After getting a taste of the playoffs for the first time in some time, the La Cañada High softball team is hungrier than ever to get a CIF Southern Section championship ring.
The 2010 season started out with low expectations after seven seniors left the team and five freshmen were called upon to fill the varsity roster. The Spartans' low expectations turned into high hopes, however, as the season progressed.
After making it all the way to the CIF semifinals, the team's hopes were shattered as errors untimely cost them a shot at a championship after a 3-1 loss to South Hills of West Covina.
The season proved to be a fruitful one as the Spartans won the Rio Hondo League title, going 10-2 (25-5 overall). The team generated 152 runs, five times the 30 runs they allowed.
The Spartans also had the most players named to the All-Rio Hondo League team with nine. Anna Edwards was named one of the league's Most Valuable Players (along with junior Shelby Gogreve of South Pasadena), while the two Laurens, O'Leary and Cox, were both labeled Most Valuable Pitchers in league.
Six other Spartans were named to either the first or second teams. Catherine Horner, Megan Martin and Kayla McCue made first-team all-league for the Spartans and Kelsey Drange, Shirley Drange and Selina Mohr rounded out the second team.
The Spartans relied upon their clutch hitters, and most of all, pitching in 2010, as O'Leary, a junior, and Cox, a sophomore, proved a dominant duo. The duo combined to throw 195 innings (all but eight throughout the season), while only surrendering 14 earned runs in 30 games.
Spartans' Coach KC Matthews had a formula of using O'Leary to generally start the first four innings of a game and bring in Cox in the fifth to close it out. Cox served as a change of pace to batters who were trying to figure out O'Leary.
"We work really well together because we have such opposite styles," O'Leary said. "[Cox] throws really hard and blows them away. I have more movement than speed."
Cox agreed, saying the varying skills of the players seemed to throw teams off.
"The Laurens always brought it," Edwards said. "We always knew we were going to be in any game no matter what, even against teams who were ranked higher than us. They brought a level of confidence to the team because they are so confident in what they do."
Many times, behind every great pitcher is a great catcher. Horner, a sophomore, was a solid backstop for La Cañada.
"[Horner] only had one passed ball the whole year," Edwards said. "It would be really hard for most people to catch our pitchers, but not for her."
Horner made first-team not only for her ability to handle two pitchers of different styles, but her ability to handle a bat as well. She led the team in doubles with 12 and was second in almost every other offensive category for the Spartans, including a .365 (35 for 96) batting average, .542 slugging percentage, 19 runs scored and 17 runs batted in.
The leader in nearly every offensive category for the Spartans was Edwards, a junior shortstop, who was voted the team's most valuable player for putting up staggering numbers.
"Anna was amazing," Mohr said. "She brought 110% every day and you can't ask for anything more. Her hitting was amazing and she was solid defensively at short."
Edwards produced a team-best .580 batting average (51 for 88) and also led the team in slugging percentage (1.034), RBI (35), stolen bases (15) and home runs (nine).
Martin, a senior right fielder, is the only person leaving the team next year, which bodes well for next season. Still, it will be no simple task to replace the first-teamer.
"Losing Megan Martin is really hard because she was great in right field," Cox said.
Martin was a solid contributor all around. She batted .310 on the year (18 for 58), was second in stolen bases in nine, knocked in eight runs and scored 11 runs.
"We don't get as far as we did this year without Megan," Matthews said. "It won't be easy without her."
McCue, the team's junior right fielder, also made the first team. She put up a .323 batting average (20 for 62) and scored 14 runs.
"Kayla always made the plays for us in right field and always gave it her all," Edwards said. "She added a lot to the team with her hard work and sense of humor."
The Drange sisters, Kelsey and Shirley, both made the second team. Shirley finished with 11 hits, 10 runs scored, five RBI, four doubles and a home run.
Kelsey was able to step in as a freshman and fill in at first base, a position left vacant by a graduating senior. She batted .260 (19 for 73) with nine RBI.
"[Kelsey] really filled in what we lost last year at first base," Horner said. "She hit in the No. 2 spot and got the bunts down when we needed them."
Mohr was another freshman able to take over a spot left open by a graduating senior. She played in center field and provided a seamless transition. She hit .242 (15 for 62) with seven RBI and five doubles.