Inside the circle and batter’s box, the La Cañada High softball team was in good hands.
With senior pitcher Holly Stoner throwing strikes and senior first baseman Alexis Abboud collecting timely hits, the Spartans had an efficient duo that helped La Cañada win a fourth straight Rio Hondo League championship.
It played a major role in Stoner and Abboud picking up top league recognition, as Stoner was named the league’s most valuable pitcher for the third straight season and Abboud was tabbed the league’s most valuable player for the first time.
“We had a great season and we did a lot of good things,” La Cañada coach Chuck Gunter said. “It’s nice to see your players get recognized like that.”
La Cañada, which had seven players bestowed with league recognition, finished 22-5-1, 11-1 in league and reached the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals. The Spartans advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
Stoner, a right-hander, went 11-1 with a 1.25 earned-run average in league. She struck out 104, walked 13 and yielded 23 runs (13 earned) in 72 2/3 league innings. Overall, Stoner went 22-5-1, struck out 160 in 122 innings and had a 0.970 ERA.
“It’s cool to be honored like that because there are so many good pitchers in our league,” Stoner said. “It was a goal of mine and you always are trying to find ways to improve.
“We have a lot of good players on our team and it was great to win league again and go far in the playoffs.”
Said Gunter: “Holly pitched a lot of innings and she was always reliable. She always gave us a chance to win games. She’s done that the last three years.”
Abboud made a smooth transition at the plate. She batted lead-off last year before being moved to the No. 3 spot this season.
Abboud batted .585 with two home runs and 24 runs batted in in league. She registered 11 doubles and scored 23 runs in 12 league contests. Overall, Abboud batted .582 with 26 runs and 34 RBI.
“It’s awesome to see her get her award for a couple of reasons,” Gunter said. “After hitting first last year, we felt like she could excel at the third spot and she had a lot of quality at-bats. She drove in a lot of big runs and got a lot of attention from the opposing teams.”
Abboud embraced the lineup change.
“I thought it would work out,” Abboud said. “It gave me a chance to drive in some runs and I wanted to go all out. If you put in the time and work, things will pay off and it’s an honor to get an award like this one.”
La Cañada’s Emily Tinkham, Taryn Harris and Maddy Reilly received first-team accolades.
Tinkham, a junior infielder, hit .542 with six home runs and 16 RBI in league. She scored 20 runs, walked 13 times and stole four bases in 10 league tilts. Overall, Tinkham hit .532 with 31 runs and 22 RBI.
“Emily was such a huge threat,” Gunter said. “She’s a terrific infielder and great with the bat. We’re glad we’ll have her back next year.”
Harris, a senior catcher, batted .450 in league with two home runs and 21 runs batted in. Harris contributed seven doubles and scored nine runs in 12 league games. Harris batted .323 with 11 runs and 24 RBI overall.
“With Taryn, it’s about being an excellent catcher and providing top leadership skills,” Gunter said. “She complimented Holly so well.”
In 12 league contests, Reilly, a senior outfielder, batted .522 with four doubles and 13 runs batted in. She notched 19 runs and seven stolen bases. Reilly batted .453 with 22 runs and 16 runs batted in for the season.
“Maddy has always been very competitive,” Gunter said. “She did a lot of things well and that’s because of her excellent work ethic.”
Junior infielder Kathleen Knudsen was named to the second team. Knudsen hit .429 with three home runs, 17 runs batted in, seven doubles and nine runs in 11 league games. Knudsen hit .375 with 13 runs and 17 RBI overall.