SAN MARINO — In its quest to reclaim the Rio Hondo League title, La Cañada High softball’s success has come very much with a heavy dose of heavy hitters.
That was the case and then some on Tuesday afternoon, as the Spartans collected 21 hits, highlighted by five home runs, in an 18-7 league win over host San Marino.
“If we can play to our potential and abilities, we can win a league championship,” said Spartans Coach KC Mathews, whose team finished in a three-way tie for second place last season and is currently 13-7, 6-2 in league for second place, trailing Monrovia (7-1 in league), which beat La Cañada, 8-6, on Friday. “We’re gonna have to earn it, no team in this league is gonna roll over.”
That looked to be the opposite on Tuesday, as the Spartans, buoyed by a seven-run first inning and were ahead, 9-0, after two innings. But, perhaps some complacent play coupled with a feisty San Marino (7-10, 2-6) showing led to the game going the full seven innings.
“I think we just got too comfortable,” said senior Olivia Leyva, who was four for five with two doubles, a triple, three runs scored and three runs batted in. “I think we just needed to get back to fundamentals.”
Leyva was one of myriad Spartans to turn in a big day at the plate.
Senior Michelle Grochow had six RBI on the strength of two no-doubt home runs, sophomore Sammy Jedrey was four for five with a home run, two runs and an RBI, senior Brenna Gay also homered, going three for four with four runs and junior Olivia Lam had a solo homer during a three-for-five showing with two runs and two RBI. Senior Katy Lee (two runs, RBI) and junior Kara Thompson (two RBI and a run) also had two hits each.
La Cañada defeated San Marino, 24-1, in the teams’ first meeting and obviously had a closer matchup Tuesday. Its two league losses — against Temple City and Monrovia — came after it defeated both teams the first time around. Mathews, though, doesn’t see any problems with consistency or overconfidence.
“I don’t think we played poorly in either of those losses. We didn’t come up with the timely hits that we did in the first games against those teams,” Mathews said. “I don’t think we took anybody lightly. I think we showed the way we came out today, we didn’t take San Marino lightly, either.”
Indeed, the Spartans struck early and emphatically, as Leyva led off the game with a single for the first of seven consecutive hits to start the game, including Grochow’s 2-0 blast to deep center field.
“Honestly, I never think it’s out,” Grochow said. “They felt really good, though.”
With the game seemingly on the fast track to a five-inning, 10-run stoppage, the Titans plated four in the bottom of the third to cut the score to 11-5.
The Spartans put up three runs in the sixth and then unloaded for five runs, capped by back-to-back homers from Grochow and Gay, in the seventh. But San Marino elongated the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to four errors by the Spartans.
“Defense was very uncharacteristic today,” Mathews said.
Even though the game was a bit sloppy, Mathews saw no reason to look at it as anything more than a good win.
“The girls played well,” he said. “Nothing about today concerns me.”
Added Leyva: “Winning league is definitely the goal, but we’re not gonna get there if we don’t have the effort and the will to succeed.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.