GLENDALE — Charting the progression of the Crescenta Valley High softball team from the beginning of the season to now is a bit of an arduous task.
It’s difficult to really notice improvement when a team hasn’t lost a game.
But heading into today’s CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinal Falcons at Santa Monica tilt at 3:15 p.m., one of the biggest questions is what has changed since they last met?
The 28-0 Falcons have won 21 games since they defeated the Vikings, 5-3, on March 17 in the championship game of the High Desert Tournament in Lancaster, grabbing a Pacific League title and claiming the CIF tournament’s No. 1 seed along the way.
Santa Monica on the other hand, has gone 15-3 since then, picking up the Ocean View League title in the process.
The Vikings (23-8) will look differently to the Falcons, according to Coach Debbie Skaggs, as she said they were missing a handful of players during the teams’ previous engagement.
“We were missing some girls in that championship game,” said Skaggs, whose team has won six straight, outscoring the opposition, 57-1, in that span. “It’s really about what team’s playing the best at this point.”
At this point, or really any other during the season, it would be hard to argue against Crescenta Valley’s play. The Falcons have demolished the opposition by a 316-35 discrepancy.
But while Santa Monica is returning players that weren’t there on March 17, Crescenta Valley is still without the services of injured senior catcher Lainey DePompa, who was the tournament’s MVP and had three hits against Santa Monica.
“Somebody needs to pick up that slack,” Falcons Coach Dan Berry said.
The likes of Baillie Kirker, who has a Southern Section-record 18 home runs, first baseman Ashleigh Viers-Gordillo and center fielder Stephanie Ziemann have carried on to make the Falcons offense as potent as any other. Pitchers Kali Cancelosi and Heather Bacon have also excelled.
“They have solid pitching, solid hitting,” Skaggs said. “They’re not 28-0 for nothing.
“We need to play strong defense and execute well at the plate, put pressure on them. Their pitchers aren’t overpowering, they get their fielders to make the plays and they do.”
Berry could go with either Cancelosi or Bacon, but Skaggs will have sophomore Celisha Walker, who pitched in relief during the teams’ prior meeting.
“We’re gonna have to keep them off-balance,” Skaggs said. “For a sophomore, she has a lot of poise.”
Perhaps the biggest change of all will be venue.
Santa Monica will host a CIF quarterfinal for the first time ever, while Crescenta Valley will play on the road in the playoffs after nine straight home games.
“That definitely is a plus,” said Skaggs, whose team gave up two home runs to the Falcons on a fence-less field in March. “Our field is very difficult to hit a home run at.”
Berry is taking a more philosophical approach. He believes every softball game is different in a variety of ways, just as every field is just about the same.
“It’s still 60 feet to the bases,” he said. “It’s an emotional game, each at bat is different, each ball that comes your way might bounce differently. You just have to go and play the game.”
The winner will face either Beckman or La Serna on Tuesday. And should the Falcons go and win the game, they’ll advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2000.