Molly Mercer is in her first year as head coach at South Pasadena. Although the Tigers have not had their best season to date, one win in 13 games so far, each and every game she always has a smile on her face. Losing two key seniors last year in Shelby Gogreve and Courtney Dunlap, who were the bulk of the offense, most of these players have come to the team with very little experience.
“Even though they came last in league last year, they still had some studs on the team,” Mercer said. “This is a very young team, and I knew that taking this job would be a challenge. Our goal to start the season was to get more wins than last year, but as the season went along, we knew it was a daunting task because this is a very young team with mainly freshmen and sophomores. Experience at this point is key.”
Mercer came into the program with a lot of playing experience. She played at Mt. San Antonio College, winning a CCCAA Softball State Championship in 2007.
She later went on to play at Cal Lutheran before she began her coaching career at Blair. Her time with the Vikings had the same storyline as the Tigers, looking to turn around a program that had a very difficult time earning wins year after year. As the assistant coach under Robert Hernandez, Blair was still not a playoff contender just yet, but the Vikings managed to improve their standings over the two seasons. Eventually, when she heard that the Tigers were seeking a new head coach, she was one of the first to apply.
“Ralph Punaro, the South Pasadena athletic director, saw me coach a game at Blair, and felt that I would be a very good fit here,” Mercer said. “Once I turned in the application and sat down for an interview, he and I were really seeing eye to eye about this program.”
After a recent 11-0 loss to La Cañada, Mercer held the squad for a good half hour and had a team meeting. Any coach after the game would remind the team on their performance, and be screaming at the top of her lungs. Mercer, on the other hand, shared laughs with her teammates, exchanged stories, and made sure the team felt very comfortable around her. With a team like this, she knows that winning can never be the first thing to expect, and that keeping a positive environment is always the most important aspect.
“I try to focus on a lot of positive things,” she said. “I try to talk about a lot of the fundamentals, and really it’s the simple stuff like putting balls in play and having a decent defense. I keep reminding these athletes once you put any kind of pressure, you will force them to make mistakes. This team is struggling, but they need someone to keep them up, and eventually that will spread from teammate to teammate.”
The Tigers have over a week off before they are back out on the field. Things don’t get any easier as they will face Rio Hondo League rival San Marino April 13.
Eight Burning Questions with San Marino pitcher Michelle Floyd:
Only a sophomore, Floyd is dazzling spectators with her finesse in the circle. So far this season, she has thrown 54 innings and has allowed only 18 hits. Facing over 200 batters, opponents are hitting just under .100. She took some time off her busy schedule and sat down with Patch to talk more about her life as a softball pitcher, along with her other critiques.
Q: What are your expectations for the team?
A: We still are coming together and working together as a team. I know that we are just that much closer. We did very well last year, but that doesn’t mean we can dwell on the past.
Q: Is there any pressure for being so young?
A: There is no pressure for being so young because age is just a number. It’s more of just how I should be leading the team more. The one thing I love about this team is that we always pick each other up, and they have always given me the support that I need.
Q: Who is your biggest moral support?
A: My family. Without them, I wouldn’t be in this uniform today. It took them waking me up at six in the morning for pitching practice every day. I always remind myself every game of their hard work and effort to get me to where I am today.
Q: What got you playing softball?
A: Jim Gaught, a really close friend of mine, is a huge part of my life. I met him when I was little and got me into T-ball, and we went with his family to a lot of Dodgers games. He got me hooked, and I blame him for that.
Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?
A: Anywhere where there is a field because that’s my second home. I come to it so I can relax and just zone away from life.
Q: What do you do when you are not playing softball?
A: I love to draw. I always spend time with my friends and teammates. Then, I play softball.
Q: What is one thing you have taken from this season so far?
A: I feel like I still have to continue stepping up. It’s more of just growing, improving my pitching, and being there for my teammates as best I can.
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
A: After college, I want to play with the US National team, then overseas and play professionally in Japan. Then I want to come back to the states and work for ESPN and be in broadcasting and travel around the world, hoping to be a part of the Olympics.
Player of the Week:
Lauren O’Leary (La Cañada)
O’Leary threw all three games the Spartans had over the last week, tossing a shutout in each one. For the week, she recorded 26 strikeouts and only gave up six hits to two walks. Her most impressive outing came against South Pasadena, coming within three outs away from a potential perfect game.
“I was just really going for the win,” O’Leary said March 29. “We had great defense so I knew that if it didn’t happen, at least we would tally a mark in the win column. Everything is just really clicking so far for me.”
Roundin’ Up Last Week:
La Cañada 11, South Pasadena 0
O´Leary was just three outs away from a perfect game before giving up a base hit to the leadoff hitter in the sixth inning. O´Leary went a full six innings in the, striking out 12 batters in the process. Kayla McCure went 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored while Catherine Horner went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Marissa Baca of South Pasadena threw for 4 2-3 innings, allowing 12 base hits while striking out six batters.
Monrovia 2, San Marino 0
Monrovia’s Emmy Orozco had the game of her life, throwing a one-hit shutout against one of the more powerful teams in the area. Though she only tallied three strikeouts, she forced nine groundouts and didn’t allow a single base runner to reach third base. Elise McCarthy provided the only offense for the Wildcats with two base hits, an RBI and a run scored.
“It took a lot of focus and hard work to get the win,” Orozco said. “The defense was there all game to have my back. This win was huge. We wanted this the game the most, and now that we got the win, we feel like we are ready for the rest”
Michelle Floyd of San Marino still had a solid outing, throwing a complete game and striking out 10 batters.
Crescenta Valley 2, Village Christian 1
Both pitchers carried no hitters through the first five innings, but it was Crescenta Valley´s Erin Ashby who had the final say to pull out the win. In the seventh, the Falcons’ Cecelia Martinez broke up the no hitter for Emily Seidel and the Crusaders by knocking a triple up the left field gap. She later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jessica Morena to tie the game and force extra innings. Crescenta Valley broke the tie on its first chance with Clair Ortiz´s double in the eighth. Ashby went eight innings with nine strikeouts. Seidel also went eight complete with a season high 16 strikeouts, including eight in a row at one point.
“We knew that this wouldn’t be easy, facing a very good pitcher to start our Saturday,” Falcons coach Dan Berry said. “Ashby is known for throwing as many as 120 pitches a game. With her help, especially through the end, I thought as a team we stepped up when we needed to and got the all important win.”
Other notable scores:
La Cañada 5, San Marino 0; La Cañada 6, Temple City 0; Temple City 5, San Marino 0; Arcadia 12, Muir 3’ Arcadia 3, Glendale 1; La Salle 5, Arcadia 1; St. Paul 5, La Salle 2; Bishop Amat 9, La Salle 0; Crescenta Valley 2, Burbank 0; Burroughs 8, Crescenta Valley 2; Paramount 7, Crescenta Valley 6; Crescenta Valley 4, Savanna 1
Games on Tap:
Tuesday: Flintridge Sacred Heart at Alemany, 3:30 p.m.; La Salle vs. St. Joseph at Pasadena High, 3:15 p.m.
Thursday: La Salle at Bishop Amat, 3:15 p.m.
Friday: Flintridge Prep @ Rio Hondo, 3:15 p.m.
Saturday: La Cañada at Village Christian, 10:00 a.m. (doubleheader); Flintridge Sacred Heart vs. Banning, 1:45 p.m.*; Flintridge Sacred Heart vs. Faith Baptist, 3:30 p.m.*
*-Spring Fling, San Fernando HS