LA CRESCENTA — One game into its current postseason run, the 2009 Crescenta Valley High softball team can now say it has officially been playoff tested.
The Falcons’ lineup was tested in Thursday’s CIF Southern Section Division III first-round contest against Summit by an early deficit that it quickly obliterated. Their pitching and defense were put to the test on several occasions with runners in scoring position but never faltered amid a string of six scoreless innings to end the game.
Crescenta Valley had its own difficulties scoring after first-inning home runs by third baseman Erin Ashby and shortstop Baillie Kirker, but the Falcons never relinquished the upper hand the rest of the way in a 3-1 home win behind a complete-game effort from hurler Kali Cancelosi.
Next up for Crescenta Valley is a second-round road tilt at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday against St. Bonaventure, which defeated Righetti, 1-0, on Thursday.
“This was a great first game,” said Kirker, who was a member of the Falcons’ Division III semifinalist squad last season. “[The SkyHawks] are a challenging team, so for anyone else [we play], at least we’ve played a great team, so we should be able to handle the rest as they come.”
Summit (18-8) used a contact-oriented hitting approach to scrape a run across in the top of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Alana Vergara reached on an infield single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a bouncer up the middle by shortstop Gina Grijalva.
A two-out single to left field by Kristen Drewitz plated Vergara for a 1-0 lead that the SkyHawks and freshman pitcher Ronni Pettis carried into the bottom of the frame.
“We knew it was a very tough situation for us to be in, down a run in the first inning and we didn’t want to stay down for long,” Kirker said.
And, they didn’t.
Ashby led off the inning with a line drive down the right-field line and over the fence on Pettis’ third pitch to tie the game.
Second baseman Alyssa Sovereign fought off an inside pitch for an opposite-field single to left field and hustled to second on a wild pitch with Kirker batting.
With one out and first base open, Summit still elected to pitch to Kirker, who holds the all-time state record for career home runs and entered Thursday’s game with 14 round-trippers on the year.
Her 15th came just moments later, a straight shot to deep center field that put Crescenta Valley up, 3-1.
“This team really works well from behind,” Falcons Coach Dan Berry said. “For them to get ahead of us and then for our adrenaline to be up and perform as they did with Erin leading off and Baillie coming through, that was just a matter of stepping up.”
As much as it looked like the beginnings of a romp for the Falcons, who sent nine batters to the plate in the opening inning, Pettis settled down nicely from the second inning on, pitching to contact and holding Crescenta Valley without a hit the rest of the way.
“We jumped on her and we should have stayed on her the whole game,” Kirker said. “She got better as we went through and she did a great job and our hitters had a good challenge.”
After throwing 35 pitches in the first inning Pettis breezed through the second through fifth innings on a combined 40 pitches.
Even with Pettis’ strong performance after the first inning, Berry said the Falcons wouldn’t necessarily have been in trouble had they not been able to take the early lead.
“[We] could have [been], but I don’t know if the switch might not have come back on later,” he said. “I think that if [the SkyHawks] would have scored later, I would hope we would have stepped up again.”
As it was, all the Falcons needed to do after the first was keep Summit off the scoreboard, and they did a masterful job of that.
The SkyHawks put runners on first and third with one out in the top of the second inning, but a squeeze bunt attempt was hit hard enough for Ashby to field the ball quickly down the third-base line and throw to catcher Alison Lacey at home for the second out.
Cancelosi, who allowed nine hits, struck out six and walked none, stranded single baserunners in the third and fourth innings and worked out a slight jam in the fifth with some help from Lacey.
Vergara bunted her way aboard to lead off the fifth and moved to second on a groundout. Vergara broke for third on a pitch to Grijalva, but Grijalva failed to show bunt to bring Ashby in off the bag.
Lacey fired a strike to Ashby, who tagged out Vergara at third for the huge second out.
Right fielder Delaney Gay made a nice running catch on a well-struck fly ball for the third out of the sixth inning with a runner aboard.