SAN MARINO — After a shutout loss to San Marino High in a Rio Hondo League game in late March, La Cañada softball coach Chuck Gunter and his staff looked to get their batters to simplify things when the teams crossed paths again Friday.
The Spartans started off quickly with runs in the first, second and fourth innings, then opened up the flood gates in the fifth and sixth with timely hitting.
La Cañada used that offensive output to defeat host San Marino, 11-1, and separating itself from the Titans in a fight for first place in the Rio Hondo League.
“We saw [San Marino pitcher Claire Steeler] in the first game ... and we got four runs off of her,” Gunter said about a 10-0 win in the teams’ first meeting March 1. “It wasn’t anything different in the second game, it’s just our girls were trying to get 10 runs again in one swing. They’re just trying to hit home run, home run, and that’s not what we teach.
“We just teach to go with the pitch wherever the pitch is. We’re real sticklers about hitting the pitch the proper direction. They’re getting back on track. There’s still some to work on.”
The teams were in a three-way tie with Temple City for top spot in league coming into Friday. The La Cañada victory gives the Spartans (13-5-1 , 7-2 in league) a little breathing room going forward with an eye on a possible title-deciding matchup on the final day of the regular season at home April 26 against the Rams.
A run-scoring double from second baseman Reese Ramseyer kicked things off for the Spartans for a 1-0 lead in the first.
Spartans catcher Shannon Loveless doubled the La Cañada lead to 2-0 in the second on a sacrifice fly that scored Alex Schwalbach.
The Titans (12-5-2, 6-3) cut the Spartans’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third, but another sacrifice fly from Loveless restored La Cañada’s two-run lead in the fourth.
La Cañada pitcher Devyn Cox drove in Ella Polito with a single for a 4-1 lead to start the Spartans’ four-run fifth inning.
The Spartans scored another run on designated player Megan Oh’s one-out single and first baseman Delaney Choi followed with a two-run double to give La Cañada a 7-1 lead to close the top of the fifth.
Schwalbach made it 10-1 in the sixth on a three-run home run with two outs.
Loveless capped the Spartans’ scoring at 11-1 in the seventh with a run on an error.
“I do know that they were getting a little greedy and trying to hit home runs the last two games,” Gunter said. “If they hit a home run to left in practice, they had to take a lap, so, everybody is just trying to hit home runs.
“Now, they’re just staying back and just trying to hit base-hits. [Schwalbach] hit her first home run today on an 0-2 count.”
Steeler previously recorded three hits in the 5-0 shutout win in the circle over the Spartans on March 27.
Ramseyer, Schwalbach, Choi and Cox all collected two hits for the Spartans. Schwalbach recorded three RBI and Choi and Loveless each drove in a pair of runs.
“[Steeler] knows how to work the batters,” Cox said. “But, today, we backed up the play to avoid the inside pitch and we take the outside pitch over the right over to second base and right to the right fielder, so I think that was definitely a key part in it.
Cox started in the circle for the Spartans and went the distance, striking out four and walking three while scattering four hits.
“We worked really hard as a team over these last couple of days,” Cox said. “We worked on putting the ball in play — just bouncing it off the ground. We’ve been having a really big issue with popping up lately, so we’ve just been working on putting the ball in play and letting them make the errors. Today, I think we did a pretty good job of that.”