Bringing back Jesse Espinoza to coach the program provided a sudden jolt to a team that was coming off both a Camino Real League championship and a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 final the prior season, and even though the season began splitting their first eight games, Mary Star would then reel off 15 consecutive victories and rampage through league competition with a perfect 12-0 mark, repeating as Camino Real League champions.
Along the way, the Stars would pile up impressive nonleague victories against Segerstrom of Santa Ana, Newport Harbor, Laguna Hills and CIF-Southern Section Division 5 semifinalist Redondo Union, but a 15-day layoff after a league title-clinching victory at Bishop Montgomery of Torrance would lead to the end of Mary Star's winning streak with a 3-2 first round loss to Culver City in the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs on May 1.
Still, two Stars (19-5 overall) in particular (no pun intended), were sensational through it all.
Junior shortstop Ashley Rico had one of the most productive hitting seasons out of anyone in recent years, as she led the back-to-back Camino Real League champions in every offensive statistical category except home runs, in which she hit two this season. Rico led the Stars in batting average (.455), total hits (35), total runs (31), runs batted in (25), doubles (13) and triples (3) while also leading all of San Pedro by a wide margin with 18 stolen bases. Rico is just as solid defensively with a .914 fielding percentage and was involved in five double plays regardless if she started or finished one.
Rico, verbally committed to San Jose State, is the first position player in seven years to be named San Pedro News Pilot Prep Softball Player Of The Year.
Rico's fellow junior comrade and pitcher Alessandra Samperio had yet another productive season both in the circle and at the plate for the Stars and is the 2019 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Softball Pitcher Of The Year. Samperio went 17-5 overall with a 1.05 earned run average, striking out 197 batters in 127 innings pitched, also posting five complete game shutouts. Hitting wise the Camino Real League Pitcher Of The Year had a .439 batting average with four home runs and 22 RBIs.
Samperio earlier this week verbally committed to Loyola Marymount.
Under first-year coach Samantha Gyerman, San Pedro would finish 14-8 overall and finish in a second place tie with Carson in the Marine League, as a resurgent Banning of Wilmington team would run the table with a perfect 10-0 league title. The Pirates still remained as dangerous as normal, especially when these two particular players terrorized opposing pitchers.
Junior Brianna Talamantes, the 2019 All-SPNP Prep Softball Most Outstanding Player has evolved into an All-Marine League rock behind the plate and a feared hitting machine. Talamantes is the 2019 batting champion in all of San Pedro with a staggering .554 batting average while also pounding out 31 hits, six doubles, three home runs, 23 RBIs and even two triples.
Defensively behind the plate, the All-City Open Division & All-Marine League first team selection was as close to perfection as you could get with a .993 fielding percentage, only one error in 146 total chances with 141 putouts, also turning a double play.
All-Marine League first team infielder & catcher Miah Owens exploded out of the gate in her first high school season as she hit .440 at the plate and led all of San Pedro with five home runs while producing 16 RBIs, 22 hits and 24 runs scored. Co-Most Improved Player sophomore P/OF Kirstin Sanchez raised her game up a few levels for the Pirates in her second season, giving them another option at pitcher while also contributing with her bat and defensive in the outfield. Sanchez hit .368 with 14 RBIs and seven doubles, also scoring twelve runs for San Pedro.
March 13 had the most dominant pitching performance of the year when San Pedro junior Briana Velazquez threw a perfect game in a 7-0 victory over Cerritos in the Torrance National Tournament. The All-City Open Division & All-Marine League selection struck out 18 out of 21 batters faced.
Port Of Los Angeles played a lighter schedule under first-year coach Danielle Proctor-Martinez, but still remained as competitive as normal despite not winning a league championship for the first time in program history, as the Imperial League & CIF-LACS Division 2 championships were captured by rival Harbor Teacher Prep of Wilmington.
With an 8-4 overall and 8-2 league records, POLA's finest hours came in back-to-back season ending victories over both the Monarchs and King-Drew Medical of Los Angeles, as Co-Most Improved Player sophomore pitcher Faith Torstensen threw both teams' offenses off balance, plus the senior veteran duo of George Mason-bound infielder Allison Torstensen and Chaminade-bound infielder Yolanda Racaza, the Imperial League Player Of The Year, turned in equally impressive hitting performances.
Racaza and sophomore catcher Larissa Mercado were both All-City Division 1 selections for POLA, who lost in the opening round to Cleveland of Reseda on May 9.
2020 could be a sensational year, as both San Pedro and Mary Star returns all but one player each.
(Note: Ashley Rico photo courtesy of Jesse Espinoza)
Here is the full All-San Pedro News Pilot Softball Team for 2019...
Yolanda Racaza (POLA, sr.)
Allison Torstensen (POLA, sr.)
Jo Jo Krause (San Pedro, soph.)
Briana Vigil (POLA, jr.)
Sarah Leyba (Mary Star, jr.)
Sofia Gomez (San Pedro, jr.)
Sofia Amalfitano (Mary Star, jr.)
Briana Velazquez (San Pedro, jr.)
Anissa Vital (Mary Star, fr.)
Julia Magrini (Mary Star, soph.)
Nalani Cervantes (POLA, fr.)
Rose Amalfitano (Mary Star, sr.)
Lexi Buscemi (Mary Star, soph.)
Priscilla Andrade (San Pedro, jr.)
Angelina Mercado (POLA, jr.)
Larissa Mercado (POLA, soph.)
Sandy Cabrera (POLA, sr.)
Vanessa Reed (San Pedro, fr.)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ashley Rico (Mary Star, SS, jr.)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Alessandra Samperio (Mary Star, jr.)
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Brianna Talamantes (San Pedro, C, jr.)
CO-MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS
Kirstin Sanchez (San Pedro, P/OF, soph.)
Faith Torstensen (POLA, P, soph.)
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Miah Owens (San Pedro, C/SS)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jesse Espinoza (Mary Star)
SAN PEDRO NEWS PILOT PAST PREP SOFTBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2012: Marina Vitalich, Mary Star
2013: Marina Vitalich, Mary Star; Nicolle Miranda & Allison Bayer, Port Of Los Angeles
2014: Marina Vitalich, Mary Star
2015: Marina Vitalich, Mary Star & Nicolle Miranda, Port Of Los Angeles
2016: Analise De La Roca, Port Of Los Angeles
2017: Analise De La Roca, Port Of Los Angeles; Andrea Cline, San Pedro
2018: Briana Velazquez, San Pedro; Alessandra Samperio, Mary Star