There is still plenty of action left in the 2014 Sunset League softball race but three games into the league season, the Huntington Beach Oilers hold the lead.
Huntington picked up a key victory Tuesday at Marina in a game that featured two of the league's perennial top pitchers. The Oilers scored a run in the third inning, avoided several scoring opportunities by the Vikings, and made the run stand in a 1-0 win against the defending league champions.
The win, combined with Edison's loss Tuesday at Los Alamitos, allowed the Oilers, 15-3 overall, 3-0 in league and ranked sixth in CIF Southern Section Division 1, to grab sole possession of the league lead.
Jeff Forsberg said in his nine years as head coach at Huntington, the Oilers had never won at Marina.
Last year, they dropped a 17-inning affair on the same field.
Forsberg said that Huntington had not won on Marina's field in more than 20 years.
Tuesday's matchup pitted a pair of senior aces, Micaela Vierra of Huntington Beach, and Tera Blanco of Marina, against one another. Both gave strong performances in a game that went down to the final out.
Marina (15-6 overall, 1-2 league) loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Vierra ended the game with a strikeout.
"I figured one run could do it for us," Forsberg said after the game. "I really thought we would get out of [the bases loaded jam]. Micaela [Vierra] was very confident out there.
"Micaela was very calm, very collected. There have been a lot of great pitchers in the Sunset League over the years, and she deserves to be mentioned in that group."
Vierra scattered three hits, walked five, struck out eight, and improved her record to 11-1.
Blanco (14-4) also only gave up three hits and struck out eight, and walked one.
Senior Sammie Vandiver slapped a one-out single through the left-side of the infield in the top of the third. Vandiver stole second base with Alyssa Horeczko (two stolen bases) at the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Horeczko sent a high, one-hopper toward third base. She reached first and the throw there went into foul play and Vandiver scored.
In addition to loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh, Marina, ranked eighth in CIF Southern Section Division 1, first had loaded bases in the bottom of the third yet couldn't produce a run.
The Vikings put the potential tying run on base in each of the final five innings.
Vierra got out of three of those situations by recording a strikeout for the final out of the inning.
"We didn't hit the ball today," Marina Coach Shelly Luth said. "We made a costly infield error, and we didn't counter with any hits. We had a chance in the seventh, but we needed to have that chance earlier in the game, and not in the bottom of the seventh.
"We were a little flat, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I thought Tera [Blanco] pitched a great game."
Huntington plays another key game at 3:15 p.m. Thursday when the Oilers go to Edison.
The Chargers are a game behind the Oilers in the league standings after their 5-3 loss Tuesday at Los Alamitos.
Ali Wester went two for four with a stolen base and run scored, Riley Wester also went two for four, and Allie Greenburg doubled for Edison, which is 2-1 in league and 7-7 overall.
"It came down to decision making and we made some great plays, then some poor decisions," Edison Coach Kim Ensey said of the game.
"I am loving the strength of our league this year. It forces the girls to compete every game and I am really excited to face Huntington Beach this Thursday because it will be a huge challenge for our squad."
In addition to the Huntington-Edison matchup, Marina plays host to Fountain Valley in another 3:15 p.m. Sunset League game Thursday.
•Fountain Valley (2-1 league) on Tuesday drubbed Newport Harbor (0-3), 11-0.
•Ocean View, ranked seventh in CIF Southern Section Division 4, took on Segerstrom in a Golden West League game Wednesday. The score wasn't available at press time.
The Seahawks (13-4 overall, 1-1 league) are back in league action at 3:15 p.m. Friday when they travel to face Westminster.
In Sunset League games scheduled for Tuesday, Marina plays at Newport Harbor and Edison travels to Fountain Valley for 3:15 p.m. starts, and Huntington plays host to Los Alamitos at 6 p.m.
Ocean View plays at home against Orange at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.