LA CAÑADA — When the La Cañada High softball team is at its best, it looks like it did in the first five innings of Tuesday's first-place Rio Hondo League showdown with Temple City.
A complete package of hitting, pitching and defense staked the Spartans to a seven-run advantage through five frames that was enough insurance to outlast a late Rams rally for a 9-5 win.
The Rams loaded the bases and cut their deficit to four in both of the final two innings, but a final big blow for La Cañada — a two-run double from Olivia Lam in the bottom of the sixth — kept the Rams at arm's length in the Spartans’ 9-5 win at La Cañada High.
The victory gives the Spartans sole possession of first place in league and Rio Hondo’s only undefeated record at 3-0, 7-1 overall. There’s no let up for La Cañada, as it will travel to San Marino Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to wrap up the first round of league.
“It doesn’t matter until round three of league,” La Cañada Coach KC Mathews said of being in first place. “Being in first in the first round means nothing; it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. We’ve got San Marino Thursday, we’ll be ready and we know they’ll be ready.”
Facing a 7-0 deficit, Temple City's offense came to life in the sixth and seventh — innings in which it had six of its nine hits and all of its runs — after La Cañada, which is ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division IV, made a number of substitutions.
A pitching change to start the sixth ended the day of Spartans starter Maddy MacKenzie, who allowed just seven baserunners (three hits, three walks, one error) through five shutout innings.
The Rams (7-6, 2-1 in league) loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth after consecutive singles from Sierra Ringer and Sara Kubo and a walk. Celina Ornelas drove in Temple City's first run with one out and Jennifer Pegg brought it within 7-3 with a two run batted in single.
La Cañada reliever Selina Mohr left the bases loaded and kept her team up four by ending the inning with consecutive strikeouts. Lam built on the momentum and added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth when she doubled to left-center field.
“I hadn’t been doing anything all year, so I was just thinking I really want a hit, I need to get a hit,” said Lam, who was two for two and had the game’s only extra-base hit. “I felt it come off the bat and it was just amazing.
“I feel sort of like I’m out of my slump. I’m not there all the way, but I definitely feel this is a big breakthrough and hope that it follows through throughout all the games.”
Those runs came in handy when the Rams loaded the bases again with two outs in seventh on a pair of singles and a walk. Two Spartans errors and a bases-loaded walk led to two more Temple City runs before Mohr left the bases full and ended the game with another key strikeout.
“We struggled a little bit getting ahead in the count in the past couple of innings, but I thought Selina did a great of job of coming back and settling down,” Mathews said. “We also gave them a couple extra outs and a team like Temple City is going to make you pay for that. ... It’s a good thing when we had the offense we had to do to be able to work through something like that.”
La Cañada's offense, which accounted for 11 hits in the game, was jump-started by a leadoff walk to Olivia Leyva and two Temple City errors in the bottom of the first.
The first came off the bat of Katy Lee, who hit a hard grounder to shortstop that went right between the fielder's legs and under her glove before rolling to the outfield fence. It scored Leyva and put Lee at third. Lee scored on an infield single from Aubri Thompson, who was one of two La Cañada players to finish with two hits and two RBI.
The Spartans strung four singles together in a second inning that saw them push their lead to 5-0. Lam drew a full-count walk to start the outburst with Michelle Musso being subbed in as a pinch-runner.
After a strikeout, Musso moved to second on a Leyva single and then third on a bunt single from Lee that loaded the bases.
Thompson drove in her second run of the game and Monroe pushed the Spartans' advantage to 4-0, as both lined singles into the outfield. La Cañada got its fifth run on a RBI grounder from Brenna Gay.
Mohr scored in the bottom of the third on a double steal and a Michelle Grochow RBI single gave the Spartans a seven-run cushion in the fourth.