Lauren O'Leary, last year's first-team All-CIF Southern Section and co-Rio Hondo Most Valuable Pitcher, doesn't need to prove herself anymore.
However, the senior pitched another statement game against San Marino at home Friday.
O'Leary was slated for what was sure to be sure a pitchers' duel against San Marino's standout sophomore pitcher, Michelle Floyd, who's already verbally committed to the University of Arizona.
The Spartans got two runs in the first inning off Floyd, and that was more than O'Leary would need, as she struck out 12 and allowed just five base runners (three walks and two hits) in a complete-game shutout win, 3-0.
"She's amazing. She works so hard and she hits every single spot," said Spartans catcher Catherine Horner of O'Leary. "When the umpire doesn't give her a strike call, she doesn't let it faze her at all; she just keeps going and gets every batter almost."
Horner gave her pitcher all she needed for the win in the first inning. She stepped to the plate with one out and Kayla McCue on first (who reached base on a walk). Horner hit the first pitch she saw from San Marino's (8-5, 2-2 in league) Floyd — a fastball — sending it over the right fielder's head for a triple and an early 1-0 lead.
"I was a little nervous [going against Floyd], I have to admit. But I knew I had a job to get done," Horner said. "I knew she was a good pitcher and the first pitch that came I knew how to jump on it right away."
Megan Siepler cashed her in with a sacrifice fly to deep center field for a 2-0 edge.
"I think anytime you give our pitching a two-run lead, that puts our team in a very good position," said La Cañada Coach KC Matthews, whose team is 12-3, 5-0. "Obviously, Michelle is a fantastic pitcher and she did a great job tonight. She's tough and I thought our girls did a good job of putting the ball in play all night long. We had four hits, but we also had four other productive at-bats with the [sacrifice] flies, the bunts and hitting behind runners and moving them over."
Floyd gave up four hits and two walks while striking out nine, but she couldn't completely silence the Spartans' bats.
Anna Edwards had La Cañada's third RBI on a sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the fifth inning. Horner was the only Spartan with two hits, adding a double in the bottom of the sixth.
"[Horner's] bat speaks for itself and the confidence she's hitting with right now," Matthews said. "She played some travel ball this summer and the confidence she's brought back from that has been tremendous. She's seeing the ball, putting the bat on it and driving it. The biggest thing that doesn't show up in the stat book is how she handles our pitching, though; she does an absolutely tremendous job back there."
Horner agreed with her coach, saying the confidence she picked up from travel ball is paying dividends in the high school season.
"Last year I felt [Floyd] was a lot faster and I couldn't hit her as well. This year, the confidence has helped a ton," she said.
So far this season, Horner is hitting a team-high .458 (22 for 48) with a .462 on-base percentage and a .688 slugging percentage. She's scored 10 runs while driving in 10. She's only gone hitless in one game this year and has eight multi-hit games.
Friday night was about more than just softball, though, as the Spartans played their second annual Strike Out Cancer game. La Cañada's players wore pink shirts, instead of the team's regular uniforms, and money was donated to finding a cure for cancer for each strikeout recorded in the game.
The Spartans kept winning on Saturday, taking both games of a doubleheader as part of the Thousand Oaks Tournament. La Cañada defeated La Reina, 2-0, and Thousand Oaks, 3-0.