Sailors stay in funk

NEWPORT BEACH — When the Newport Harbor High softball team beat Huntington Beach, 7-5, in the championship game of the Costa Mesa tournament on March 10, it gave the Sailors hope for when the teams matched up in Sunset League play.

Huntington Beach High sophomore pitcher Micaela Vierra took away some of that hope Thursday. She threw a one-hitter as the Oilers blanked the Sailors, 4-0, at Newport Harbor High.

Newport Harbor was denied in its attempt to end its Sunset League losing streak. The streak now stands at 46 straight games, dating back to 2007.

The reason why the Sailors (11-11, 0-4 in league) struggled Thursday was simple to first-year coach Russell Hartman.

"We just can't hit," Hartman said. "We can't do anything right at the plate. We can't get a bunt down, we're striking out looking, we're swinging and missing. Nothing's going right for us.

"I don't think it was anything that [Vierra] did. We just can't hit the ball right now. She wasn't overpowering us. The umpire was calling a lot of balls off the plate, but we took advantage of that too. We just couldn't hit the ball."

Huntington Beach Coach Jeff Forsberg said he didn't use Vierra, his No. 1 pitcher, when the teams met last month. That reason was also simple.

"We knew that we were going to play them in league anyway," Forsberg said. "Early-season tournaments, I just try to get everybody in as much as possible. Michaela usually pitches in most of our league games anyway, so there was no reason to pitch her in that game."

Vierra was certainly in control Thursday for the Oilers (11-10, 1-4). She struck out 11, including at least one Sailor in every inning, while walking one and hitting a batter. Only junior captain Breanna Lopez, who singled to right to lead off the fourth inning, was able to get a hit.

"It's just a confidence thing for her," Forsberg said. "If she thinks she can do it, she'll do it. If she has doubts, she keeps the ball up."

Huntington Beach took a 2-0 lead before some fans were even seated. Junior catcher Jill Martinez led off the game with a single to right, taking second on a throwing error, and with one out Jacqui Pascal walked. Both runners would score. Martinez came home on an RBI single by Emily Stoner, and Pascal scored on an RBI groundout by Kaitlyn Lanksbury.

Newport Harbor also had chances. Lopez's hit was the last of three straight innings that Newport Harbor got a runner to second base. In the bottom of the second, Hope Noakes was hit by a pitch with two outs and went to second when Zoey Myers worked a full-count walk. In the bottom of the third, Jenny Raya led off by reaching on an error and took second on passed ball.

But the Sailors never could get that key hit.

"We try everything we can," Hartman said. "We've brought pitchers in to throw live to us in batting practice, we've rented batting cages. We're trying it all, and nothing's worked so far. I'm assuming it's just in our head. At this point, it's just in our head."

Lauren Gandi and Hanna Van Voorhis did make very solid contact on two line outs to the outfield. Van Voorhis was also busy at second base, making eight putouts without an error.

Hattie Marshall pitched the whole way for the Sailors, allowing three earned runs and seven hits. She struck out three and walked one.

Martinez, who has committed to the University of Hawaii at Hilo, sparked the Oilers. She was three for four with two doubles and an RBI.

Newport Harbor, which has been outscored 36-0 in its four league losses, plays at Fountain Valley on Tuesday.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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