Spartans insure victory over Titans

SAN MARINO — One run was nice, but it didn't feel like quite enough when the La Cañada High softball team traveled to San Marino Tuesday.

The CIF Southern Section Division V second-ranked Titans had overcome a one-run deficit on a Michelle Floyd two-run home run in the top of the seventh when both squads first met this season.

The Spartans, who came in ranked third in Division V, didn't want to see that happen again and they padded their one-run lead with a three-run sixth and would hold on for the 4-0 victory.

La Cañada Coach KC Mathews was proud of his team's performance, but said revenge didn't play a factor Tuesday after the Titans defeated the Spartans, 3-2, on March 23.

"Our girls had a pretty good approach at the plate all day," said Mathews, whose team racked up 10 hits on Floyd, who struck out 10 batters and gave up two walks in the complete-game effort. "I thought we did a pretty job today of getting our bats on the ball, getting some base runners on and moving around."

In the other dugout, San Marino Coach Nick Schepperle felt his team lacked clutch hitting. The Titans (12-6-1, 5-2 in league) had three hits in the game — two from Alexis Watanabe — and left seven runners on base (three in scoring position) and batted one for 11 with runners on base.

"La Cañada kept putting runners on and kept the pressure on us," Schepperle said. "They played a really good game."

Spartans pitcher Lauren Cox played a pivotal role in keeping the Titans off the scoreboard, as she dazzled to the tune of a three-hitter with 16 strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter.

The sixth-inning outburst from La Cañada (12-2-1, 3-1-1) came with one out to spare.

Brenna Gay sparked the Spartans' two-out rally when she just missed a homer, ripping a double off the left-field fence. Olivia Leyva kept the inning alive when she beat out a slow-rolling grounder to third base, which wasn't handled cleanly.

It set the table for the Spartans' Catherine Horner, who was two for four with two runs batted in.

Horner was already responsible for the only run of the game when she singled home Leyva, who reached on a bunt single and stole second, with a chopper up the middle in the top of the fifth.

The Tulsa-bound senior catcher did it again in the sixth with a high-bouncing grounder that went over San Marino's third baseman and scored Gay for a 2-0 lead.

"It always takes one, two or three innings to get used to Michelle because she is faster and a better pitcher than the majority of what we see in our league," Horner said. "I thought our team did a great job of adjusting and since we've been seeing her for years I think it's definitely helped us out."

Katy Lee, who went three for four, provided plenty of insurance for Cox, when she blooped a single into left field that scored Leyva and Horner, who moved to second on catcher's indifference, for a 4-0 edge.

"It was really nice because after last game — everyone knows what happened — it was good to have those support runs," said Cox, who finished strong by striking out the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings. "It made me that much more confident to go out there and do what I needed to do to shut it down. My team worked so hard for me today and I felt I needed to work just as hard for them."

Cox was dominant all game and was able to dance out of danger in the bottom of the third.

San Marino's Allison Lee was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Watanabe followed that up with a single to left field that moved Lee to third and put her at second base on the throw to third.

Cox struck out the next batter and pitched around Floyd to load the bases with one out.

The Titans couldn't come up with the clutch hit, as Cox kept the game scoreless as she struck out the next two batters to quell the threat.

"That was probably the game right there — second and third with nobody out," Schepperle said. "We get a key hit and we're up 2-0 and now they're playing behind and have to do some things a little differently and the outcome is a little bit different than what it is on the scoreboard."

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