Siepler makes Katella pay

Someone other than Anna Edwards was going to have to come through for the La Cañada High softball team.

Katella gave the Spartans' slugger next to nothing to hit, walking Edwards three out of four times in the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinal game Thursday at La Cañada.

Plenty of Spartans, primarily Megan Siepler, answered the call. Siepler went two for three with two doubles and four runs batted in against the Knights, pacing top-seeded La Cañada to an 8-1 victory.

It was a turnaround game for Siepler, after going one for eight in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"It's nice to have her back swinging the bat that way," La Cañada Coach KC Matthews said. "That's the Megan Siepler that we all know and love."

Katella (20-8) of Anaheim got on the board quickly with a run in the first inning. Erika Garcia started the Knights one-out rally by reaching first base on an error committed by the La Cañada third baseman. Melissa Zuniga doubled to put runners at second and third and Melissa Biddle hit a single that landed just over the heads of Thomspon and Edwards at shortstop, scoring Garcia to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.

Spartans starting pitcher Lauren O'Leary came right back unfazed, striking out the next two batters to keep the damage from escalating. It's that kind of composure that has epitomized O'Leary's entire high school career.

"You never want to show a crack in your armor, you always want to stay the same," said O'Leary, explaining why she's always calm on the mound.

She pitched another complete game, giving six hits, no walks and striking out 10.

Thursday was the first time the Spartans (24-3) have trailed in the playoffs. But they weren't behind long, as La Cañada put up five runs in the second inning. The bottom of the order started the outburst when Shirley Drange — the Spartans' No. 7 hitter — started the inning with a walk. Selina Mohr followed with a slap-hit single that went underneath the glove of Katella's third baseman. La Cañada No. 9 hitter, Jessica Ogden, than laid down a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with one out.

The Knights pitched around Edwards to get to Kelsey Drange, who drove in her sister, Shirley, with a single that landed perfectly between the Katella centerfielder and shortstop.

"Whenever they walk Anna I want to score her," Kelsey said. "If they're not going to come at her they're going to come at me."

Catherine Horner worked a bases-loaded walk to give La Cañada a 2-0 lead.

But it was Siepler who came up with the big hit of the day, delivering a bases-clearing double that gave the Spartans a 5-0 advantage.

"She was patient at the plate and she has really quick hands so when they pitch her inside she's a really tough out," Matthews said. "When the first one falls it builds up confidence and it starts to roll."

That's exactly what happened. Siepler extended La Cañada's lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth with a booming sacrifice fly that brought Ogden around to score.

"That first hit kind of gave me my confidence back and that obviously helped for my last at-bats," said Siepler, echoing Matthews' words.

Siepler finished her day the plate with a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the sixth. She came around to score on a RBI-single from Thompson, which ended the scoring.

"Our lineup, one through nine, has come out and produced this year," Matthews said. "If they're going to put Anna on and start innings like that, fine. That's why Anna is in that leadoff spot, if they walk her she's going to make them pay one way or another."

The Spartans will play again on Tuesday when they host South El Monte at 3:15 p.m. in the semifinal game — the round La Cañada lost in last year.

"We are using [last season] as motivation this year to get better and hopefully get past that round," O'Leary said.

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