LAKE BALBOA — Behind the offensive exploits of Crescenta Valley High’s Hannah Cookson and Bellarmine-Jefferson’s Sam Casarez and the pitching prowess of the Guards’ Mia Acosta and Burroughs’ Cheyenne Steward, softball dominance in the San Fernando Valley is all squared up.
That’s because the quartet, along with a few extra local players and coaches, helped pace the East All-Stars to a dominant 10-1 victory over the West in the ninth annual San Fernando Valley All-Star Game played at Birmingham Charter School on Wednesday afternoon.
With the East win, the all-time series is now 4-4-1.
The efforts of Cookson and Acosta were so noteworthy that the former was named the East’s offensive player of the game, while the latter was selected defensive player of the contest.
“It’s awesome to win this award,” said Cookson, who’s headed to Long Beach State. “I wanted to walk away with something.”
Cookson earned runner-up in the contest’s preceding home run derby, which was won by the West’s Evelyn Mendoza of Granada Hills Kennedy.
Perhaps still in home-run mode, Cookson went two-for-two in smashing two blasts that drove in three runs and merited her the honor.
“As soon as I got up there, I was just looking to hit,” Cookson said.
Cookson’s second blast scored teammate Jessica Johnston (Harvard-Westlake), who reached on an error, in the seventh inning to give the visitors some breathing room, as they led, 4-1.
The homer, however, didn’t cap the East’s scoring, but instead started an eight-run rally over the final three innings that continued into the eighth.
In that frame, the East added three more runs, one coming on a double from Acosta (one for two with one RBI), who drove in Highland’s Monique Smith. Acosta’s courtesy runner, Ashley Lopez of Knight, finished the scoring in the inning when she touched home plate after a wild pitch.
As for the ninth, the East added three runs to their 7-1 advantage.
East catcher Casarez knocked in Tiffany Dyson and Bell-Jeff teammate Tiffany Galindo (heading to Calumet College) with a double, while the inning’s other run came on a Dyson single that scored Canyon’s Kaelie Doyle, who was advanced a base on a groundout from Burroughs’ Sidney Ortega.
The late offensive explosion helped secure a triumph for East Coach Florencio Galindo of Bell-Jeff and his staff, whose four-player delegation of Tiffany Galindo, Sofia Palacios (Crown College), Acosta and Casarez played a big role.
“We wanted to show what we could do out here and we did,” Florencio Galindo said. “I know a lot of people don’t get a chance to see Bell-Jeff softball and I’m proud of what we showed.”
Acosta earned the start and was masterful down the stretch, retiring nine straight batters to finish off four innings in which the senior allowed one earned run on two hits with two strikeouts. She was relieved by Clarrisa Estevane before the fifth.
“I wasn’t nervous, but I wanted to do well,” Acosta said. “I knew I was going against a great team and I just wanted to do my best.”
Acosta helped contain the West’s best surge in the second inning, when Chase Robledo walked and Melissa Boundy doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Acosta registered three straight infield outs as the West only plated one run to pull within 2-1.
A half inning earlier, Cookson led off the second with a solo bomb that preceded a single from West Ranch’s Lauren Lindvall, who eventually scored on a wild pitch to give the East All-Stars a 2-0 lead.
By the time Burroughs’ Cheyenne Steward entered in the seventh following two scoreless innings from Estevane, the Citrus College-bound hurler was staked to a 4-1 lead.
While Steward walked three batters and had a runner reach scoring position in each inning, she proved clutched in registering three strikeouts in three scoreless.
“This was really fun and there wasn’t really any pressure out there,” said Steward, who admitted she hadn’t thrown a meaningful pitch since the Indians’ season ended May 20. “I can’t believe I got three strikeouts – that’s nice.”
Maybe Steward’s biggest challenge came in the seventh, when the West put runners on first and second with two outs on a single by Carly Roleder and a walk to Kelly Spear.
The next batter, Sydney Wedesheim, then laced a low line drive that racing right fielder Olivia Leyva of La Cañada caught off her shoe top for the final out.
“It was great to be a part of this process,” said Leyva, who’s going to California Lutheran in the fall. “I had heard of a lot of these girls and we’re all basically from the same area, but it’s different to be in a game and meeting everyone. This was a great way to end it.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.