1992 still feels like a long time ago.
That was when San Pedro High baseball won their first CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship when it outlasted Polytechnic of Sun Valley at Dodger Stadium under the leadership of longtime coach Jerry Lovarov.
Reaching a championship game since then was rare for the Pirates. They only managed two more appearances in 2004 when they lost to eventual national champion Chatsworth and again in 2010, where they were one strike away from a dogpile at Chavez Ravine, before falling on the last two pitches to El Camino Real.
The 2021 edition of the Pirates made the most of their shortened season, and it was made even more special on June 19 when, in front of a large-capacity crowd on their own home field, they staged a comeback for the ages and won 7-6 over the visiting Conquistadors to win the first CIF-LACS Open Division championship in school history.
“It feels unreal,” San Pedro senior center fielder Jake Harper says. “It’s always something me and the boys have talked about. We have imagined this moment since we were 10 years old, and now it happened. All the hard work has finally paid off, and I am so grateful for this team. This is the best moment of my life, and I will never forget it.”
San Pedro (17-8 overall), the fourth seed of the playoffs, was battle-tested all the way through, taking on several top teams, including the entire West Valley League, winning a fourth straight Marine League title, while they had several nonbelievers outside of their hometown along the way. And yes, they even battled with themselves during the game.
Fighting their way through six early errors and with a 5-1 deficit staring them in the face, San Pedro struck back with two runs in the bottom of the third inning thanks to senior catcher Mikey Brucelas, blasting an RBI-double, then scoring on a balk, slicing their deficit down to 5-3.
“We were making mistakes that we usually never make,” San Pedro senior shortstop Cain Lusic says. “But we knew we had to keep battling and stay positive in order to make this happen.”
El Camino Real (15-17) added another run in the top of the fourth for a 6-3 advantage, but sophomore pitcher Casey Molina never allowed the Conquistadors to further increase their edge.
“I was a little rattled,” says Molina, who only allowed one earned run in 2.1 innings of relief to earn the win. “But when stepping on that mound, taking a slow deep breath, and knowing that I have a great defense behind me, they put me in that position to help out the team. I was confident enough to know that my teammates will have my back the whole way.”
After Molina and the defense forced a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, the Pirates went to work in the bottom half.
San Pedro’s top of the order started the comeback train, as Lusic and Harper both reached base on errors to start the inning, then both were driven home on Brucelas’s second double and third hit of the game. Suddenly, the deficit was now only 6-5.
“All I was thinking was ‘team first,’” Brucelas says of his critical third plate appearance. “I need to get the job done and hit my guys over, but the pitcher threw a mistake. I took advantage of it and ended up hitting them in.”
Senior cleanup hitter Dylan Kordic was retired, but three pitches later came senior left fielder Dominic Porter. With the count two balls and no strikes, Porter was ready whenever that third pitch of the at-bat came his way.
“It was just instinct,” Porter says. “I knew they were going to throw a fastball in that situation since they threw two off-speed pitches in a row, and I was ready for it.”
Was he ever.
Porter connected on the 2-and-0 fastball, depositing it over the left field fence for a go-ahead two-run home run, and the San Pedro home crowd went completely bonkers because it gave the Pirates the 7-6 lead.
With one out in the top of the sixth and El Camino Real mounting a threat, Kordic then left the third base position to the mound and got the final four outs to secure the title, ending the game with a strikeout that sent the entire Pirate faithful in attendance into a sea of black and gold pandemonium.
The finish was an emotional one for Kordic, who passed up football season in the spring after two straight cancellations to focus solely on baseball for his senior season. Earlier in May, Kordic was awarded one of six CIF-LACS Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards, and now he adds his second championship ring to his collection to join his 2018 CIF-LACS Division 1 football title.
“Winning the championship was everything I could have hoped for,” Kordic says. “Being the guy to close it out was like the cherry on top.”
Brucelas went 3-for-4 on the day with four RBIs and two runs scored, while Porter went 2-for-3 for San Pedro, who ended a seemingly never-ending string of 29 straight CIF-LACS major division baseball titles won by a San Fernando Valley school.
This win was especially gratifying for the senior class, who had to go through two straight Open Division quarterfinal exits in 2018 and a painful 2019 loss to Birmingham, who went on to win a third straight championship. San Pedro ended the Patriots’ reign with a 7-0 semifinal victory earlier in the week while also run ruling Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington, 14-0 in five innings in the quarterfinals.
It was also a perfect way to go out on top for eight-year head coach Steve Tedesco, who announced he is stepping down at the conclusion of the season.
Another historical fact about this latest championship is that this is the first time a father-son duo in the history of San Pedro High School won a CIF-LACS title in any sport, as Harper’s father Tim was a vital member of the 1992 championship team.
Asked if winning the title in 2021 was the perfect Father’s Day gift, Jake exclaimed, “100 percent.” spt