OLIVE PARK — With Burroughs High entering Thursday's Pacific League game as the reigning league champion and Crescenta Valley coming in as, arguably, as the league's hottest team, the showdown certainly had its fair share of implications.
And though there's still plenty of season left, concluding Thursday's action with an 8-2 win over the visiting Falcons at Olive Park, proved to be a rather emphatic victory for the Indians.
"It's one thing to talk about being league champs and beating CV and having a target on your backs, but it's another to experience it," Burroughs first-year Coach Doug Nicol said. "I'm excited about what we're gonna do going forward."
Going back, the Indians (8-3, 4-0 in league) had lost their previous encounter last season with the Falcons (9-2, 3-1), who had a 13-game league winning streak snapped on Thursday.
With pitchers Erin Ashby of CV and Heather Haynes of Burroughs engaging in an early pitchers' duel, the game turned when the Indians drew first blood on an Allie Grimaldo run in the third. After reaching base on a one-out infield single, Grimaldo (two hits) scored from first on a ball put in play by Victoria Santos that skipped through the second baseman. It was the first of four errors on the day for the Falcons, giving them a 1-0 deficit to emerge from and setting an ominous tone.
"I think with the defense, you can't let it affect the rest of the game," said Ashby, who was charged with all eight runs, only half of which were earned. "Offense is the key to winning any game."
And the offense for Burroughs proved opportunistic, while the CV offense was held stagnant by Haynes, who went the distance, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out seven, walking two and hitting two.
"I think Heather did an amazing job," said Burroughs' Haley Schulman, who had two of her team's nine hits and knocked in two runs and scored one. "That was really good that we were able to keep them to two runs."
Through the first three innings, Ashby had held the Indians to just one hit and the one unearned run on the error, but the run had turned the tide, as Crescenta Valley suffered through a disastrous fourth in which a single by Shannon Trujillo (two hits, two runs) began the damage. Trujillo later advanced on an error and then went to third when a seemingly easy grounder to first was thrown to third, leaving runners at the corners for a sacrifice fly from Haynes to score Trujillo. Hailee White, who rejoined the lineup after sitting out the early season with a broken wrist, then singled in Schulman for a 3-0 lead.
"I think it allowed us to relax," said Schulman of scoring the game's first run. "Then we started really hitting the ball."
The Falcons received singles from Ashby and Jessica Morena, but it was freshman outfielder Hannah Cookson that provided the limited offensive fireworks for the team.
"The little freshman's a good hitter," Falcons Coach Dan Berry said.
Cookson lined a double to left to lead off the top of the fourth, but, despite a two-out single from Morena, was stranded. The Falcons stranded four runners in the first four innings. But down, 3-0, in the top of the fifth, Cookson laced a triple to left that plated Delaney Gay and Allison Lacey.
Burroughs immediately responded to turn the game for good, however. Consecutive one-out singles by Sidney Ortega and Trujillo were followed by a clutch, two-out single to the right-center gap by Schulman that put the score to 5-2.
"There was no panic, we came back and were able to put two more runs up," Nicol said. "I think that was the key to the game."
After Cookson's double, Haynes retired seven of the last eight batters she faced, while the Indians offense erupted for another three-run stanza in the sixth. Runs by White, Santos and Ortega came to be due to a walk, a sacrifice, two errors, an infield single and a pair of fielder's choices.
"This was a really important game for us and we came out and played our best," Schulman said. "The error kinda gave us a little more momentum and confidence. It started us off."
Whether it's the start of another league title run and a statement-making win or just evidence of a poor day for the Falcons will ultimately have to wait to be seen until future league games, including a May 2 rematch between the teams at CV.
"They have a great advantage right now, but you have to take it game by game," Ashby said. "When we play them again, we're gonna come out ready to compete."