IRVINE — Dan Berry started the Crescenta Valley High softball program in 1983.
The coach led the Falcons to a CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship in 1986.
One of Berry’s many successful players in 17 years guiding the program was Amanda Peek, who was the All-Area Player of the Year in 2004 and went on to play at Cal State Northridge.
When No 1-seededd Crescenta Valley took the field Saturday in the Division III championship game against West Ranch, Peek was on the bench coaching her alma mater and hoping to continue Berry’s legacy with a victory.
Behind a dominating pitching performance from sophomore Dee Dee Hernandez, the Falcons scored runs early and defeated West Ranch, 3-0, at Deanna Manning Stadium.
“[Berry’s] daughter was here today and it was something that we were playing for,” said Peek, who is in her fifth season. “He started the program, he built the field he did so much for the program and we’re only here because of him.
“We just wanted to come in and keep doing what he started and try and build the program as best as we could.”
The Falcons won the title with a team that consists of just 11 players and four seniors.
“Eleven strong. That’s what we say,” Peek said.
Crescenta Valley, the three-time defending Pacific League champion, which defeated Brea Olinda, Glendora, San Juan Hills and Diamond Ranch on its way to the championship, finished 27-5-1.
Hernandez, a sophomore who was the 2018 All-Area Player of the Year, was simply unhittable. She struck out 11 to earn the win, allowing just one base runner — a walk in the fifth — which kept her from recording a perfect game.
“Winning something like this is just like a dream,” Hernandez said. “It’s just such an amazing feeling. It feels like it didn’t really happen and I’m really not in the moment of it yet.
“We were able to get some runs early and that kind of eased some of the pressure for me. With my pitching, everything was working for me today. I was just in the moment and I was like ‘I’m going to do it for my for my team.’ ”
The Falcons showed that they came to play by pushing across one run in the bottom of the first to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Sophomore second baseman Morgan Eng (one hit, two runs) reached base on an error. The next batter, Hernandez, crushed a 2-1 pitch off West Ranch starter Jenna Rorick into deep left field to easily score Eng.
Crescenta Valley’s bats came alive in the bottom of the third to increase the advantage to 3-0. Senior shortstop Alyssa Hernandez (one hit, one run) singled to left field and Eng followed with a perfectly placed bunt down the first-base side that she legged out for a single. After an out and a subsequent throwing error that moved the runners to second and third, freshman Izzy Jamgotchian (two for three with two runs batted in) hit a ball that took a bad hop over the shortstop’s head to score Hernandez and Eng.
Natalie Bitetti and Kristy Taix also had hits for Crescenta Valley.
“Getting that lead was a definite confidence-booster,” Eng said. “It really made it seem real, like this is really happening and we are really doing this. To score those runs was a real feel-good moment for me.
“Winning this title is just crazy, because we put in so much work to make this become a reality. This is what we worked for and it all paid off.”
West Ranch (18-8), the runner-up from the Foothill League behind Saugus, defeated Long Beach Millikan, Highland, Warren and Long Beach Wilson to earn a spot in the championship game.
The Wildcats were making just their second appearance in a title contest, after falling in the Division I championship contest to Norco, 4-2, in 2015.
West Ranch just couldn’t mount any offense against Hernandez.
“We have been talking about this since we came in and took over this program and it’s been a goal of ours to make it back to the first championship since 1986,” Peek said. “Our goal was to make it to March 18. In July on the first day of conditioning, we had on the whiteboard ‘May 18.’ That was the date that we had and that was the goal that we had.
“The girls’ worked hard day in and day out and they made it happen. Our chemistry is just amazing and I’m just so proud of these girls.”