Spartans win another league title

La Cañada High's Lauren O'Leary was a strike away from finishing the final regular-season softball game of her high school career with a perfect game Tuesday on the road against South Pasadena.

Samantha Gomez took a hack at the two-strike pitch, sending a dribbler to no-man's land between O'Leary and the catcher, Catherine Horner. O'Leary got to the ball first and had to rush a throw to first that was just off target, as it sailed into right field. Gomez reached base on the error and advanced to second, ending the perfect game.

O'Leary didn't lose her composure though, striking out the final batter, her 17th punch-out of the day, for a no-hit performance in the circle and an 11-0 Rio Hondo League victory.

The Spartans' ace wasn't that disappointed about missing out on a perfect game.

"I mean, we got the win so I guess that's all that matters — undefeated in league was one of our goals so that's good we got it," said O'Leary, who went on to praise the defense behind her and Horner behind the plate for her impressive game in the circle against the Tigers (2-21-1, 0-11 in league).

While a no-hitter is quite the accomplishment, La Cañada Coach KC Matthews was hoping O'Leary would achieve perfection.

"I feel for her because no one works harder at it than she does," he said. "To have that opportunity and get that close, I know she wanted it but she pitched a hell of a game, that's the bottom line.

"She's been outstanding for so long and she deserves everything that's coming to her. She's going to focus in on the playoffs and we're going to ride her right now, and I'm not afraid of that"

While O'Leary's arm will definitely have the biggest part to play in La Cañada's (20-3, 12-0) postseason success, the Spartans, as an entire unit, have been playing phenomenally this season. They captured their third consecutive Rio Hondo League championship this season and are riding an 18-game winning streak into the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.

The playoff pairings are set to be released Sunday and the postseason begins next week,

"It always feels good to win, but if you don't focus on the next one that feeling isn't going to last very long," Matthews said.

La Cañada made a deep run in the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs last year, before losing on the road semifinals against South Hills, 3-1. The thought of losing that game is a motivator, and this year it's all or nothing, as far as a CIF title is concerned, O'Leary said.

"We want to win it. We just want a championship," she said. "I think we used [that game against South Hills] as encouragement in the offseason so we could come out strong this year."

O'Leary wasn't the only Spartan who came to play Tuesday. Anna Edwards went four for four with two runs batted in. Teammate Aubri Thompson went three for three with three RBI and Kelsey Drange went two for five with three RBI.

The Spartans are going to take the time they have before playoffs begin, and before they are given their first-round opponent, they intend to focus on themselves.

"We're going to get in shape, heal up a little bit, get our legs back and start focusing on the little details that will help us win against tough teams," Matthews said. "We are going to focus on making ourselves better every day and [the team] does a good job of that, we don't get too far ahead of ourselves."

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