2015 San Pedro Prep Softball Preview
Port of Los Angeles High School softball standouts (l to r) Nicolle Miranda, Savana Ramirez & Rose Garcia (photo: Jamaal K. Street)
If there is one sport in San Pedro that has brought about the most success in the high school prep sports world, it’s softball.
San Pedro High School has won 16 CIF-Los Angeles City Section titles. In only five years, Port of Los Angeles High has already won three CIF-LACS titles, while Mary Star High has claimed 16 league titles and reached their first CIF-Southern Section final appearance in 2013.
Going into 2015, the landscape has changed dramatically.
San Pedro has a new coach, POLA is in a new league, and suddenly, Mary Star has newfound power in their offense.
It’s also the final year for two of the most decorated pitchers in San Pedro prep softball lore, as POLA’s Eastern Michigan-bound Nicolle Miranda and Mary Star’s George Mason-bound Marina Vitalich look to go out in grand fashion.
“I believe that this year will be exciting,” POLA co-coach Melissa Bugarin-Espinoza says. “We have a core set of seniors that are ready and hungry to get back to where they left off.”
POLA went 30-8 last season in their first year as a Division I playoff school, won the Redondo Tournament, posted two solid victories over San Pedro, and reached the CIF-LACS Division I semifinals, losing 2-0 to eventual champion Carson.
Miranda will no doubt be the focal point of this team, as she is the reigning three-time City Section Pitcher of the Year and is equally dangerous at the plate. Indiana Tech-bound senior C/INF Savana Ramirez also returns. Senior shortstop Rose Garcia, sophomore pitcher Analise De La Roca (an Arizona State verbal commit), senior INF/OF Briana Valencia and sophomore outfielder Shelby Younkin are also critical to the Polar Bears’ success.
“Together they push one another to be better than the day before and only focus on how they can contribute as role players,” Bugarin-Espinoza says. “They trained harder than ever this year and the incoming players along with the returners add a huge depth.”
Bugarin-Espinoza and her fellow co-coach and husband Moses, has high hopes on the incoming freshman class, especially Anessa Quiroz who takes over as the starting catcher, moving Ramirez to second base.
POLA is now in the Coliseum League after going 46-0 in the Crosstown League, and their main competition will come from King-Drew and old Crosstown rival, Harbor Teacher Prep, the defending CIF-LACS Division III champion. The Polar Bears have already posted some great victories in 2015 over the likes of the 2014 Nevada state champion Palo Verde, and a doubleheader sweep of Edison of Huntington Beach.
Mary Star, who went 15-9 last season, has a brand-new facelift in the Camino Real League. Out is defending champion Cantwell Sacred-Heart and Serra of Gardena, and in is Bishop Montgomery and Pomona Catholic. St. Monica appears to be the front-runner, but the Stars beat them all three times last season.
“As has been the case the past three years, our pitching will keep us in most games, and hopefully our offense will support it with the runs needed to win the tough match-ups,” Mary Star coach Gregg Aguilar says. “I am excited to see how the season turns out for us.”
So far in 2015, the Stars won the Duarte Tournament, and Marina Vitalich has been on fire with 210 strikeouts and five booming home runs.
Not to be outdone is her sister, sophomore shortstop Amanda Vitalich, who earlier this year verbally committed to Loyola Marymount University.
“Amanda is a very talented young lady. She has one of the best arms I have ever coached,” Aguilar says.
Aguilar has other hitters around that will make them extra dangerous in sophomore catcher Gianna Fletcher, junior third baseman Isabella Samperio, senior shortstop Lexie Geich and freshman first baseman Miranda Marquez.
And then there’s San Pedro.
A legendary staple, coach Tony Dobra retired after 700-plus victories and 13 City crowns. Entering into the mix is new coach Robert Whitney, who coached the JV team to a 10-0 Marine League title last season, and the 2012 CIF-LACS JV softball title in his ten years at the helm.
Whitney is poised to make his own mark on the program.
“Coach Dobra was an amazing coach and I was able to learn a lot from him over the past 10 years,” Whitney says. “I am honored to be coaching after great coaches at San Pedro and I am ready to live up to their legacy. ”
Dobra didn’t leave the cupboard bare for his predecessor, as ten players from last year’s team that went 21-9 overall return, including the All-City duo of senior INF/OF/P Taylor Richter and senior catcher Alexa Ponce. Senior second baseman Johnie Cortez, sophomore C/INF Andrea Cline and senior outfielder Chase Wong are returning All-Marine League standouts.
Senior outfielder Cayla Ezelle, sophomore outfielder Andrea Trejo and sophomore pitcher Cindy Robles, the Whittier Tournament MVP, are other key players for the Pirates, who will challenge the likes of both Carson and Banning in the Marine League.