La Canada vs. Beaumont at Deanna Manning Stadium, 12:30 p.m.
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE – It was a bribe that made Catherine Horner the player that she is today.
The La Canada High School senior was set to be a pitcher. Until older sister Kelly began pitching when Catherine was 10 years old.
“She was a very fast pitcher,” Horner recalled. “But she was not the most accurate. None of my other sisters or my dad wanted to catch her. He said he would pay me $5 to catch her.”
Horner, who will play at the University of Tulsa next year, is arguably the best catcher in the San Gabriel Valley this year. She has helped propel the Spartans to their second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship game.
They will play Beaumont on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for the second consecutive year at Irvine’s Deanna Manning Stadium at Barber Park. Last year the Spartans scored a 1-0 victory.
“No, at first I did not want to catch,” Horner recalled. “But after my dad kind of bribed me a little bit, he gradually encouraged me to stay with it.
“I ended up loving it. Absolutely.”
In a 1-0 semifinal victory over Nipomo on Tuesday, Horner threw out four Titans baserunners.
“It’s not one season,” La Canada coach KC Mathews said of his catcher. “She’s been a force since her freshman year. We’ve counted on her each year.”
Horner said she was just doing her job in throwing out those Nipomo baserunners.
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“If I see them going, I’m going to throw it,” she said. “It was great to help (senior pitcher) Lauren (Cox) out.”
She has not had a passed ball this season and she has thrown out 12 of the 19 runners who have tried to steal on her.
“She does everything and more you could ask from a catcher,” Mathews said. “Both on offense and defense.”
What has made this season even more magical has been the chemistry between Cox and Horner. They have essentially played catch since they were both 10.
They played Little League together and are on the same travel ball team.
“It has been nothing new since we came to high school,” Horner said. “I love catching for her. The bond we have. We’re really good friends. That really helps us out on the field.”
Cox, who will play at the University of San Diego next season, said she equally loves pitching to Horner.
“We have a cohesive bond and that makes us so effective,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t want anybody else catching me. She’s always there for me. If I do something wrong, she’ll get the runner out.
“She’s a wall. She catches all of my pitches.”
But it’s not just her catching that has made Horner a big hit in her high school career. She has the team’s top batting average, hitting .411. She has more hits, runs, RBIs and doubles than any other player on the team. Her 29 RBIs are nearly double the second-most on the team. Her 14 doubles are three times more than any of her teammates.
“She’s really stepped up,” Mathews said. “She’s had to carry a little extra load on offense for us. But if you look at her offensive numbers, it doesn’t show what she has done for us.”
She is also tied for the team lead in triples and home runs.
With Horner behind the plate, the Spartans have won four consecutive Rio Hondo League titles and are 95-20-1.
Last fall, she completed a fourth consecutive undefeated league season in volleyball. She played as a back row defender.
“She’s really a great athlete,” Cox said.
Horner said that the Spartans, despite having to replace several key players because of graduation, jelled early.
“We got used to the new people and their new positions,” she said. “It was a pretty quick adjustment for us. We’ve really put it together well. The chemistry is still very tight. We have a solid lineup up and down and people can come off the bench and we know they will do their job.”