After six scoreless innings against visiting Pasadena Maranatha in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 second-round game, a calm, collected Chuck Gunter told his La Cañada High School softball team to not change its approach at the plate.
“We were hitting line drives and they just made their plays,” Gunter said. “Eventually, you hope one of those go through.”
Freshman Devyn Cox got one past everyone in the bottom of the seventh inning, belting it over the left field fence to give the Spartans a 1-0 victory over the Minutemen in a pitcher’s duel on Tuesday.
“Our coach kept telling us to keep hitting the ball hard and eventually you’ll make a run scored,” Cox said. “I honestly was looking for a ground ball to just get on and let my teammates score me, but that’s what happened.”
Cox blasted a 1-0 high-rise ball from Maranatha ace Devyn Netz near the scoreboard, sending La Cañada to its first CIF quarterfinal since 2014. The Spartans will travel to West Hills to take on No. 3-seeded Chaminade today at 3:15 p.m.
La Cañada (23-4-1 overall record) slowly broke down Netz, who struck out eight and surrendered five hits in six innings of work. Alexis Abboud, who was 3-for-3, hit a double in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Netz’s teammates broke her out of the jam by doubling up Abboud after a Taryn Harris flyout.
“She has some really good spin obviously throws really hard,” Cox said of Netz. “Just being able to pick up the spin coming out of her hand is hard to track down.”
Luckily for the Spartans, Maranatha (16-8 overall) had similar struggles with Holly Stoner. The La Cañada ace stood toe-to-toe with her opponent and tossed a two-hit shutout, walked three and struck out six.
“It’s always fun to have a pitcher’s duel and win in the seventh inning,” Stoner said. “Maranatha has a great pitcher and she pitched a great game. We didn’t really hit her, except for Alexis, until Devyn hit that walk-off home run. She pitched a great game, but it was a great team win for La Cañada.”
The victory was especially sweet for Stoner, who will be playing her first quarterfinal game along with seniors Maddy Reilly, Emily Clarkson, Kelly Steele, Abboud and Harris.
“It’s amazing to finally be in the quarterfinals,” Stoner said. “We got close my sophomore year and made it to the second round. It’s really cool that this is the farthest we’ve gone – the seniors. It’s exciting to get to the quarterfinals.”
The Spartans share one common opponent with Chaminade in Sun Valley Poly. La Cañada fell to the Parrots, 2-1, in a tournament game and the Eagles blanked Poly, 7-0, in April.
Gunter said his team is playing with confidence and grit after what happened last season.
“Last year left a bad taste in all the older girls’ mouths and mine extremely because we lost to a team that we were better than,” Gunter said. “That just shows you need a little luck in playoffs. But part of our success is how the girls get along. The seniors have accepted these freshmen like how you don’t believe. They treat them with respect and love each other. That’s hard to find.”
Stoner echoes her coach when talking about the team’s chemistry.
“This team is special because we can pick each other up,” she said. “If we’re not all hitting, someone will come through. If we give up a couple of runs, people will push through and score some runs and keep scoring to win.”