The Crescenta Valley High softball team is battle-tested.
Nearly 11 months of work has culminated into one final game for the Falcons, with their opponent West Ranch waiting patiently for a night under the stadium lights.
Crescenta Valley, the No. 1 team in CIF Southern Section Division III, will conclude its season in the division championship game against heavy-hitting West Ranch at the Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Falcons (26-5-1) enter their first final since 1986, while the Wildcats (18-7) are in the program’s second title game and first since 2015.
“Nineteen eighty-six is a long time, but our girls are focused on the work that they put in throughout the entire year,” Crescenta Valley coach Amanda Peek said. “Since June, they’ve been in the weight room. That’s the hunger that they have. They put the work in and we’re here to get that final game.”
In the playoffs, after shutouts against Brea Olinda (2-0) and Glendora (8-0), three-time Pacific League champion Crescenta Valley fell behind by a one-run deficit early against San Juan Hills in the quarterfinal before coming back to win, 3-1.
Crescenta Valley ace Dee Dee Hernandez tossed all 12 frames in the Falcons’ 3-2 victory in a semifinal contest at Diamond Ranch on Tuesday. The reigning All-Area Softball Player of the Year struck out six, scattered five hits and retired 17 straight. Hernandez, a sophomore who also plays for the Mexican National Team, is expected to start Saturday.
“Our approach is going to be the same: what we did all year,” Peek said. “We’re going to go in there and play some tough defense. Dee Dee’s going to go out there and do her game and our bats are going to come up and we’re going to execute.”
Hernandez, a left-hander, will face a West Ranch side that has recorded 56 hits and scored 45 runs in four playoff games.
“It’s going to be a different run all together, this game,” West Ranch coach Phil Giarrizzo said. “Crescenta Valley has a left-handed pitcher and we haven’t faced one of those all year. We made some adjustments. I called up a girl to come throw batting practice on Friday that’s a lefty. Hopefully that will help us.
“If not, we know what adjustments we have to make facing a left-handed pitcher and we would just go with that. We do know that she’s one of the better pitchers that we’ve faced so far, so we’re going to have to step up our game a little more.”
Foothill League runner-up West Ranch reached the final with a 9-5 first-round victory against Long Beach Millikan, followed by a 13-10 win against Highland, a 14-1 victory over Warren and a 9-4 semifinal triumph against Long Beach Wilson.
In their first title appearance in 2015, the Wildcats gave up four runs in the final inning against Norco and lost, 4-2.
The Wildcats offense will be led by seniors Adrienne Chang and Gianna Lombardi. Chang is batting .548 with 35 runs batted in and five home runs, while Lombardi is hitting .500 with 28 RBI.
“Chang has been a varsity player for all four years and the reason she was brought on varsity as a freshman was because of her bat,” said Giarrizzo, who is in his second year as West Ranch coach. “This has been her best year by far.”
The Falcons also have to be wary of Wildcats senior Delaney Bevan, who has 24 RBI and hit seven home runs. Senior Jenna Rorick and Julie Mennuti have also tacked on 19 RBI each for West Ranch.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Peek said. “Our girls are ready for it. It’s going to be a battle.”