Newport Harbor High sophomore Haley Martinez and freshman Sammy Del Toro have split the pitching innings pretty evenly this year for the Sailors softball team.
Two-time Newport-Mesa Player of the Year Hattie Marshall, now at Concordia University, is no longer in the circle for the Sailors. Martinez and Del Toro have shouldered the load.
Before the biggest game of the season so far, Martinez made a request to Coach Russell Hartman.
"Haley is the upperclassman of the two," Hartman said. "She asked for the ball."
Hartman gave it to her. Martinez did not disappoint.
She and the rebuilding Sailors picked a great time to earn their first victory of the season.
Martinez got the win as Newport Harbor upset Corona del Mar, 8-5, in the Battle of the Bay game Thursday at Newport Harbor High.
Newport Harbor (1-9) now has won the rivalry game for seven straight years. Martinez was tough, consistently pitching out of jams.
Haley's mother, Sarah, controlled the walk-up music on the speakers for the Sailors. Haley got into her own rhythm. She tired a bit in the seventh inning, and CdM brought the potential tying runner to the plate in senior Mylie Wilson. But Hartman brought Del Toro in and she got the final out, inducing a foul out to third baseman Zoe Myers.
"I was very confident in myself that I was going to do great today, and it showed on the field," said Haley Martinez, who struck out 10 and walked three. "I think we came out a little nervous, a little scared, but all we needed to do was put the bat on the ball. I think that once we started doing that, they started making more mistakes. I just think we were on fire."
Corona del Mar (6-5) scored twice in the top of the first inning, when senior Amanda Penna fisted a two-out, two-run single behind first base. The ball deflected off the glove of the Harbor second baseman and into foul territory, and Sydney McKeown and Brooke Franson scored on the play.
But the Sailors came back for two unearned runs of their own in the bottom of the first, also with two outs. Freshman Kendall Blanchfield's hard-hit ball to the outfield couldn't be controlled by the CdM right fielder, and Shea Horvath and Mariah Cruz each came home to tie the score at 2-2.
The Sea Kings wasted a stellar pitching performance by McKeown. The lefty allowed just five hits, walking two and striking out four. But her defense, which committed six errors, did not make plays behind her. All eight of the Sailors' runs were unearned.
They got two more of them in the bottom of the third, also with two outs. Blanchfield hit a simple grounder to second, but the throw to first was high, and Cruz and Kendall Machado both scored on the play.
The Sailors' Tanner Rodriguez reached on an error to open the bottom of the fourth, and later scored on a foul out to first base after a nice catch by CdM's Raine Finley. With two outs, Cruz hit an RBI single to center to score Martinez.
"We kind of knew that coming in, that it was going to come down to the errors," Hartman said. "We've been bit with the errors lately too, so we were coming in thinking that the team that made less errors was going to be the team that won. They've got a good pitcher. I thought as long as we were able to put the ball in play, that we'd have a good shot, and we did a pretty good job of that today."
Newport Harbor's Martinez and Betsy Madrid both reached on errors in the bottom of the sixth and eventually scored.
CdM, down 8-2, made things interesting in the top of the seventh. Sabrina Sandoval hit a two-out single to right, scoring Franson, before Lauren Oberreitter walked to load the bases. McKeown, who went five for five with two steals, brought two runners home on a single near second base.
Del Toro came on and worked quickly to a 1-2 count on Wilson, who battled to a full count before the foul out to third. Myers made a backhand catch to end the game.
Penna was three for four with a double for the Sea Kings. CdM out-hit Newport Harbor, 12-5, but left 12 runners on base.
"I think that this is a big slice of humble pie," CdM Coach Carly Smith said. "We took it for granted that we were going to come out here and do great, and I think that they definitely underestimated Newport Harbor ... I think they were all excited about being in the newspaper, and they let that get to them a little too much. But you know what? It's OK, it's a learning experience. It's just one loss. We've got a full season to go."
Cruz, the Sailors' lone senior starter, went three for four. She said that she took a year off last year, but decided to return for Newport Harbor as a senior.
Hartman, whose squad has lost its nine games by an average of eight runs, is glad that she did.
"We've gotten mercied more times than we should already," Hartman said. "They understand where they're at right now. We're young, we're inexperienced, we don't have any travel-ball players out here. It's going to be a process, but it's a good group of girls. They get along really well, and they work hard. They're going to keep getting better every day.
"They've been pumped up for this game for a while. They knew that [CdM's] been winning some games this year, and we've obviously been struggling. They knew it was going to be a good game, and they were ready for it."
Battle of the Bay
Newport Harbor 8, Corona del Mar 5
SCORE BY INNINGS
CdM 200 000 3 — 5 12 6
NH 202 202 x — 8 5 3
McKeown and Johnston; Martinez, Del Toro (7) and Barrios. W – Martinez, 1-4. L – McKeown. Sv – Del Toro. 2B – Penna (CdM), Blanchfield (NH).