That's how long San Pedro High softball had to wait to play at home on campus, even if there was not a lot of people there to see the game.
May 1, 2019 was the last time the Pirates played at the Jim Robertson Memorial Field, a run rule Marine League victory over Rancho Dominguez Prep. San Pedro was never able to enjoy the fruits of playing on their own campus in softball during a short-lived six-game 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Thursday, that all changed, finally, when the Pirates hosted Gardena in the Marine League opener for both teams.
When it was all over, it was like the Pirates had never left at all.
San Pedro continued its early hot start for 2021 with a 10-0, five-inning victory over the Panthers, when senior third baseman Sierra Sandoval blasted a walk-off grand slam home run with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning to invoke the run rule clause, providing a thrilling moment for first-year coach Leanna Flores in her home debut.
So far, the Pirates and Flores are feeling pretty good about themselves with a current 4-0 record going into back-to-back showdowns with Banning of Wilmington and Carson next week.
Speaking of back-to-back...
With the Pirates leading 3-0, freshman shortstop Madison Fao took the first two pitches of the bottom of the second inning for called strikes, then unloaded on the very next pitch, hammering it well over the center field fence for a solo home run. Then on the next pitch, Chaminade-bound senior outfielder Kirstin Sanchez, a southpaw, smashed a home run over the right field fence, and suddenly it was 5-0 in favor of the Pirates.
The score remained that way due in large part to the outstanding outing in the circle by junior pitcher Vanessa Reed, who retired the first 11 Gardena batters, striking out ten Panthers, before surrendering a two-out infield single in the top of the fourth inning. Reed promptly retired the next four batters in a row, finishing with a prep career-high 13 strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Pirates loaded the bases with nobody out, sparked by a leadoff double by senior first baseman Alexis Gallardo-Haage. Fao struck out swinging, then Sanchez brought in Gallardo-Haage with a short pop fly to shallow center field for a 6-0 lead.
Bentley-bound senior second baseman Jo Jo Krause walked to load up the bases again for Sandoval, who faced an 0-and-2 count, fouling off four straight pitches before driving the seventh pitch of the at-bat into the center field trees for a grand slam to end the game.
This was San Pedro's third game in four days this week alone, with the Pirates coming up victorious in all three, defeating Kennedy of Granada Hills, 9-5 on Monday, and then also defeating Legacy of South Gate, 13-1 in six innings on Wednesday. San Pedro opened off the 2021 season this past Friday with a 17-5, six-inning win at Fairfax of Los Angeles.
In all four games so far, San Pedro has hit eight fence-clearing home runs, and six different Pirates have gone deep. Only Sanchez and Sandoval have hit more than one, and both hit their second of the year against Gardena.
And how is this for a little irony? Sandoval was the first to cross home plate when Briana Velazquez hit her walk-off grand slam for San Pedro on May 2, 2018 to dramatically finish off a 10-7 victory over Banning, and it was Sandoval who started that comeback with a one-out double.
Today, it was Sierra's turn to provide some Pirate softball walk-off magic.