There were driving forces this past season for the La Cañada High softball team. Two players were among a group which helped the Spartans experience league and playoff success.
Anna Edwards and Lauren O'Leary are those two players, and they have added to their 2010 achievements after being named to CIF Southern Section Division V first team. Together they added to the two main strengths that helped drive the Spartans — dominant pitching and timely hitting.
"We gave up a total of 14 earned runs in a 30-game season; that says a tremendous amount about our pitchers [O'Leary and Lauren Cox]," Spartans Coach KC Matthews said. "And when you have a bat like Anna Edwards, that is good for half a run a game."
With Edwards and O'Leary, the Spartans felt they had a chance against anyone.
This was vital in a year La Cañada relied heavily on freshmen to come in and fill starting positions.
"They did a tremendous job, and it was so important for us," Matthews said. "It was really crucial because the other players had confidence in them, which in turn gave them confidence in themselves. Besides their talent, it was really that stability those players gave us early on that allowed us to really grow."
The dominant pitching duo of the Spartans, O'Leary and Cox, consisted of O'Leary starting most games, pitching four innings, and Cox coming in to close out the last three innings.
Both O'Leary and Cox were named the Rio Hondo League's Most Valuable Pitchers.
O'Leary boasted a 0.61 earned-run average, and opponents hit just .126 against her and had just a .149 on-base percentage. She finished the year with a .826 winning percentage, having pitched 114-plus innings with four complete-game shutouts. She allowed only 10 earned runs on the year.
One of the keys to O'Leary's success was how she rarely issued a free pass to hitters. She finished the year with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 165 to 7.
Edwards provided the spark for the Spartans' batting order. She led the team in nearly every offensive category but doubles. Along with a .580 batting average (51 for 88), she had a 1.034 slugging percentage and a .654 on-base percentage to go along with 40 runs scored, 35 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
Edwards hit more home runs (nine) than she struck out (four times in 107 plate appearances).
She brought more than just numbers, though.
"Edwards was so crucial early on," Matthews said. "She allowed the other girls the comfort to grow into their positions. If the other girls are stressing early on, they start pressing and don't develop as much as they were able to do throughout the year."
Her work ethic also stood out.
"Anna is a stud," O'Leary said. "She's the leader, and she shows by example. She sets the bar high for everyone because she is always working as hard as she can."
O'Leary and Edwards aren't the only Spartans who experienced success in the playoffs. The team made it to the CIF semifinals, losing 3-1 to West Covina South Hills.
The Spartans also captured the Rio Hondo League championship. However, with all of their success, the Spartans aren't satisfied.
"The team worked really hard this year," Edwards said. "We earned everything we got and just clicked at the right time. It is our main goal to win CIF next year, and I definitely think we can do it."