For La Cañada's softball team, the only way to go is up. The team this season faces the challenge of bouncing back from last year's 1-10 league record. They seem to be doing all right so far.
After entering last week's Duarte Tournament as the No. 16 seed, the Spartans blasted Rio Hondo Prep, Azusa, and Covina to make it to the championship game Friday night against the Ontario Christian Knights.
"This was great, that we could come in as the 16th seed and make it this far," said new Head Coach Justin Valassidis. "The tournament was good for us."
Good for experience, maybe, but bad for injuries. Senior pitcher Kristin Oechsel was out suffering a pulled hamstring — she is expected to return today or tomorrow, in time for the team's tough match-up against Monrovia.
In the fifth inning, pitcher Jade Stenzel, junior, was hit by a line drive by the Knights' Donie Thomas and subsequently sent to the emergency room for possible damage to her pitching hand.
She was diagnosed with a severe bruise to the thumb and has been healing this week. Stenzel is also expected to return for Friday's season-opener.
Despite the final 19-4 loss to Ontario Christian, the team's 3-1 tournament record has already been an improvement over last year's performance.
"We are going to use this game as a tool to help motivate us," Valassidis said. "Now we can see what we need help on."
The lineup looks promising with a healthy mix of returning players and new talent.
Cami Martin, YEAR, currently leads the team with five RBIs and a .818 batting average. Martin also has three home runs; Oechsel and Devon Zerebko, YEAR, have two home runs each.
The Spartans begin league play this Friday against softball powerhouse Monrovia, who went 10-2 last season to finish as the Rio Hondo League's No.1.