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Valencia's Spigner does plenty on way to a title

June 11, 2008|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Valencia senior Jessica Spigner knew it wouldn't be easy in the Southern Section-Toyota softball semifinals. Facing second-seeded Corona Santiago, a good-hitting team with an all-star-caliber pitcher, she rose to the occasion.

Spigner hit a two-run home run in the first inning, had a solo home run the next time she batted, and outdueled Kamerin May for a 3-2 victory. "I pitched the game of my life," she said.

There was no more defining game in her high school career.

It sent Valencia to the section finals, where it defeated top-seeded Simi Valley and became only the third team in section history to win consecutive large-school championships.

For her role in making Valencia No. 1 in the Southland, Spigner is The Times' softball player of the year.

She was not selected because she was the best pitcher, though she may be the best hitter.

Spigner is, in reality, a third baseman who took over the pitching duties because the program had no one better. She succeeded Jordan Taylor, last year's Times' player of the year who is already a standout at Michigan.

Yet, Spigner went 29-5 with a 0.62 earned-run average. She had not pitched competitively, or regularly, since the summer before her sophomore year.

"If Jessica had been a full-time pitcher the last three or four years, she would have been one of the best in the country," said Hart Coach Steve Calendo, whose team shared the Foothill League title with Valencia.

Those home runs that she hit against Santiago? They were no fluke. She hit 12 this season, batted .480, scored 38 runs and drove in 37. She was walked 24 times, 11 in the playoffs.

Taylor's graduation was supposed to signal Valencia's vulnerability.

But Spigner and her team overcame despite her injured non-pitching shoulder, sprained ankle and hyper-extended knee.

"There were a lot of doubters this year, thinking we were no competition, and we used that as motivation," Spigner said after shutting out previously undefeated Simi Valley in the Division I title game. "We worked every day to get on top, and we made it."

Spigner, who was also selected Gatorade's state player of the year, batted .407 with 90 runs and 99 RBIs over four varsity seasons. Over the last three, she batted .419 with 80 runs, 91 RBIs and 22 home runs.

"She's the hardest working kid I've ever had at Valencia," Coach Donna Lee said. "She's given the program stability. Three of the four years, we've been to the CIF finals. Obviously, there's something in the mix that's common, and it has to be Jessie.

"From the minute she walked on the field as a freshman to the time she walked off as a champion, she left her mark on this program."


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