If the Pirates want to repeat as CIF-Los Angeles City Section champions, they knew at some point they were going to face the Colts again, and they got their opportunity sooner than expected as the last of the eight teams to make the inaugural Open Division playoffs. Somehow, some way, they made the most of that opportunity in a big way.
All it took was a two-out rally in the top of the third inning, solid defensive play, and some gutsy, quality pitching from sophomore Briana Velazquez to get it done, and eighth-seeded San Pedro would go on to stun top-seeded Carson with a 4-1 victory, avenging both league losses to the Colts by eliminating their league nemesis in the quarterfinal round for the second straight season.
Carson (22-8) was rolling coming into the playoffs, winning all ten Marine League encounters by 124-8, but San Pedro (18-14-1) was responsible for five of those eight runs in an 8-3 loss at Carson on April 12, and a most recent 5-2 setback to the Colts at San Pedro on April 30.
The first two innings were pretty much tame as Velazquez and Carson senior ace Ashley Wies didn't face any trouble at all as both teams only managed a first inning walk for the only baserunners, but after two outs in the top of the third inning, that's when San Pedro really got going, by doing it with patience at the plate that was also exhibited in their final regular season victory over Banning of Wilmington just eight days prior.
Senior shortstop Taiya Reyna and Monroe College-bound catcher Anessa Quiroz drew critical back-to-back walks, forcing Wies to throw a combined 18 pitches. An infield single from Velazquez that was hit slightly on the ground off the glove of Carson second baseman Leilani Pulemau loaded the bases, and then came the biggest blow of the day.
On a 2-and-0 pitch, San Pedro sophomore third baseman Brianna Talamantes blasted a towering double to right-center field to drive in the first three runs of the game, then an error triggered by sophomore left fielder Priscilla Andrade's ground ball in the dirt plated Talamantes for a 4-0 San Pedro lead. Amazingly, that was all the Pirates needed thanks to the defense and the clutch pitching of Velazquez down the stretch.
A lone error from San Pedro loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third inning, but the Colts could only manage a sacrifice fly from junior first baseman Taylor Edwards for one run to score.
Reyna belted a double off the top of the center field fence with two outs in the fourth inning which almost plated two more runs across for the Pirates if the ball went over, but it only left runners on second and third when Quiroz struck out. A scorching double by Andrade with two outs in the fifth inning was San Pedro's last possible threat offensively before that inning ended without a run coming across.
Carson had two potential scoring threats wiped out by a Velazquez strikeout to end the fifth and sixth innings. In all, Velazquez only allowed four hits, walked two and struck out seven for the Pirates, who will travel to face fourth-seeded Polytechnic of Sun Valley on Tuesday, 3 pm, in the CIF-LACS Open Division semifinals.
Outside of the pitching, the defense stepped up and made some quality plays.
Sophomore center fielder Sofia Gomez made a spectacular diving catch on a high pop up, running down to the ball, diving and corralling the ball while maintaining control of it in the second inning. Talamantes made a really tough catch on a pop up, reaching out to grab it to end the fourth inning. Reyna made two catches on line drives at shortstop while Andrade and freshman right fielder Kirstin Sanchez also made critical catches in the later innings.
Once freshman third baseman Sierra Sandoval made the final play on the game-ending groundout, the Pirates celebrated, but not too hard as they know their next challenge is five days away against the Parrots, a 3-2 winner over fifth-seeded Kennedy of Granada Hills on Tuesday.
Poly edged San Pedro, 4-3 in a Lincoln Classic Tournament game on March 10, but you know the Pirates will come ready to try and avenge yet another setback.
In the other Open Division quarterfinal games, second-seeded Chatsworth eliminated seventh-seeded San Fernando 7-4, while sixth-seeded El Camino Real knocked off third-seeded Banning, 7-2.