One of the better seasons by an area softball team came with a few postseason perks for La Cañada High.
The Spartans had eight players selected to either the Rio Hondo League first or second team, while senior shortstop Olivia Leyva was named the Rio Hondo League’s co-Most Valuable Player on the recently-released league honors list.
“It meant a lot for me to win that award,” said Leyva, who shared the acclaim with Monrovia’s Elise McCarthy. “It lets me know that my efforts and my play were noticed not just by my teammates, but by other people in league. I just tried my best to do my job.”
Leyva enjoyed a banner season in which the California Lutheran University-bound senior batted a team-best .533, collected 32 hits, scored 28 runs and tallied 27 runs batted in with six home runs, eight doubles and five triples during the regular season.
In the postseason, Leyva showed her potency in adding five RBI, two triples, two doubles and a homer.
“We’ve had a nice run with some really great players these last few years and Olivia certainly deserves to be mentioned among the top players,” Spartans Coach KC Mathews said. “You’re just not going to find too many players like her, who can obviously hit and play solid defense.
“Perhaps her best trait is that she’s a leader on this team and we’re just different without her there.”
Leyva’s Spartans concluded with a 17-10 run this past season, which included a second-place finish behind Monrovia in the league title chase.
A two-game losing streak that capped the regular season belied the team’s true potential, which shone during a run to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals that consisted of two playoff victories, including a 4-1 upset win over visiting top-seeded Loara in the second round on May 22.
The Spartans eventually fell in a wild 8-7 defeat at La Quinta on May 24.
La Cañada’s sprint to the divisional elite eight was aided by seniors Katy Lee, Brenna Gay and junior Olivia Lam, all of whom were recognized for their contributions by being named to the league’s first team.
If there was another player from La Cañada and perhaps the rest of the league who could have also merited MVP consideration, Lam fits the billing.
The junior catcher, who has verbally committed to Cornell University, led the Spartans in hits (35), RBI (39), homers (seven) and doubles (nine) during the regular season, while batting .500 (second-best on team) and scoring 22 runs (third-best on team).
“She’s one player you’re going to hear a lot more about next year,” Mathews said. “She came up clutch time and again and was just a dominant bat.”
Perhaps Lam’s biggest accomplish was when she incredibly hit a homer in five straight league games between April 25 and May 13.
“We could talk all day about her offense, but [Lam’s] defense was very underrated,” Mathews said of Lam, who threw out 12 of 29 baserunners (41%) during the regular season. “A lot of people didn’t run on her, otherwise her numbers would really be higher.”
Lee, a rare southpaw second baseman, hit .427 during the regular season with 32 hits, a team-leading 29 runs, 10 RBI and five doubles and perhaps impressed her coach most thanks to her defensive prowess.
“Katy had a great career and proved that you can be left-handed and play in the infield,” Mathews said. “People would sometimes ask me how I was able to teach her how to flip a double play. I didn’t teach her that, I just stayed out of her way.”
As for Gay, the outfielder delivered timely hits all season for her team, including when she led off the seventh inning with a homer that tied the contest versus La Quinta at 7.
“You talk about a way to end a career,” Mathews said. “She goes three for four with three RBI and then homers in the seventh to tie the game. That kind of game summed up what type of player Brenna was.”
Gay finished the regular season batting .375 with 27 hits, 23 runs scored, 11 RBI, seven doubles and two homers.
La Cañada earned five additional league second-team spots, which were awarded to infielders Michelle Grochow (18 RBI and 15 runs) and Samantha Jedrey (.344 batting average with 21 hits and 12 runs), outfielders Michelle Musso (.327 batting average with 17 hits and 13 runs) and Kara Thompson (19 RBI and 14 runs) and pitcher Madison MacKenzie (10-7 record with a 4.09 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 85.2 innings pitched).
Monrovia’s Adrienne Guerra was named the league’s most valuable pitcher.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.