For the first time ever, the Port Of Los Angeles and San Pedro High softball programs who have combined to win 19 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championships, go into the playoffs as champions of their respective leagues. With that milestone comes a greater challenge, especially for the Polar Bears, who drew the top seed of Division 1.
San Pedro (21-9-2 overall) has earned the third seed after winning the Marine League championship.
Under second year coach Jesse Espinoza, POLA has piled up a 29-1-2 record, and some top notch victories against other CIF-LACS contenders, and with New Mexico State-bound pitcher Analise De La Roca posting another phenomenal year, the Polar Bears will once again go after their first Division 1 championship after three Small Schools (Division III) crowns in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
POLA has came close since moving to Division 1 in 2014, but not quite over the hump, losing by two runs to the eventual champion all three years in the semifinal round. The Coliseum League champion Polar Bears will host a play-in winner, either No.16 Birmingham of Lake Balboa or No.17 Sylmar on Thursday, 3 pm at Leland Park.
Meanwhile, San Pedro, who has grown accustomed to this pressure with 16 CIF-LACS Division 1 titles, but not in recent years (last championship was 2009), have slowly, but surely built themselves back up into title contention in coach Robert Whitney's third year at the helm.
After starting the season with a 7-7-1 record, the Pirates have begun a remarkable turnaround since their March 22 nonleague victory over West Torrance, winning 14 of their final 16 games to an improbable Marine League championship, their first since 2010. San Pedro will also host a play-in winner between either No.14 Lincoln of Los Angeles or No.19 Bravo Medical Magnet of Los Angeles, on Thursday, 3 pm at San Pedro High.
De La Roca has been nothing short of phenomenal again for POLA, piling up a 26-1 record (two ties) with a 0.61 ERA, 324 strikeouts and at the plate, she's been just as spectacular with a .624 batting average, 9 home runs and 32 RBIs.
However, the likes of sophomore first baseman Allie Dukes (.433 BA, 13 RBIs, 39 hits, 31 runs), sophomore catcher Allison Torstensen (.419 BA, 17 RBIs) and junior infielder Angie Vargas (.298 BA, 4 HRs, 23 RBIs) have been quietly contributing to the Polar Bears success.
Over at San Pedro, the Pirates have benefited greatly with a career year out of their ace, senior pitcher Cindy Robles who has thrown two no-hitters and a perfect game.
Robles has produced a 14-6 record with a 2.15 ERA and 157 strikeouts and gets great support offensively from the likes of senior catcher Andrea Cline (..434 BA, 3 HRs, 21 RBIs), senior third baseman Ricki Justiniano (.381 BA, 4 HRs, 24 RBIs), senior shortstop Deanna Gonzalez (.364 BA, 4 HRs, 16 RBIs) and junior left fielder Taiya Reyna (.319 BA, 4 HRs, 19 RBIs).
The CIF-LACS Softball Finals for Divisions I, II, III & IV will all take place on Saturday, May 20 at Cal State Dominguez Hills.