NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Expect a grind whenever the Crescenta Valley and Burbank Junior Softball All-Star teams get together.
Many of the teams' players have played each other many times throughout the regular season, so much so that Crescenta Valley Coach Will Thayer and Burbank Coach Albert Hernandez have come to expect a close encounter. The teams went through another chapter in their rivalry Thursday night.
Torrey Johnson and Olivia Thayer each drove in a pair of runs to highlight a four-run fifth inning to help Crescenta Valley post a 9-5 victory against Burbank in the Little League District 16 championship game at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields.
Crescenta Valley and Burbank will meet in the if-necessary title contest at 6 p.m. today at Scholl with the winner advancing to the Section 2 Tournament on July 17 in Canyon Country. Burbank notched a 4-2 win in the tournament-opening game Wednesday.
On Thursday, Crescenta Valley jumped out to a 5-1 lead through three innings before Burbank scored four times in the fourth to knot the game at 5.
"Even with a 5-1 lead, we knew they have the potential up and down the lineup to make a comeback," Thayer said. "I wasn't surprised.
"We were also able to hit. When we play to our potential, we think we can take it. It's a couple of heavyweights that can play. We expect a close game [tonight]."
"During the season, we did well against CV," Hernandez said. "I think it's prepared each other and their coaching staff has done well.
"These games are like nailbiters. It was still anybody's game at 5-5. We just allowed them to get some runs and we lost our pitcher."
Burbank lost starting pitcher Brittney Garcia to an apparent knee injury in the fourth. Garcia singled and moved to second on a throw back to the infield. As she slid, Garcia appeared to injure her knee just before reaching second base and was removed from the game.
With Garcia out, Crescenta Valley went to work in the fifth. Johnson delivered a two-run single to left to make it 7-5 and Thayer came through with a two-run single to extend Crescenta Valley's lead to 9-5.
"It was about getting a couple of key hits in that spot," the elder Thayer said.
Crescenta Valley starting pitcher Whitney Craig went the distance and made the lead hold up as she retired the final nine Burbank batters.
"Whitney was nervous, but she came out and gave it her all," Thayer said. "She threw strikes and gave us a chance to win."
Craig yielded a first-inning run on a grounder by Aimee Rodriguez, but Craig regrouped at the plate when she came through with a single to give Crescenta Valley a 3-1 advantage.
Crescenta Valley scored twice in the third to take a 5-1 lead. Tiffany Briscoe stole home on a double steal before Kendall Heurkins drove in a run with a fielder's choice.
Burbank responded as Kali Oasay had a two-run double to make it 5-3 before Maile Tanigiawa and Rodriguez each drove in runs to tie the game at 5.