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La Cañada softball falls to South El Monte in second round of playoffs

LA CAÑADA — The La Cañada High softball team’s bid for a second consecutive playoff quarterfinal appearance came up short in a CIF Southern Section Division IV second-round playoff game against South El Monte at home Tuesday.

It was yet another home run that helped down the Spartans in the postseason.

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Though La Cañada scored in the seventh inning with a two-out single, South El Monte hung on for a 2-1 win.

“One inning, one hit,” La Cañada coach Chuck Gunter said. “They’re not perfect, we’re not perfect. We put the ball into play and they made a few errors, so we just needed a few timely hits that we didn’t get this game. Usually, we have three girls that come up with clutch hits and today just wasn’t our day.”

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La Cañada (17-5-1) had chances to cut into the South El Monte lead with runners in scoring position in the third and fourth. However, both innings ended with a pair of runners left on base.

“They’re a great team, don’t get me wrong, but we had runners in scoring positions in several innings,” Gunter said. “… There were a lot of excuses that I heard before the game and it kind of showed. There were a couple girls that had good games today and those are the ones that have been around a while, so they don’t feel the pressure.

“You have to score more than two runs to win a good game like this. Three years in a row, one home run knocked us out.”

South El Monte (21-3) recorded a two-out double from starting pitcher Neveah Castruita in the third. Eagles third baseman Chasity Martinez followed with the two-run home run to make it 2-0.

La Cañada, which has won five straight Rio Hondo League championships, started the seventh with a lead-off double from first baseman Megan Oh. After two Spartans struck out, La Cañada shortstop Emily Tinkham drove in a run with a line drive single to cut the lead to 2-1.

La Cañada starting pitcher Devyn Cox, who gave the Spartans a quarterfinal berth last season with a game-winning solo shot in the Division V playoffs, tossed all seven innings, giving up a double and a home run, all in the third. The sophomore struck out four.

Her South El Monte counterpart, Castruita, threw a complete game and recorded six shutout innings for the three-time defending Mission Valley League champions before Tinkham recorded her two-out RBI-single. The Eagles senior struck out nine, walked one and yielded five hits.

“[Castruita] pitched a great game. South El Monte coach Dean Bunting said. “When they got some runners on, she was able to work out of it and got her screwball in there and got off the handle with some easy ground balls in the infield. The defense made some nice plays behind her.”

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