Edwards lifts La Cañada

HEMET — La Cañada High's softball Coach KC Matthews called Anna Edwards over after the Spartans second-round CIF Southern Section Division V road playoff game against Hemet on Tuesday.

"Does the field look smaller?" Matthews asked her with a laugh.

Edwards just smiled. She had every reason to be happy after just going three for four with two solo home runs. Her effort backed a 7-0 La Cañada win after another gem from pitcher Lauren O'Leary.

O'Leary kept the No. 1 Spartans (23-3, 12-0 in Rio Hondo League) rolling, hurling a complete-game one-hitter with eight strikeouts.

"When I walked up [the field] definitely looked a lot smaller and I thought, 'Oh, I'd like to hit a home run here,'" Edwards said.

Whether or not the field was actually smaller than La Cañada's home field might not have mattered, because both of Edwards' homers would have been gone out of almost any high school softball field.

"[Edwards] has impressed me for four years, and she continues to," Matthews said. "She's a great hitter. There's no one I trust more with two strikes."

As the Spartan's leadoff hitter, Edwards got things rolling for her team with a line-drive single to start the game.

"We came into this game knowing this pitcher was pretty good," Edwards said. "I wanted to start the game well so we would all be confident out there."

Confidence started building when Kelsey Drange followed the home run with a walk and Catherine Horner hit a ground ball to the Bulldogs' second baseman, Taylor Wolever. It looked like a routine ground-out, but Wolever rushed the throw and it sailed into La Cañada's dugout, scoring Edwards and putting runners on second and third.

It looked like Hemet (16-13-1, 9-6 in league) would escape with limited damage when pitcher Cheyenne Gandara struck out the next two batters. Lauren Cox kept the rally alive, though, swinging at the first pitch she saw and sending a line drive over the right fielder's head, bringing Drange and Horner home and giving the Spartans a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

"Getting Lauren O'Leary a three-run cushion early when we didn't really earn them is big, because she's one of the best around," Matthews said.

Cox went one for two and is three for four with two doubles in the playoffs since returning to the lineup after recovering from a groin injury.

"It's really nice getting back into it," Cox said. "I'm just working really hard in practice so I can contribute something because I haven't been doing much all season."

Gandara started clicking after the first, holding the Spartans scoreless over the next three innings. She struck out 13 and surrendered just five hits and three walks.

However, the pitcher got in trouble again when Edwards hit her first bomb of the day to left field in the fifth inning. La Cañada put together a two-out rally from that point, when Horner walked and Megan Siepler hit a catchable fly ball that was dropped by Autumn Davis, Hemet's right fielder. Davis came up and fired a throw to home that was off-target and went into the Bulldogs' dugout, scoring Horner and putting Siepler on third.

Siepler wreaked havoc on the base paths, taking a big lead and coaxing a throw to third from Hemet catcher Kendal Powell that was off target and went into the outfield, bringing Siepler home for a 6-0 lead.

Edwards finished the scoring with another solo shot in the seventh.

The Spartans were able to capitalize on the Bulldogs' four errors while also playing error free behind O'Leary.

"They want to play well for O'Leary," Matthews said. "She works her tail off every single day and they want to make those plays for her; it's a good combination."

When Edwards first started playing defense behind O'Leary she said it was a little hard to focus because she was so good in the circle. But now it's become routine.

"Lauren's amazing and you have to expect that," Edwards said. "It makes it that much easier to want to play for her and be ready when you do get that ball because she's working so hard on the mound out there."

The win puts the Spartans into the division quarterfinals. They will host Katella in a 3:15 p.m. game today.

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