However, whenever San Pedro High softball hooks it up with Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington in a CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoff game, familiarity rears its ugly head in the worst possible way for the Pilots.
For the first time ever, San Pedro, Banning and fellow Marine League power Carson, all shared the league championship in a three-way tie, with the home team winning each time whenever these three hooked up in their six combined battles.
The home team once again prevailed as the Pirates turned the makings of another classic game and dropped it on its head with a four-run bottom of the sixth inning to win 8-1 over Banning in the CIF-LACS Open Division quarterfinals.
As always between these two, this latest Battle Of The Harbor duel was not without potential drama.
Banning (15-8) came out hard against San Pedro (13-8) and had several chances to create chaos, but San Pedro sophomore pitcher Lilly Gonzalez weathered the storm with tons of help from a supporting defense.
With one out in the top of the second inning, the Pilots had runners on first and second with one out, but Gonzalez induced a ground ball towards center field which San Pedro sophomore shortstop Madison Fao almost effortlessly grabs in stride, rushes to second base to force out one, then throw a strike to senior first baseman Brianna Ventura for an inning-ending double play.
Fao gave San Pedro a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning by beating out a throw to first base for an infield single on a play that could have ended the inning, and during the confusion of no call being made on sight when the Pilots' first baseman bobbled the throw, senior right fielder Lulu DeLeon scored from second base. After the two umpires conversed with each other a minute after that moment, Fao was ruled safe and the run counted.
The third inning was a combination of more of the same.
Gonzalez quickly got out of potential trouble when she walked the first batter of the top of the third, by inducing another ground ball where this time, freshman second baseman Katie Borges got in on the double play fun by tagging the runner coming at her before easily throwing to first for a second twin killing. Another ground ball out ended that half, before the Pirates started their first big scoring surge of the day.
Back-to-back run scoring singles by Fao and junior third baseman Marissa Markel made it 3-0 with one out in the bottom of the third inning, then Fao scored on a two-base throwing error for a 4-0 cushion.
In the fifth inning, another leadoff walk drawn by Banning quickly got erased when San Pedro freshman catcher Bri Rodela caught the Pilots' only baserunner of the inning stealing second with a strong throw for the second out, but the Pilots kept on coming.
An RBI-single from Xiomel Geluz finally got Banning on the board... and chased Gonzalez from the circle, to start the top of the sixth inning. Enter San Pedro junior pitcher Layla Jelenic into the fray. Borges made a spectacular leaping grab of a line-drive smash towards right field that would have assuredly scored two runs, then Jelenic worked around a walk in between two critical strikeouts to leave the bases loaded and the Pirates led 4-1.
San Pedro put the game away in the bottom of the sixth inning with more than enough insurance.
Ventura's leadoff single got things rolling, then advanced to third with Rodela's one-out double. Borges' single then plated Ventura for a 5-1 lead. Sophomore designated player Addison Patapoff drew a walk to load the Pirates, who capitalized on the opportunity in one of the strangest ways possible.
Fao literally check-swinged the first pitch she saw... and it found a spot of artificial turf grass in right field to drive home Borges and freshman pinch-runner Trinity Martinez. Markel then followed with a single deflected by Banning's shortstop which was enough for Patapoff to score the game's final run.
Jelenic only gave up a two-out double in the top of the seventh after striking out the first two batters, then forced a fly out to DeLeon in right field to end the game.
Despite the rough six inning giving up three straight hits before being pulled, Gonzalez threw the timing off Banning's offense with great use of her off-speed stuff, finishing on a four-hitter with one earned run allowed and one strikeout to earn the win. Jelenic got a six-out save with four strikeouts surrendering one hit and a walk for San Pedro, as four players had two hits each, paced by Fao's 3-for-4, 4 RBI performance.
Markel went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs, Borges 2-for-4 with an RBI and several clutch defensive plays, and DeLeon went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Patapoff also had a hit and scored twice for San Pedro, who will next face top-seeded, two-time defending CIF-LACS Open Division champion El Camino Real on the road Tuesday in the semifinals.
The semifinal showdown is a dream matchup... because the Pirates and Royals (formerly the Conquistadors) have both won 17 CIF-LACS major division championships each.
(Note: Photo by Ari Ramirez)