredible 15 pitches.
"Allison has been seeing.the ball well," POLA softball co-coach Melissa Bugarin-Espinoza said. "I knew she would battle until the end and credit to the pitcher she worked very hard. That battle was a synopsis of the dog fight game it really was."
POLA (23-5) would regain the lead in the top of the sixth inning, as with one out, junior second baseman Rosemary Garcia would lace a ground ball to third base that skirted past San Pedro junior third baseman Taylor Richter, allowing junior courtesy runner Adriana Vargas to score the go-ahead run. One out later, Bugarin-Espinoza would call upon junior Tiffany Mercado to pinch-hit for Maldonado.
With the count at 2-and-2, Mercado drilled a shot down the left field line to the wall for a double to drive home Garcia, giving POLA some well-needed insurance.
That hit literally galvanized the Polar Bear dugout.
"When we saw that hit, the dugout went crazy", POLA junior pitcher Nicolle Miranda said. "Tiffany came in and did her job. She's hot with the bat and getting it done."
Miranda, who scattered six hits and a hit batter while striking out nine, would work around a one-out single by San Pedro freshman designated player Andrea Cline before retiring the final two batters to end the game and clinch POLA's tenth consecutive victory this season, and third straight win overall over the Pirates.
However, this was a much different looking San Pedro team than what they say on Thursday.
"We were a totally different team in this game," said Cline, who went 2-for-3 with a double. "Everybody came into this game with a different demeanor (from Thursday). I'm proud of my girls."
Rivera would pitch three scoreless innings to begin the game for San Pedro before a one-out RBI-double by junior catcher Savana Ramirez gave POLA the early 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, but the Pirates would battle back early and get to Miranda in the bottom half.
Junior catcher Alexa Ponce laced a single to right field on Miranda's first pitch, then Richter was hit on the right shoulder four pitches later. Cline's ground ball towards Garcia at second forced a hesitated throw that pulled Bayer off first base, loading the bases, and that opened the door for San Pedro junior second baseman Johnie Cortez to make her presence known.
With the count 1-and-2, Cortez launched a shot into the right-center field gap to easily drive home Richter and freshman courtesy runner Andrea Trejo to give San Pedro the 2-1 advantage. Cline tried to score on the same play but a perfect throw from Garcia to Ramirez nailed her at the plate.
"I needed to help the team out and get those runs in," Cortez said. "I needed to redeem myself from Thursday and that's exactly what I did."
The amazing fortitude San Pedro showed in the rematch with POLA wasn't surprising to Bugarin-Espinoza.
"Obviously they are a talented group of young ladies," she said. "They were much more aggressive and took their hacks. They made great plays and made us play every pitch to the last out."
It seemed like the second take on the San Pedro-POLA softball rivalry had an emotional feel to it, especially shown in the collaboration of the Polar Bear battery of Miranda and Ramirez as they pumped each other up on seemingly every pitch.
"Nikki is a wonderful and powerful pitcher," Ramirez said of Miranda. "She came out fighting hard and I did my best in keeping her in the game with showing excitement after every pitch because she deserves the credit for hitting her spots."
Both teams deserve tons of credit for showing their true character, but to POLA goes another shot at Agoura next Saturday in the El Segundo Tournament semifinals. Agoura defeated POLA, 6-0 last year in the semifinals before winning the tournament crown.
As for San Pedro, the grit and determination they showed will only serve them better in the long run as they enter the second half of Marine League competition.
"We know now that we will be okay and I feel that we can play even better than what we did today," Cortez said.