GLENDALE — While never leaving La Mesa, the Crescenta Valley High Junior Softball All-Stars still managed to take one more big step eastward.
Crescenta Valley moved one win away from advancing to the Regional Tournament in Tucson when it defeated Westchester, 8-3, in the semifinal game of the Junior Softball Southern California State Tournament on Tuesday.
Overcoming errors that led to an early deficit, the Section 2 champions thrived on a strong six-inning performance from starting pitcher Olivia Thayer and a key three-run home run by Tiffany Briscoe to reach the state championship game at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
"We didn't play our sharpest game — we made a couple of errors early and gave up a couple of runs," Crescenta Valley Manager Will Thayer said. "We just didn't look sharp early on, but as the game progressed, we came right back."
Crescenta Valley will face either Victorville, the Section 8 champion, or Section 4 champion Westchester again on Thursday, pending the outcome of an elimination game between the two squads today. Should Crescenta Valley lose to its opponent on Thursday, there would be an if-necessary championship game at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
"I'm trying not to get the cart ahead of the horse," Thayer said. "We've got to close this out against one of two very good clubs."
Two errors and a hit in the top of the second put Westchester up, 2-0, but Crescenta Valley was able to tie the game in the bottom of the inning and took control of the game with four runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Grace Poole doubled and scored on a fielder's choice groundout by Thayer for the go-ahead run. Crescenta Valley went right back to work, as Whitney Craig doubled, Taylor Hill walked and Briscoe cleared the bases with a home run for a 6-2 lead.
"That got us out pretty well," Thayer said.
Olivia Thayer, who pitched the first three innings and allowed two runs, one earned, yielded to Craig for an inning of relief, in which one unearned run scored. Thayer was back in the circle for the last three innings to nail down the win
"She didn't look sharp early, she looked a little tired," Thayer said of his starting pitcher. "Then she just started to gather steam and just closed it out."
Westchester threatened once more in the sixth inning, with a runner at third base and one out, but a 5-3-2 double play turned by Torrie Johnson and Hill ended the inning.
"It was just liked we worked on in practice," Thayer said. "I was so happy for them."