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.