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It's about a month into the high school baseball season, so the matchups are starting to bring out playoff-like intensity, as was the case Saturday for a 3½-hour, 10-inning game between City Section powers Birmingham and visiting San Pedro.
While the coaches are still experimenting with their pitching staffs, these teams know each other so well that winning was a priority. Birmingham is the team that eliminated No. 1-seeded San Pedro in the 2019 playoffs, so the Pirates' seniors wanted a win.
They came close, rallying for four runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score but could do nothing against Birmingham closer Gavin Taylor, who retired 11 consecutive batters from the seventh inning on. The Patriots won 7-6 when Julian Gonzalez, who had been hit three times, drew a walk on a 3-and-2 count with the bases loaded in the 10th.
"He came back pretty good," Gonzalez said of San Pedro pitcher Dom Porter, who fought back from a 3-and-0 count. "It was a borderline pitch, but the umpire had been calling balls outside and up all day."
Lots was learned from the Saturday morning game that will likely come back to help Birmingham when it's seeding time. The three-time defending City champions Patriots came in with a 4-12 record, but all the games were against Southern Section teams. Birmingham is still waiting for ace pitcher Chris Romero to come back next month from an injury.
It was the debut of catcher Alex Olvera, a transfer from Granada Hills Kennedy, and he threw out two San Pedro runners trying to steal second. He provides immediate defensive help and had two hits. Freshman Ernesto Martinez also had two hits for the Patriots.
San Pedro hit the ball hard for much of the game, but for outs. With a veteran team, the Pirates battle to the final pitch, and that's what happened in the seventh. They put together five walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch to tie the score at 6 with four runs. Taylor came in and appeared to win the game when he struck out Anthony Orozco, but the ball went to the backstop, allowing the tying run to score. Taylor struck out the next batter, and the Pirates never came close to scoring again.
Taylor, a sophomore, is Birmingham's hardest thrower. He helped defeat then-No. 1 San Juan Capistrano JSerra as a freshman. Coach Matt Mowry is still figuring out whether Taylor, who also plays shortstop, should be a starting pitcher or closer.
"He was really impressive on the mound, and that's what we needed to see out of him," Mowry said.
San Pedro figures to be the primary challenger to Banning (6-1) and ace pitcher Anthony Joya in the Marine League starting next week. The Pirates (5-2) open league play against Narbonne on Monday. Birmingham opens West Valley League play against Taft on Tuesday.
Granada Hills defeated Banning on Saturday 16-6 in five innings. Will White had three hits.
Sylmar handed Chatsworth its first defeat 3-1. Frank Garcia threw a complete game. Cleveland defeated Sun Valley Poly 6-4. Andrew Howe hit a home run.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.