By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
TEMPLE CITY – The cycle is complete.
Jessica Loicano began her softball career at Temple City’s Live Oak Park when she was 4-years old. Thirteen years later, the recent Temple City High School graduate likely played her last game in the park in a big way. She hit a pair of towering home runs Thursday night to propel the Public All-Star softball team to a 5-0 victory in the seventh annual Public vs. Private All-Star Game, which involves graduating seniors.
“I think it is great that I started here and I finished here,” said Loicano, who’ll play next season at North Dakota, which is making the move from Division II to Division I.
“It is a great feeling that I was able to finish my high school career here.”
Playing T-ball and softball in the Temple City ASA, which provided technical support for the All-Star game, Loicano previously hit 17 homers at Live Oak Park, but perhaps none was sweeter than her final two, in her final game wearing a Temple City uniform and final high school game.
“I grew up here,” she said. “It’s basically my home away from my home, and I live not very far from here.”
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In her second at-bat, in the fourth inning, she sent the first pitch offered by Mayfield pitcher Katie Clancy, who spent all of Wednesday night and early Thursday morning at Disneyland, long over the left- field fence to give the Public team a 2-0 lead.
With La Canada’s Megan Siepler on first base after a bunt single in the sixth inning, Loicano took a pitch by Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Allana Pires over the right-center-field fence.
“Doing the home run derby was like a warm-up for me,” she said.
She earned game MVP honors, and the Public team won for the second consecutive year. The Private team leads the series, 4-2-1.
For all of her prowess at the plate in the game, however, it wasn’t Loicano who won the event’s home run derby. That honor went to La Ca ada’s Anna Edwards, who beat Loicano by three points, 23-20. Edwards had 10 home runs on 22 pitches, and three near-homers. Loicano had nine home runs and four near-homers.
“I thought she was going to win it,” Edwards said of Loicano. “I know she’s a great hitter.”
Edwards will play at Northwestern next season. She went 3 for 4 for the game with a double, but was picked off base each time she was on.
“I love hitting,” she said. “It’s my favorite part of my game. Any time I can take batting practice, especially with my friends, it’s fun. And the (derby) was definitely just like practice.”
La Canada pitcher Lauren O’Leary pitched a three-hitter. Flintridge Prep’s Kelly Wang had the Private team’s first hit, in the third inning, then reached base in the seventh when Loicano’s low throw from shortstop couldn’t be pulled out at first base by Keppel’s Cecily Ramirez.
“She has a lot of spin,” said Wang, who’ll attend MIT in the fall and might play softball, of O’Leary.
“The way she throws, it throws everybody off.”