Game hinges on Falcons' fifth

VENTURA — Two big innings and two big victories.

At first glance, that’s been the story line as the Crescenta Valley High softball team has ascended to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals.

But Tuesday afternoon’s triumph was most certainly a different story than the third-seeded Falcons’ first-round foray.

“This game was definitely more exciting,” said Falcons junior shortstop Alyssa Sovereign, who dropped an opposite-field double over third base in the top of the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie and ignite a four-run outburst that keyed Crescenta Valley’s 5-0 second-round win over host St. Bonaventure at El Camino Park.

Sovereign went three for three with a pair of runs and the aforementioned RBI to propel the Falcon offensive, while senior hurler Heather Bacon twirled a four-hit shutout, striking out 10 and walking just one.

“How they rise to a pressure situation is just unbelievable,” said Falcons Coach Dan Berry, whose team will host Chino Hills, a 2-1 winner in nine innings over Alemany, on Thursday in the quarterfinals. “They just keep stepping up.”

In Thursday’s 3-1 win against Summit in the opening round, the Falcons exploded for three first-inning runs, but their offense was quelled thereafter.

On Tuesday, the offense of third-seeded Crescenta Valley (26-1) kept coming from the first inning through the seventh, but didn’t break through until the fifth.

St. Bonaventure pitcher Marissa Reyes and Bacon settled in for the first four innings, with the Falcons stranding five base runners — three in scoring position — during the span, while Bacon stranded four despite just one ball getting hit out of the infield.

“I was pretty happy with it,” said Bacon of her performance, although she admitted it was hindered a bit by a controversial and seemingly inconsistent day behind the plate by the umpire.

With one out in the top of the fifth, Erin Ashby looked to have fouled a ball off her ankle, but it was ruled in play. The ball was then bobbled by the third baseman, allowing Ashby to reach base and drawing an argument from the St. Bonaventure coach.

Sovereign promptly followed by blooping a shot just over third base that rolled for a double and scored Ashby for a 1-0 lead.

Baillie Kirker followed with a grounder to shortstop. The shortstop looked to hold Sovereign and then threw the ball away trying to get her leaning, allowing Kirker to take second and keeping Sovereign at third.

Stephanie Ziemann, who went one for three with a walk, a stolen base, a run and an RBI, continued the onslaught with a sharp single to center field that scored Sovereign for a 2-0 advantage.

Kali Cancelosi, who had two hits, then delivered the biggest blow, clubbing a single that plated both Kirker and Ziemann.

“We go out to each get one base hit at a time,” Sovereign said. “Once we connect our hits, that’s when we get our runs.”

In all, the No. 1 through 5 hitters of the Crescenta Valley lineup — Ashby, Sovereign, Kirker, Ziemann and Cancelosi — combined for all eight of the team’s hits, going six for 14 with a walk, five runs and five RBIs.

“As long as we have no errors and our pitching stays how it’s been, the hits will come,” Sovereign said.

Sovereign added an insurance run in the seventh when Kirker lined a triple down the left-field line to score her.

With a big clutch hit failing to come during the first four innings — and with the Falcons having gone hitless in the last six innings of their previous game perhaps still looming — Bacon admitted it wasn’t the greatest scenario.

“It’s kind of uncomfortable,” Bacon said. “I just know that I need to focus and eventually we’re gonna come through.”

While Kirker’s RBI triple provided some insurance, it’s likely the knockout blow came in the bottom of the fifth.

After Bacon issued a leadoff walk, freshman Falcons catcher Alison Lacey threw out the pinch-runner stealing second, as Kirker made an athletic play to nab the throw and tag her out, bringing the glove down on the runner’s head and silencing any more Seraphs offense.

It was the last Seraphs base runner, with Bacon retiring the final eight batters of the game.

Now, Crescenta Valley looks on to the quarterfinals, where a victory would send the Pacific League champion to the semifinals for the second straight season.


 GRANT GORDON is the sports editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3225 or grant.gordon@latimes.com.

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