La Canada’s K.C. Mathews is 2008 Coach of the Year.
Above: La Canada softball coach K.C. Mathews.
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
LA CANADA – Expectations couldn’t have been any lower for the La Ca ada High School softball team.
The Spartans finished 4-14 in 2007 after winning their first three games, but K.C. Mathews took over the ailing program this season and turned his players into believers.
La Canada began the season with just one senior and relied on freshmen pitchers Lizzie Miller and Lauren O’Leary.
An injury to Miller forced O’Leary to finish the year alone in the circle as the Spartans finished with a 12-13 record and a third-place finish in the tough Rio Hondo League.
The Spartans’ turnaround was enough for Mathews to be named the 2008 Star-News softball Coach of the Year.
“I think having a younger team helped me, and the turnaround of an eight-win difference from the year before really just speaks to how hard the girls worked and were willing to buy in,” Mathews said. “They put in the work and they got the results out of it. It was really just a team effort this year and that, to me, is really where the success lies, not our won-loss record.”
When La Canada won at Rio Hondo League champion Temple City 1-0 on March 14, many of the players moved over to the baseball field to watch the end of a game between the schools.
Rather than joke around and feel good about their win, the players were upset because they felt the Rams didn’t take them seriously.
Teams didn’t take the Spartans lightly from that point on.
“In that Temple City game, we scored one run in the top of the first inning and everybody came together,” Mathews said. “The defense held up, the pitching was outstanding and it was just a complete team effort, and that was really the story of the team this year.
“We didn’t have one standout superstar who we counted on. We had 11 or 12 girls that, at some point in the season, stepped up and did something to contribute significantly to our success.”
La Canada’s season came to an end with a 3-2 loss at Ridgecrest Burroughs on May 14. It was the Spartans’ sixth consecutive defeat.
But it didn’t detract from the heights La Ca ada reached under Mathews.
O’Leary was 7-6 with a save and a 2.00 ERA, and Miller, who injured her ankle and couldn’t pitch during the final half of the season, went 4-4 with a 2.10 ERA.
“Lizzie was actually my No. 1 pitcher and we had a couple of girls decide not to play softball at the last minute. I needed another pitcher and Lauren came up, and thank goodness she did,” Mathews said. “Having her and Lizzie as a one-two punch early on, you couldn’t ask for anything more from those two kids if they were seniors.”
They’ll provide the building blocks for the Spartans’ future.
“To know that they’re freshmen and they’re going to be here is definitely a bright spot for this team,” Mathews said.
Mathews said he hopes reaching the playoffs with a young squad on the heels of a disappointing season can help turn his team into a major player in league.