NEWPORT BEACH — Righty against lefty, junior against freshman.
The Battle of the Bay softball game turned into a pitcher's duel Thursday at Bonita Creek Park. Newport Harbor junior Hattie Marshall and Corona del Mar freshman Sydney McKeown matched each other nearly pitch for pitch.
Newport-Mesa Girls' Softball hosted the game. Plenty of young girls in Newport-Mesa uniforms watched the teams fail in their quests to put up crooked numbers on the nonexistent scoreboard.
This was not the blowout of years past.
The Sailors still found a way to end up on top.
Junior captain Lauren Gandi hit a solo home run in the fourth inning and the Sailors hung on to win the rivalry game, 2-1, for the fifth straight year.
Newport Harbor (10-0) is off to its best start in many years, if not program history. The Sailors, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 coaches' poll, already collected the Costa Mesa tournament title earlier this month. They are in the semifinals of the Savanna tournament on Saturday.
"They're doing a great job," first-year coach Russell Hartman said. "They're confident. It doesn't matter who's on the other side of the field, they come out and play the same game every single time. It's working for them."
Marshall has recorded all 10 of the Sailors' wins. She allowed one earned run on three hits Thursday, walking three and striking out six. She also got run support in the bottom of the first inning, thanks to junior captain Breanna Lopez.
The Sailors' leadoff hitter connected on a single to center. She stole second and third before scoring on a one-out RBI groundout from freshman Zoey Meyers.
Gandi provided an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth, smacking the first pitch she saw to deep left field. With no outfield fences at Bonita Creek, every home run is of the inside-the-park variety, and Gandi hustled around the bases to score fairly easily
"It was right inside, down the middle," Gandi said of her second home run of the season. "Those are my favorite to hit, and it felt really nice. It just felt so good. It was smooth."
Newport Harbor needed the insurance run. CdM (7-6) responded in the top of the sixth, after senior Lindsey Susolik worked a two-out walk. She went to second on a passed ball and scored on an RBI single to right by junior Taryn Maister.
The ball got past the right fielder, and Maister ended up on third base. But Marshall responded, striking out a pinch-hitter to end the threat. It was the third straight inning the Sea Kings had left a runner in scoring position.
CdM got runners to first and third in the third inning before Marshall induced an inning-ending groundout. Freshman Mylie Wilson had a two-out double to shallow right in the fifth, but the Sea Kings couldn't score her.
CdM Coach Kiki Muñoz said that McKeown kept the Sea Kings in the game, after allowing two earned runs on four hits. McKeown struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Hartman also credited McKeown for keeping his offense in check much of the game.
"She did a phenomenal job mixing up pitches and hitting her spots," Hartman said. "She kept us off balance all day long."
The Sea Kings also cleaned up on the errors, committing just two against Newport Harbor.
"It's no longer a chain reaction-type thing," CdM senior Delaney Owen said. "It's one error per inning, and that's the end of it. It's a fresh start, clean slate-type thing. I think that was really good."
Susolik had the other hit for the Sea Kings. Marshall and Hanna Van Voorhis also had singles for the Sailors, Van Voorhis' coming on a bunt.
Both Newport Harbor and CdM start league next week. The Sailors haven't won a Sunset League game since 2007 and the Sea Kings haven't won a Pacific Coast League contest since 2008, but there does appear to be reason for optimism this season for both programs.
"We're winning, and we're pumped up," Gandi said. "It's good to see all our girls enjoying softball ... [The winning has] given us a boost. Maybe we can do something in league."
Battle of the Bay
Newport Harbor 2, Corona del Mar 1
SCORE BY INNING
CdM 000 001 0 – 1 3 2
NH 100 100 0 – 2 4 1
McKeown and Susolik; Marshall and Sanchez. W – Marshall, 10-0. L – McKeown, 1-3. 2B – Wilson (CdM). HR – Gandi (NH).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun