LA CRESCENTA — For four seasons, Crescenta Valley High’s Hannah Cookson has drawn acclaim largely due to her dangerous bat in the heart of the Falcons’ lineup.
But her glove and range in center field have been steady, if not spectacular, all along.
In a pivotal Pacific League game against archrival Arcadia on Friday afternoon at Crescenta Valley High, Cookson shined in all facets.
Her two-run home run propelled Crescenta Valley to a lead it would not relinquish and a dazzling over-the-shoulder catch sealed the Falcons’ 3-1 victory over the Apaches.
“That’s just who she is,” Falcons Coach John Pehar said. “It was impressive to watch.”
With Arcadia grabbing a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Cookson came to the plate in the bottom of the inning with sister Hailey, who had two hits, on third base. Hannah took the first pitch she saw and sent it beyond the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead.
Hannah finished the day three for three, following with a pair of singles, and was flawless on the defensive end, including a phenomenal catch in the top of the fifth as she dove to her right to snag a ball just before it hit the outfield grass.
And in the top of the seventh, with a runner at third and the tying runner at the plate, she tracked down a shot to the fence, running to her right and securing the catch over her shoulder.
“I was just like, ‘I gotta get it or else,’” she said. “I wanted it – I wanted the last out.”
The victory was an important one for the Falcons, who have now won six in a row. They improved to 13-6, 6-2 in league to forge a second-place tie with Burroughs two games behind frontrunner Burbank and two games in front of Arcadia (6-10, 4-4) and Glendale. Not to mention, the win came at the expense of Crescenta Valley’s rival.
“It’s Arcadia, so that says most of it,” Hannah said. “We always get pumped up for Arcadia.”
All of Crescenta Valley’s runs came via the long ball, as No. 9 hitter Sydnee Wells sent a shot over the center-field fence for a solo home run in the bottom of the second.
Though it might have seemed as if the offense was just getting started for the Falcons, it was ending, at least in terms of scoring runs. But pitcher Olivia Thayer danced out of trouble all game long backed by a flawless defense.
“Well, you’re always hoping for a little more offense, but if the offense isn’t there, it’s good to be great defensively,” Pehar said.
Thayer went the distance, allowing the one run, seven hits and one walk. She didn’t record a strikeout, making the work by the defense all the more impressive.
“Mostly, I rely on my defense,” Thayer said.
After the first inning, Thayer breezed through the second, third, fourth and fifth innings with a pair of singles as the only blemishes. But in the sixth, she gave up a leadoff walk and then a mammoth double to Izzy Mejia that hit the top of the fence and was roughly a foot from a home run.
“When I saw that ball, I was like, ‘Please don’t go out,’” Thayer said as she smiled.
It didn’t and Thayer recorded the next two outs on two pitches. And the seventh-inning travails, as well as the victory, came to rest in the certainty of Cookson’s glove.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” said Thayer of how her squad’s playing heading into Tuesday’s second-place showdown with Burroughs. “I think we’re really coming together as a team.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.