Spartans softball catcher Catherine Horner stops four Nipomo base runners

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Base runners, and most notably runs, were a precious commodity in a pitchers duel between the La Cañada and Nipomo high softball teams Tuesday in the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals.

Nipomo got 10 runners aboard — compared to the Spartans' seven — but La Cañada catcher Catherine Horner made four of the Titans disappear, as she threw out all four runners who attempted to steal second.

"She's our eraser," said La Cañada Coach KC Mathews, whose team pulled out the dramatic 1-0 win with a run in the bottom of the sixth. "She hasn't had the opportunities [to throw runners out] as much this year because the word is out."

Horner's play quelled possible Nipomo rallies and kept La Cañada pitcher Lauren Cox — who walked seven batters, hit another and gave up two hits — out of danger.

"It's literally the best feeling [having runners thrown out]," said Cox, who struck 13 in the shutout victory. "Honestly, [Horner] was great today — she's great every day."

Courtney Cuzick tried to steal on Horner twice — the first time coming in the third inning when she was walked with two outs. Horner's throw was high, but reeled in by La Cañada shortstop Annie Monroe, who applied the tag for the out.

"I knew Lauren was kind of getting squeezed in the zone so I wanted to help her out as much as possible," said Horner, who threw out runners in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.

Horner's biggest assist of the day came in the top of the sixth, as Cuzick was walked with two outs and quickly thrown out trying to steal second to end the frame, which pumped up the Spartans.

"We had a team talk going in [the dugout] and said, 'Let's thrive on this,'" Cox said. "We didn't want to go extra innings because that's even more stressful."

The Spartans got the win in regulation, as they strung three hits together for a run in the bottom of the sixth.

"It was on defense [that we built momentum] — the last play where we got [Cuzick] out," said La Cañada's Kelsey Drange, who drove in the lone run of the game. "From then on we were pumped, we were ready to go."

Katy Lee started the attack with a leadoff double and came around to score on back-to-back singles from Monroe and Drange.

"I really think [Horner's play] was a big changer in the game because it stopped runners from advancing to second," said Cox, who allowed but two runners to reach second base. "Had there been more [runners at second] they could have easily broken through and found a way to score."

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