Small ball yields big win

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Hits were few and far between with the Rio Hondo League's two best pitchers — La Cañada High's Lauren Cox and San Marino's Michelle Floyd — in the circle Thursday.

La Cañada managed just three hits off Floyd, but turned most of its opportunities into runs — thanks to a small-ball approach — in a 3-1 victory at home over the Titans.

"That's a good team right there, and we pulled out just about everything we could to get it done today," said La Cañada Coach KC Mathews, whose team stole four bases and took extra bases on four San Marino passed balls in the game. "[Floyd's] tough in the circle, but we have a pretty good one in our circle, too."

Cox gave up two hits, a walk and struck out nine batters for the complete-game victory. Floyd struck out 10 batters, surrendered three hits, a walk and hit a batter in the loss.

The win all but wraps up the league title for the fourth straight year for La Cañada, which needs to win one of its three remaining games or a San Marino loss to clinch the crown.

"This [win] puts us in a good position, but we're not getting ready for league, we're getting ready for playoffs," said Mathews, whose team remains No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division V polls. "We're trying to set our sights there."

The Titans (15-8-1, 7-4 in league) has already wrapped up second place.

"Somebody's got to win and somebody's got to lose, unfortunately," said San Marino Coach Nick Schepperle, whose team is ranked fourth in Division V. "These are the two best teams in the league and we came up short today."

San Marino was dealt a tough blow in the bottom of the first, as Alexis Watanabe aggravated a back injury on a diving play in the first inning that pulled her out of the game in the third inning.

"[The team] took it on the chin when one of their leaders went down with a back issue," Schepperle said of his senior shortstop. "They could've just sat back and went, 'Woe is me,' and felt sorry for themselves, but they still battled, worked hard and played good defense."

With the game tied at 1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Spartans (18-4-1, 7-1-1) got a lead and some insurance for Cox.

Olivia Leyva pushed a bunt by Floyd and a charging first baseman for a single to start the inning. She stole second on the very next pitch and took third on a passed ball to set the table for Selina Mohr, who said she cleared her head before she stepped to the plate.

"I just want to stay focused on my at-bat, nothing else needs to be in my head at that moment," said Mohr, who worked her way into a full count and lined a single up the middle to put La Cañada in front, 2-1.

Mohr then stole second, moved to third on a Katy Lee groundout and scored on a passed ball with two outs to cap the scoring.

"Some days you're going to have to [scrap]," said Mathews, whose final hit came on a Jessica Ogden single in the sixth. "We're not going to line up, go toe-to-toe and swing for the fences, that's not our personality right now."

Both teams traded runs in back-to-back frames, as La Cañada got on the board first in the bottom of the fifth inning when Olivia Lam laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Annie Monroe, who reached on a hit by pitch, stole second and moved to third on a Kelsey Drange groundout.

San Marino knotted the score at 1 in the top of the fifth, as Elizabeth Shelburne led off with a double and came around to score on a one-out Raquel Edmonds double.

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