There's outstanding pitching depth in the City Section this season, which comes as no surprise considering at least 11 players who made the All-City team last season pitched in a game. That helps explain why several league races have become so competitive and tightly fought entering the final week of the regular season.
On Tuesday, Hector Avila of Harbor City Narbonne, an All-City pitcher in 2009, returned to the form of his sophomore year, throwing a one-hitter to lead the Gauchos past Wilmington Banning, 9-0, and create a three-way tie for first place in the Marine League with one game to play.
Narbonne (21-8, 7-2), Banning (19-10, 7-2) and San Pedro (21-7, 7-2) will enter Friday's regular-season finales tied for first place. Narbonne plays Banning at the Urban Youth Academy. San Pedro plays at Carson.
"There's a lot of parity in the league," Narbonne Coach Bill Dillon said. "Ultimately, these three teams can definitely make an impact in the playoffs."
Avila lost his no-hitter with two outs in the seventh when Christopher Johnson lined a double to center field. Avila struck out six and walked four.
"That was a big, big performance by Hector," Dillon said. "Hector knew the importance of the game, and for him, I think he's pitching his best baseball. Early in the season, he was struggling to throw strikes. Today he threw three pitches for strikes and returned to the form of a couple years ago."
Said Avila: "I just tried to hit my spots. I felt comfortable, taking it pitch by pitch."
Banning struggled in all facets of the game. The Pilots couldn't make routine defensive plays and didn't come close to getting hits. Narbonne got a two-run home run from Chris Ortega and two hits apiece from Ricky Perez, Jeysen Delgado, Michael Perez and Manny Hernandez.
The good news for Banning is that the Pilots can quickly forget about Tuesday's performance and still win a league title with a victory Friday.
"The boys will work hard in the next couple of days and hopefully we'll do a better job," Coach John Gonzalez said.