TEMPLE CITY — Some of the area's best high school softball players had the rare opportunity to take the field with more concern about having fun than winning in the annual San Gabriel Valley All-Star Game, hosted at Live Oak Park in Temple City on Thursday night.
Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and La Cañada High each sent a handful of players to compete in the game, which pits San Gabriel Valley's best public and private high school seniors against each other in a friendly competition. The Public team had the edge, though, as La Cañada's Lauren O'Leary dealt yet another shutout for a 5-0 Public victory.
"This is the seniors' last hoorah," said Flintridge Prep Coach Julie Jaime, who coached the Private team. "It's a nice, fun environment and it's one last game for them."
KC Mathews, coach of La Cañada and the Public team, echoed Jaime's sentiment.
"This is my second year doing this and it's a fun night," Mathews said. "We're all loose and joking around. It's a great opportunity for them to play with girls they're usually playing against."
Alanna Pires of Sacred Heart said the game was a bit of a reunion for most of the Private team because she grew up playing on all-star teams with a lot of them. Flintridge Prep's Denise van der Goot agreed.
"I know most of the team, we all played on Sierra Madre all-star teams together," van der Goot said. "It's cool seeing them all again. We usually only see each other once a year when we play against them. It's good being on the same team again."
It was difficult for some players not to get caught up in the competition, though. Anna Edwards of La Cañada came into the game saying she just wanted to have fun. She was singing a different tune once it was over.
"Anytime I play anything, whether it's a game of cards or softball, I get competitive," she said. "It's just my nature, sometimes it's too much and sometimes it's just right."
Edwards got her way and didn't drop a single competition on the day, including the home run derby that occurred before the game. She took the derby title with 23 total points. Temple City's Jessica Loicano came in second with 20, La Cañada's Megan Siepler took third place with 18 and the 17 points off the bat of Flintridge Prep's Abbey Deckop were good for fourth.
"I got in a groove out there," Edwards said. "It was kind of like practice out there taking soft toss."
Plenty of area stars shined throughout the all-star game, as well. Edwards went three for four in the game with two doubles and a single. Siepler and O'Leary each laid down bunt singles. O'Leary also pitched all seven innings for the Public team, striking out nine batters and surrendering only three hits and one walk.
The Rebels' Kelly Wang was responsible for one of the three hits off O'Leary, driving a hard grounder between the hole between shortstop and third. O'Leary was one of just 10 Public players and the only pitcher.
Van der Goot did her damage in the circle. She was called on in relief to face Edwards with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning and wasn't fazed, as she struck out Edwards to retire the side.
Van der goot stayed in to pitch the seventh and finished the game with four strikeouts, allowing just a walk. She came in to relieve Sacred Heart's Mackenzie Lyng, who pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up three hits, a walk, three runs and notched a strikeout.
"They played well and represented Prep great," Jaime said of Van der goot, Wang and Deckop. "I'm so proud of them. This is a great way to send them off."
Loicano proved to be the offensive difference maker in the game for the Public side. She earned the game's MVP award for bashing two home runs and driving in three of her team's five runs.
Sacred Heart's Paige Conti wasn't too upset about losing the game. She admitted that the competitive juices never picked up for her. She was too busy having a good time after she overcame her early nerves.
"It was a lot of fun. I'd say we had more laughs than focus out there," Conti said with a chuckle.