There haven't been too many close games for the La Cañada High softball team in Rio Hondo League this season.
The Spartans were tested against Temple City, however, and they proved they've progressed from last year, beating the Rams, 1-0, Friday at home.
"They're a good team. We beat a good team and good teams win games like this," said La Cañada Coach KC Matthews, whose team improved to 18-3 (9-0 in league). "We're fortunate, but we're happy to come out with a win like this."
Temple City (12-11, 4-5) had a great chance to pull off the upset late, loading the bases in the top of the seventh inning with La Cañada hanging onto a one-run edge. Spartans' pitcher Lauren O'Leary got the first batter to ground out, as second baseman Megan Siepler made a fantastic play up the middle, backhanding the ball and throwing it to first just in time to record the out.
That nice but seemingly minor play turned out to be huge as the Rams' next three batters got on base via a double, single and error. O'Leary, exuding her typical composure in the circle, answered right back and struck out the next batter for the second out, which was no surprise to Matthews.
"We've seen that since her freshman year," said Matthews of O'Leary, who tossed another gem — a complete-game shutout, giving up just four hits, a walk and striking out 10.
It was Catherine Horner and Aubri Thompson who extinguished the Rams chances, though. Temple City's Jessica Loicano took a big lead from third base and Horner, La Cañada's catcher, fired the ball to Thompson at third. Loicano broke for home but was tagged out on a seamless catch, throw and tag from Thompson to Horner.
"We told the girls to be ready and don't panic," Matthews said. "They handled the play calmly in two throws, and they did exactly what they're supposed to do. That's not coaching, that's them knowing and handling the situation and relying on their experience."
The final out secured the win for La Cañada, after Anna Edwards provided the Spartans' lone run in the bottom of the third. She came to the plate with two outs and worked her way into a 2-1 count. She than jumped on a belt-high fastball, sending it over the fence in centerfield for a home run.
The big hit also came as no surprise to Matthews.
"She's been coming up huge for four years," Matthews said. "It's been great this year that we haven't solely relied on Anna, but games like today when she comes through for us, it's just what we needed."
Edwards admitted she didn't start the season the way she'd like at the plate, but feels she's starting to come around.
"I think I've kind of settled in," Edwards said. "I'm trying not to worry about it too much or think about stats or anything, just hitting the ball."
The win clinches a share of the Rio Hondo League title for La Cañada. It was also a reminder that the Spartans can still perform when the pressure is turned up.
La Cañada won the Thousand Oaks Tournament a week ago by grinding its way through several tough games, which included a 2-1 win over Thousand Oaks. The one-run win against Temple City was just another test.
"We used to be a team that wouldn't win these games," Edwards said. "I think this shows we're pretty ready for playoffs after winning these games."
It wasn't all good news for La Cañada though, as Stephanie Bathke rolled her ankle in the bottom of the fifth inning while rounding second after blasting a line-drive double to left field.