All-Area Softball: La Caada’s Lauren O’Leary was masterful, earned Star-News Player of the Year honors; La Caada’s KC Mathews is Coach of the Year.

2011 STAR-NEWS ALL-AREA SOFTBALL TEAM
Player of the Year: Lauren O’Leary, La Canada, Sr.
Coach of the Year: KC Mathews, La Caada, 4th season
FIRST TEAM
Pitcher: Michelle Floyd, San Marino, So.
Pitcher: Katie Clancy, Mayfield, Sr.
Infielder: Anna Edwards, La Caada, Sr.
Infielder: Alexis Watanabe, San Marino, Jr.
Infielder: Sterling Shuster, La Salle, Sr.
Infielder: Schae Simpson, Monrovia, Sr.
Outfielder: Denise Gonzales, Alhambra, Jr.
Outfielder: Jessica Loicano, Temple City, Sr.
Outfielder: Sami Jakeway, Temple City, Jr.
Catcher: Catherine Horner, La Caada, Jr.
Utility: Alashanee Medina, Keppel, Jr.

SECOND TEAM
Pitcher: Denise Van der goot, Flintridge Prep, Sr.
Pitcher: Kaysie Gatlin, Duarte, Jr.
Infielder: Mireya Hernandez, Mafield, So.
Infielder: Megan Siepler, La Caada, Sr.
Infielder: Cecily Ramirez, Keppel, Sr.
Infielder: Natalie Gutierrez, Alhambra, Sr.
Outfielder: Shirley Drange, La Caada, Sr.
Outfielder: Brittani Hirose, Keppel, Sr.
Outfielder: Mary Rose Magnolia, Duarte, So.
Catcher: Kaitlin Fitzpatrick, Mayfield, Sr.
Utility: Charley Parker, Rio Hondo Prep, Sr.

CLICK ON THREAD TO READ PLAYER AND COACH OF THE YEAR STORIES

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Lauren O’Leary, La Caada, Sr.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Talent merely is part of the equation.

La Caada High School’s Lauren O’Leary understood that better than anyone.

“There’s a combination of things that led to her success,” La Caada coach KC Mathews explained. “Lauren played for a high-level club team. Her work ethic and determination has been noted throughout the year. It’s second to none.

“The level she competes during the travel ball season, on top of the countless hours her and (pitching coach) Meridith (Cervenka) put in, is a big part of the reason she’s enjoyed success.”

La Caada coming into this season had arguably the two best pitchers in the West San Gabriel Valley with O’Leary and fellow junior Lauren Cox, who earned second-team All-Area honors as a sophomore after going 5-1 with six saves in 24 appearances and a 0.35 ERA with 161 strikeouts. Cox, however, suffered an injury in December during travel ball season, but the extent of the injury wasn’t discovered until March, when it was learned Cox had suffered a torn muscle in her groin.

That all but assured O’Leary would have to shoulder much, if not all, of the pitching responsibilities in a season filled with high expectations after reaching the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.

“Lauren (Cox) came into the season with an injury that we thought would possibly heal,” Mathews said. “She did extensive rehab and physical therapy, everything she could. She fought hard to get back this year and she really wanted to be out there.

“All that hard work paid off when she was able to get some clutch hits for us in the playoffs, but as far as pitching we weren’t quite sure when (Cox) would be back. With an injury like that you never know when you’re going to be 100 percent.”

With little else to do but wait, O’Leary took charge.

“Knowing Lauren O’Leary was out there gave us quite a cushion,” Mathews said. “She took the challenge just like any other, just showed up and was ready to work. She met those needs, and then some.”

O’Leary, who will play at Georgetown next fall, went from pitching 114 innings last year to 181 this season. She was 25-2 in 28 appearances that included 23 complete games and 16 shutouts. O’Leary had a 0.39 ERA and 237 strikeouts, up from 165 last year.

In the Division 5 finals, O’Leary struck out eight, scattered three hits and issued no walks in a complete game. At one point she retired 13 consecutive batters while helping La Caada to a CIF championship.

For surpassing all expectations with steady poise, O’Leary is the 2011 Star-News Softball Player of the Year.

All that was missing from O’Leary’s impressive resume was a perfect game and a CIF title. She accomplished both this season. She flirted with two perfect games heading into the seventh inning before giving up a hit. O’Leary, the Division 5 player of the year and the Rio Hondo League’s most valuable pitcher, was perfect against Katella in the quarterfinals. She gave up just 10 earned runs all season.

“That’s impressive when you’re talking about the level of competition we faced out of league and in league this year,” Mathews said. “There’s not enough praise that I can say about Lauren O’Leary.”

Leading the Star-News pitching staff is San Marino’s Michelle Floyd and Mayfield’s Katie Clancy.

Floyd, who led her travel ball team to a national championship in the offseason, is an intimidating pitcher who stands 6-feet-4. The All-CIF first-team selection went 13-7 with a 0.78 ERA in 125 innings. She struck out 222 while leading the Titans to the quarterfinals in Division 5 and also batted .519 with 28 hits, 13 RBIs, four doubles and two home runs.

Clancy, a two-time, first-team All-Area selection and first-team All-CIF honoree, leaves a lasting impression at Mayfield. The Belmont-bound senior went 16-8 with a 1.68 ERA with 189 strikeouts in leading the Cubs to the Division 6 quarterfinals. Her career record is an impressive 58-27 and she compiled 786 strikeouts in 570 innings. Clancy made pitching appearances in 94 of 97 games and threw 77 complete games.

