Getting a helping hand

Spartans lean on dominant pitchers, both past and present, to lead them to CIF title.

June 09, 2011|By Andrew Shortall,
(Raul Roa Staff Photographer )

All season long, Meredith Cervenka has been behind the scenes, calling the pitches La Cañada High pitcher Lauren O'Leary. In turn, the Spartans' hurler had no problem following Cervenka's game plan, which helped her shut down offenses during her senior season.

The three-year formula for success worked to perfection again on Friday, as O'Leary dominated Beaumont in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship game at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. The Spartans' ace dominated when it mattered most — in the last five innings. She retired 15 of the last 16 batters she faced and set down the side in order in the third through sixth innings.

After effort helped the Spartans secure a 1-0 win, for the program's first CIF title in 16 years.

After the game, O'Leary credited Cervenka's pitch calling for her success on the field against Beaumont.

"They're a really good-hitting team, so we just wanted to mix it up," said O'Leary, who struck out eight and didn't issue a walk in the championship game. "It feels good to get it done."


Cervenka, a former area standout in the circle at Crescenta Valley High and a dominant pitcher for Long Beach State, said a key to O'Leary's performance was the one-run lead she got from Anna Edwards' solo home run in the third inning, which stood up.

"I felt her relax a little bit, I think we all did, after the one run," said Cervenka, adding that O'Leary succeeded because she hit her spots and mixed up the location of her pitches. "We just stuck with what the umpire was calling. They were struggling with her inside pitch, so we just went in, out and up and mixed the change in a little bit. We just had to keep them off balance — that was our goal."

It was three years ago when Cervenka joined the Spartans' coaching staff as a pitching instructor. Coming into this season, she was focused on the details with O'Leary because "she's already such a polished pitcher," Cervenka said. The pair worked on O'Leary's placement, approach to 0-2 counts and mental toughness — and t all paid off.

"[Cervenka] has helped refine all my mechanics," O'Leary said. "It's nice to have someone who watches you throw every day and knows your motion. She's had a huge part in our success. I think all the coaching staff and the entire team has had a huge part to play in it."

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