GLENDALE — The Crescenta Valley-Vaquero Bullets had a chance to nail down the Junior Softball Tri-Cities Tournament of Champions District 16 title Friday night, but, thanks to a victory by the Tujunga Intensity, that chance came and went.
However, the Bullets, by way of Friday’s setback being their first loss of the tournament, got a second chance to take home the title, facing the same opponent in a winner-take-all game early Saturday afternoon once again at Scholl Canyon Ballfields. The Bullets arrived early to get to work.
“We came [to Scholl] two hours before to practice all hitting,” Bullet Camie Ellingford said. “Because we practiced all hitting and really worked that in, talking about what we were doing wrong, our bats came alive.”
After three quiet innings, the Bullets’ bats roared to life in the fourth to the tune of seven runs, propelling the Crescenta Valley-Vaquero squad to an 11-3 victory and the District 16 Junior softball crown.
“What a difference a day makes,” Bullets Coach Drumond Schaffer said of his team. “They brought it. They didn’t like the taste of losing and they wanted to win today. Hence, their bats came alive and they earned it.”
Crescenta Valley-Vaquero entered the bottom of the fourth inning trailing, 1-0, but by the time it was over, the host Bullets had sent 11 batters to the plate, collected five hits, plated seven runs and would never trail again. Ellingford got the rally going with a lead-off triple to right-center field. Bullets pitcher Allison Alzate followed with a single to center field to tie the contest.
Three batters later with the bases full, Crescenta Valley-Vaquero took the lead for good when Alzate scored on a wild pitch with Sammy Serrano at bat. Serrano then drove in two more runs with a single to left. Elyssa Delreal drove in the fifth run with a groundout immediately followed by an RBI single by Esme Piedra. Ellingford then finished the fourth-inning scoring burst with a run-producing double to right field, marking her third extra-base hit of the contest.
“It took that one hit I got to start that rally and we got fired up and all our hits came,” Ellingford said. “Hits are contagious.”
The Intensity tried to answer with a run in the top of the fifth to get within 7-2, but the Bullets responded with four insurance runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the frame. Gali Guzman drove in Everly Pompa with a double to the right-center field gap. Guzman then scored on a Tujunga fielding error. The Bullets got another run across on a bizarre sequence that started on a wild pitch on ball four of a walk and ended with the Intensity catcher applying a tag at home with an empty glove despite having the ball in her hand. The final run of the fifth was driven home by Piedra with a single for her second RBI of the game.
Alzate was stellar for the Bullets in the circle, going the distance and recording eight strikeouts along the way. Alzate did get off to a rocky start, giving up four first-inning hits, including an RBI double by Corace Pazos, but limited the early damage to one run by striking out the side, including the final batter of the frame with the bases juiced.
“Allison did a great job,” Schaffer said. “She hit all her spots today, no misses, and she owned it.”
Alzate held the Tujunga squad hitless for the next two innings and yielded single runs in the fifth and seventh innings for the championship game win. Throughout, Alzate got ahead of the Intensity batters, recording first-pitch strikes on 21 of the 34 batters she faced.
“Coach said, ‘Pound the zone,’ and that is what I did,” Alzate said.
In the final inning, Tujunga kept clawing and its first two batters reached base. Alzate induced two fly-ball outs before the Intensity scored the game’s final run on a fielding miscue. However, the next batter popped out to Ellingford at shortstop, who made the play, and her team officially made good on its second chance, making Crescenta Valley-Vaquero the District 16 Junior Softball champion.
“We’ve come such a long way from where we were at the beginning,” Ellingford said. “I’m honestly proud of every girl because if we all stick together and believe we have each other’s back we can win anything.”