La Cañada softball stymies Crescenta Valley

LA CANADA — Offense will have to be the tone setter for the La Cañada High softball team this season, and the Spartans certainly knew that in their season opener with Crescenta Valley High Thursday.

Both sides combined for a ton of offense, but it was La Cañada’s 13 hits with four players posting multi-hit games that led it past Crescenta Valley, 10-6.

“I’m very happy, you put up 10 runs against a team like CV in the first game of the year [it’s good],” La Cañada Coach KC Mathews said.

Crescenta Valley also gave La Cañada plenty of chances offensively, as it committed five errors in the game, and had several other mental errors, from base running, backing up plays defensively and lack of focus, Falcons Coach Mark Samford said.

“The frustrating thing is that’s not indicative of how we can play,” said Samford, who had his starting second baseman Adela Alatraca exit the game in the second inning when she reinjured a broken finger. “Those things are frustrating.”

Offensively, the Falcons (0-3) were led by leadoff hitter Hailey Cookson (three for four, stolen base) and Whitney Craig (two for four, four runs batted in).

“I thought [Craig] did a great job of settling in there and focusing,” Samford said of his No. 7 hitter. “She’s a more than a capable player. ... It was a huge step forward for her and was huge for us.”

La Cañada jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning behind a bases-loaded walk drawn by Kelsey Drange, which was followed by a bases-clearing double from Annie Monroe, who finished two for four with four RBI.

“I knew I had to pick up my team,” Monroe said. “Anyone else behind could have done the same thing, but I was just ready and aggressive on the first pitch.”

Crescenta Valley answered with two runs and in the fourth — on a two-RBI double from Craig — and three more in the fifth to pull within a run, 6-5, heading into the bottom of the fifth.

As had been the case all night, the Spartans had an answer at the plate. La Cañada’s Aubri Thompson got on base to start the inning when a pop fly was dropped by the CV first baseman, who was attempting an over the shoulder catch just on the outfield grass.

It was one of five of the Falcons’ errors in the game with two more coming on the very next play.

Brenna Gay (two for four, stolen base) of the Spartans drove a ball off the center fielder’s head and off the fence. The outfielder’s throw to third was late and the throw from third to second in an attempt to nab Gay was off target and into right field, scoring Thompson.

A hurried throw from right field to third in another shot at cutting down Gay was also off target, allowing her to come all the home to pad La Cañada’s advantage again, 8-5.

“We had it down to one run and kind of tossed it away,” Samford said. “That’s it, we know what we need to do. Focus is going to be key for us, all the way through.”

The Spartans extended the lead further with four singles in the bottom of the sixth with Monroe driving in a run and Thompson scoring another with a sacrifice fly.

La Cañada leadoff hitter Olivia Leyva, the only player perfect at the plate at the game with a three-for-three day, said the offensive explosion to start the season should motivate the Spartans going forward.

“That’s literally the thing we work on the hardest,” said Leyva, who also had an RBI, stolen base and three runs scored, of the team’s offense. “We do have a really tight defense, but offense would be our main strength.”

Craig drove in her fourth run of the game when she grounded out to third in the top of seventh, scoring Chloe Fairbrother, who led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a Taylor Hill base knock.

La Cañada scored two runs in the fourth on a pair of doubles from Jessica Ogden and Leyva and an error.

CV’s best frame at the plate was the top of the fifth. Clair O’Connor started the inning with a lead-off double to right-center field and Cookson added a hard groundball past a diving shortstop for a single before Brady Sanford plated O’Connor with a bunt single.

Cookson scored on a double steal and Craig capped the three-run inning with a two-out, two-strike soft lining single to left field.

Katy Lee (two for four, two runs) also had a multi-hit game for La Cañada, which also received hits from Drange (RBI) and Selina Mohr, who also gave up just one run in three innings of relief pitching.

“Olivia Thayer is a tough pitcher,” Mathews said of CV’s pitcher, who logged a complete game, “and I thought we did a great job of putting the bat on the ball early and we hit the ball well. We expect that out of an experienced team. We’re not in midseason form yet, but to get that first one out of the way against a team like CV is good for us.”

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