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Spartans posses talent

With an impressive group of returners, La Cañada expects a successful run.

March 17, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

KC Matthews has been coaching at La Cañada High for 12 years, but he's never seen as much talent on one team as he does when he surveys his softball lineup for this season.

"This group is as talented from top to bottom as any team I've had the pleasure of coaching here, no matter what sport it is," said Matthews, who has also coached baseball and softball.

This is the first season that Matthews — entering his fourth year coaching softball — can say he's had a group of players since they were freshmen.

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The goal for the season is to be playing in June, when the later rounds of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs begin, Matthews said. The Spartans went 25-5 last year before being knocked out of the playoffs by South Hills in a 3-1 semifinals loss.

"I don't measure our success in wins or losses, but with this talent level we have, if we can stay focused and get better every day, we will have a good future," Matthews said.

Senior Lauren O'Leary and junior Lauren Cox figure to lead the Spartans in the circle again this year. They combined to pitch 195 of the 203 Spartans' innings last season.

Last season, Matthews used the two Laurens as a formidable one-two punch. O'Leary generally threw the first four innings of a game and Cox would come in to close out the last three. O'Leary pitches with a lot of movement and Cox can blow opposing batters away with her fastball. The change-of-pace combination dominated for most of the season as the duo surrendered only 14 earned runs in 30 games.

"Both of them are more than capable at handling seven innings," Matthews said. "I just felt that our resources were best utilized in that fashion. We'll see how this year goes, but I wouldn't be surprised if you saw it again."

There are plenty of bats to back up the Spartans' pitching pair. Catherine Horner will be back to handle the two Laurens behind the plate. The junior catcher allowed only one passed ball last year while hitting .365 (35 for 96) and slugging .542.

Senior shortstop Anna Edwards figures to be the centerpiece of the offensive attack. She produced team-bests in batting average (.580), slugging percentage (1.034), runs batted in (35), stolen bases (15) and home runs (nine).

The lineup also contains Kayla McCue, a senior right fielder, who hit .323 (20 for 62) last year. Cox also hit .308 (12 for 39) last year. Second baseman Megan Siepler and outfielder Shirley Drange round out the final two pieces of the Spartans' senior-laden team.

The Spartans also boast two players in O'Leary and Edwards that have already committed to play at the college level. O'Leary and Edwards are headed to Georgetown and Northwestern University, respectively.

"We have a group of seniors who are going to drive this boat," Matthews said. "They set the tone for our work ethic and our softball team…We're going to go as far as they can take us."

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