The four infielders are La Caada’s Anna Edwards, La Salle’s Sterling Shuster, San Marino’s Alexis Watanabe and Monrovia’s Schae Simpson.

Edwards, headed to Northwestern next fall, unquestionably was the Valley’s most intimidating figure at the plate. The two-time, first-team All-Area selection and Rio Hondo League most valuable player batted .471 with 31 RBIs, 41 hits, 12 home runs and nine doubles. Her solo homer in the third inning of the CIF-SS Division 5 championship game gave the Spartans the only run they needed in a 1-0 victory over Beaumont.

Watanabe, another two-time first-team All-Area selection, led the Titans with a .481 average, 26 hits, 14 RBIs and six doubles.

Shuster, headed to study film and play softball at Loyola Marymount in the fall, stood out in the tough Del Rey League where she earned first-team all-league honors. The shortstop batted .356 with 32 hits and 15 RBIs.

Simpson led a strong group of hitters in the Rio Hondo League. The Fresno State-bound senior earned first-team all-league honors and earned a spot in the Public vs. Private All-Star Game after batting .436 with 34 hits, 22 RBIs and five doubles.

The three outfielders are Temple City’s Jessica Loicano, Alhambra’s Denise Gonzales and Temple City’s Sami Jakeway.

Loicano, much like Edwards and Simpson, led their respective teams at the plate. The North Dakota-bound senior hit .512 with 42 hits, 36 RBIs, 12 doubles, five home runs and four triples. Loicano also earned first-team all-league honors.

Gonzales led Alhambra to a first-round upset over top-seeded Duarte before a protest over an illegal batting practice forced the Moors to forfeit their playoff win. Nonetheless, Gonzales was as good as advertised in batting .507 with 37 hits, 28 RBIs, four home runs, three triples and one double. The junior also made a strong comeback in the circle after twice breaking her right leg and sitting out her sophomore year. She pitched 55 innings, struck out 37 and earned four wins.

Jakeway, a junior, gave the Rams a potent 1-2 punch along with Loicano. Jakeway batted .412 with 33 hits, 14 RBIs, five doubles, three triples and two home runs. She earned first-team All-League honors.

La Caada’s Catherine Horner earned her second selection to the Star-News first team as a catcher. Horner earned first-team all-league honors after batting .421 with 40 hits, 17 RBIs and 12 doubles.

Keppel’s Alashanee Medina, a junior, takes the utility spot.

She was instrumental in helping the Aztecs finish second in the Almont League, and at one point even led Keppel to a four-way tie for first place with Schurr, Montebello and Alhambra.

Medina went 15-6 in the circle with a 1.67 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 130 innings and earned her third consecutive Almont League Pitcher of the Year honor.

She also batted .586 with 41 hits, 22 RBIs, six doubles, five doubles and five home runs.

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com

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COACH OF THE YEAR: KC Mathews, La Caada, 4th season

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Good coaches surround themselves with great assistants, and as far as La Caada High School softball coach KC Mathews is concerned, this honor belongs to them.

Mathews, in his fourth season, led the Spartans (26-3) to the school’s first CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship since 1995. Expectations were high this season after La Caada reached the semifinals last season, losing to runner-up South Hills. Adding to the expectations was the fact the Spartans all season were ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ top 10 poll.

Mathews’ ability to manage those expectations is what separated him from the rest, earning him 2011 Star-News Coach of the Year honors.

Mathews rounds out a coaching staff that’s been intact the last three seasons. Since the arrival of Chuck Gunter, Meredith Cervenka and Curt House, La Caada made steady progress from a second-round appearance to the semifinals and now a CIF title.

Gunter and House helped develop the infielders and outfielders. Cervenka focused on pitching. Each has spent countless hours after practice and on weekends.

“You can always find Chuck in the cages,” Mathews said.

It’s that kind of commitment that gives Mathews the best-case scenario, one in which he oversees an award-winning project.

“Their credit is long overdue, it really is,” Mathews said. “If you came to one of our practices back in September, October, November and December, it’s not uncommon to have four, five or six coaches practicing with the girls. Their dedication and commitment allows us from the very beginning to get individualized instruction and time with each of the girls.”

Mathews is a teacher on campus and also serves as an assistant football coach. Gunter will lead the fall softball program for the third consecutive year, and no doubt the rising Spartans will be in good hands.

“We split stipends as best we can,” Mathews said, “but more than half our coaches are on a volunteer basis. I can never adequately pay these coaches for their time and effort and what they’ve added to this program.

“None of us are in it for the money, and it shows with the extra time they put in for the girls, so you know these guys really love working and helping these girls become as good as they can be.”

Cervenka, a three-time Big West Conference pitcher of the year at Long Beach State, will continue to give lessons during the offseason, and House will as well.

Much of the Spartans’ success is rooted in the strong pitching of Lauren O’Leary, and Cervenka was there behind the scenes making a subtle but strong impact.

“A lot of the pitching’s success is due to Meredith,” Mathews said. “She calls all the pitches in games. You don’t have to know much about softball to know how good she was.”

And now Mathews.

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com

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  • Bob Anon

    Congrats to all the LC players and to Coach Mathews for a great season!