San Pedro High Softball Grabs Marine League Lead By Force

Knowing the magnitude of the game itself, San Pedro High softball decided to force the issue against visiting Banning of Wilmington by attacking on the base paths.

In the bottom of the third inning, their aggressiveness would lead to a 5-0 victory over the visiting Pilots on Tuesday, putting a stranglehold on the Marine League championship with three games remaining. For now, red hot San Pedro (18-9-1 overall, 6-1 league) is happy they're now in front by themselves after knocking off the defending league champions for the second time this season.

San Pedro has now won 11 out of their last 13 games since starting the season 7-7-1 after dropping the league opener to Carson.

"This feels great," San Pedro senior third baseman Ricki Justiniano said. "After four years of hard work and dedication and being doubted by most, we believed in each other. That's all we really need is each other. We deserve this."

Neither team mounted a serious threat for the first two innings even though San Pedro put runners on first and second base in the bottom of the second inning, then Banning (17-7, 5-2) would put a minor scare in the top of the third with a two-out single from freshman pitcher Angelina Devoe, who advanced to second on senior Deanna Gonzalez's fielding error in right field. 

San Pedro senior pitcher Cindy Robles would strike out Banning sophomore right fielder Gladys Garcia to end the inning, setting the stage for the bottom of the third inning for the Pirates' sticks.

Junior designated player Anessa Quiroz laced a leadoff double to center field, then advanced to third on senior center fielder Andrea Trejo's infield single to shortstop. One out later, Justiniano blasts a shot to Banning sophomore second baseman Sarahy Martinez who quickly threw home, but junior catcher Topanga Zamora dropped the throw and Quiroz scored for a 1-0 lead.

There was only one thing left the Pirates needed to do once they drew first blood.

"We knew to keep attacking from that point," San Pedro junior left fielder Taiya Reyna said.

Senior catcher Andrea Cline would deliver a single to right field to plate Trejo, and after a force out at third base, Banning junior third baseman Jayda Su'e overthrew first base, allowing freshman courtesy runner Sofia Gomez to advance to third on freshman first baseman Brianna Talamantes' ground ball.

Reyna would then uncork a blistering shot just over the glove of Banning junior center fielder Rena Flores, driving home Gomez and Talamantes for a 4-0 lead, and Reyna would score herself off another error from Martinez, scoring from second off Gonzalez's grounder to end the five-run barrage. Devoe finally ended the inning inducing a pop out from San Pedro freshman shortstop Briana Velazquez.

Cline was pretty straight-forward on what the approach was for San Pedro in that third inning onslaught.

"We knew we had to take advantage of their mistakes if they happened," said Cline, who went 2-for-3 for San Pedro. "We were all on the same page and knew what needed to be done."

To Banning's credit, they kept battling, but Robles was on top of her game, allowing five hits with a walk, striking out seven for her first shutout against the Pilots.

"I was just feeling good today," said Robles, who also struck out 11 in San Pedro's 3-1, eight-inning victory over Banning on March 23 that started the Pirates' sudden success. "I knew no matter what we had to come out with a win. I also knew there was no relaxing against Banning and I still had to keep throwing hard and hit my spots."

A possible change of momentum to start the fifth inning turned into a highlight reel moment for San Pedro junior right fielder Kierah Murrilo, who was inserted into the game moving Gonzalez to shortstop.

Zamora crushed Robles' first offering deep to right, but Murrilo made a beeline for the ball while not losing sight of it to make an incredible catch at the wall.

"That catch was amazing," Justiniano said. "I am so beyond proud of her. (Murrilo) has really improved this season and I can't wait to keep watching her ball."

That play alone was just the icing on the cake of many clutch plays by the entire defense who played a huge hand in backing up Robles. Trejo made two big catches in center field, Justiniano was solid at third base, and Talamantes made a splendid running catch in the top of the sixth inning as well.

"Cline promised me they would have my back and they showed it to me," Robles said.

With their remaining Marine League schedule showing road games at Gardena and Washington Prep, and one final home game against Narbonne, San Pedro has all but assured themselves of their first Marine League title since 2010 (shared with Carson), and can take solace in the fact they ended a five-year home losing streak to Banning a year after the Pilots clinched the league title on San Pedro's home field in the season finale.

"I'm really proud of all of us," said San Pedro senior second baseman Mackenzie Winkle, who went 2-for-4. "We've all been putting in extra work and it showed during game time. We took this one as a team, every girl had a part in getting this win."

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