On Friday, San Pedro High softball senior pitcher Cindy Robles got ill with a 102-degree fever.
However, on Saturday, Robles' fever would parlay into an eventual championship hysteria.
With a dramatic rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Pirates would somehow dig down deep and win 2-1 over Banning of Wilmington in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson. This is the program's CIF-LACS record 17th crown, and first since winning it all in 2009, the last of 13 crowns won by legendary former coach Tony Dobra.
In spite of the fever and the dangerous Banning bats, only one thing was going through Robles' mind while she battled fiercely in the circle.
"I knew this was my last high school game no matter what, and I just had to give it everything I had in me," Robles said. "I love this team with all my heart, and we are all a key to any game. As I always tell them, 'I pitch, you guys hit, and we will win'."
After three straight first round losses in the previous seasons, no one gave third-seeded San Pedro (25-9-1) a chance to be back in the finals, many picked them to once again finish third in the Marine League. Yet the Pirates, even after a turbulent first half of the season where they went 7-7-1, would end the year winning their final ten games in succession, and 18 out of their final 20 games.
"Oh my gosh, this feels so good," San Pedro freshman first baseman Brianna Talamantes said. "I have no words to describe how amazing it felt (to win the title). I was speechless and all I could do was cry tears of joy."
With fourth-seeded Banning (25-10) clinging to a 1-0 lead, San Pedro freshman pinch-hitter Briana Velazquez led off being hit by the third pitch from Banning freshman left-hander Angelina Devoe. Freshman pinch runner Sofia Gomez reached second on senior center fielder Andrea Trejo's ground out to shortstop. Then suddenly, things begun to unravel for the Pilots' defense.
San Pedro senior second baseman Mackenzie Winkle's soft line drive to left-center field should have been caught... but Banning freshman left fielder Amanda Gallegos and junior center fielder Rena Flores collided with each other and the ball popped out of Gallegos' glove, putting Winkle on second and Gomez on third, still with one out.
Senior third baseman Ricki Justiniano would then blister a single to left field, scoring Gomez to knot the score at 1-1.
"I honestly had a lot running through my mind," said Justiniano, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, stolen base and a run scored. "I wanted this ring so bad."
Probably trying to pull a fast one, coach Robert Whitney called for a surprise squeeze bunt for senior catcher Andrea Cline but Winkle was tagged out at the plate for the second out. On the play Justiniano advanced to third, setting the stage for Talamantes.
Striking out looking with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the third inning was still fresh on Talamantes' mind, but she was not going to let this opportunity slip away.
"I was just telling myself, 'I just need to get the bat on the ball and to just relax'," Talamantes said.
Right on cue with Devoe's first offering, Talamantes blasted a ground ball to Banning sophomore shortstop Sarahy Martinez, a sure-handed infielder who made a sparkling diving stop and toss for a fifth inning-ending double play. Martinez would unfortunately bobble Talamantes' grounder, allowing Justiniano to score the championship clinching run.
And the dogpile celebration was on.
"I didn't see (Justiniano) touch the plate once I saw the ball in play," said Winkle, who reached base all four times and went 2-for-4 at the plate. "I started running out of the dugout. This is what we've been working for all year long."
Defiant in defeat, Banning was driven and determined.
Sophomore right fielder Gladys Garcia blasted a double to lead off the top of the third inning, then would score on a one-out double down the first base line from sophomore designated player Sophia Delgadillo for a 1-0 Pilot lead. Robles only surrendered two more hits the rest of the way, striking out three.
The Pirates remained undaunted by the early deficit.
"It was still early in the game, I didn't have any doubt at all," Cline said. "My girls wanted (the championship) way too bad for the game to be over that early."
Meanwhile, Devoe was also clutch in sticky situations for Banning, stranding two runners on base in the first inning, got out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the third inning, and again left two more on base in the sixth inning, finishing with a six-hitter, striking out two with hit two batters, walking none.
However the main difference in the game was San Pedro's defense played flawlessly, and Banning had five errors.
Trejo and junior right fielder Kierah Murrillo made clutch catches in the outfield for San Pedro, while Flores made two amazing running overhead catches on deep fly balls in center field for Banning.
The biggest catch of the afternoon came courtesy of Trejo, as she made a ridiculously difficult sliding catch in the top of the seventh inning to rob Martinez of a sure leadoff extra-base hit.
"I knew I had to give it my all and catch that ball," Trejo said. "Because if I dropped it, that would have been a big game changer."
Cline and junior left fielder Taiya Reyna had the other two of the overall six hits for San Pedro, who reveled in their latest triumph with Dobra smiling proudly after they received the plaque and perpetual championship trophy, also getting to share in the spotlight with former four-time CIF-LACS champion and current Marymount California University softball coach Ashley Esparza in attendance.
Dobra's last freshman class of Cline, Robles, Justiniano, Trejo and senior shortstop Deanna Gonzalez all graduate with a championship in their final game, along with Winkle and reserve first baseman Cynthia Romero.
"I've wanted this my entire life," Justiniano said. "Since I was four years old I've dreamt of winning big for my city and to finally accomplish this with not only amazing teammates, but sisters by my side was truly an indescribable feeling."
San Pedro eliminated Lincoln of Los Angeles, Carson and San Fernando all by shutouts in the prior rounds of the playoffs before defeating Banning for the third time this season. The Pirates also won 3-1 in eight innings on March 23, and 5-0 on April 25 for their first Marine League crown since 2010.