LA CRESCENTA — A hit with runners in scoring position here, or an inning-ending defensive play there, might have led to a different outcome for the Burbank High softball team when it took on Crescenta Valley on Tuesday.
Instead, it was the host Falcons coming up with clutch hits — on a pair of two-out, run-scoring singles by Sydney House — and enough inning-altering defensive plays to pull out a 2-0 Pacific League victory.
"I thought our defense in those first two innings was a turning point," said Crescenta Valley Coach Dan Berry, whose team turned double plays in both the first and second frames. "Then we just stayed with our game plan, as far as trying to put the ball in play, trying to be aggressive and trying to make things happen.
"I thought we did well."
Crescenta Valley (9-1, 3-0 in league), which is ranked ninth in CIF Southern Section Division 3, got a complete game from senior Erin Ashby, who struck out nine and allowed six hits, including back-to-back singles to Nalani Hernandez and Laina Do to open the first inning.
After Ashby induced a fly ball to right field for the first out, the Falcons were out of the frame unharmed on a neatly-turned 1-5-3 double play.
Ashby led off the Falcons' first inning with a double off the base of the fence in center field and scored the game's first run when House dumped an opposite-field double an inch inside the right-field foul line.
Burbank would get its first batter of the second inning, Sarah Riojas, aboard as well on a single, but Riojas was caught rounding second base on Ashley Russo's sacrifice bunt and was tagged out in a rundown between second and third.
The Falcons would double their small lead in the third inning when House singled up the middle to once again plate Ashby. But Burbank was never out of it, thanks largely to the efforts of starting pitcher Crystal Diaz, who gave up just two earned runs on seven hits in six innings.
"She's worked so hard over the offseason and her pitching was just phenomenal," said Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki, whose team finished third in league behind CV last year. "We were working them inside, outside, we were going junkball, and she really made the difference."
The Bulldogs (2-7, 1-1 in league) also benefited from some good defensive plays. Riojas had an assist from right field to end the first inning on a play at the plate and gunned down a runner at third base to end the second.
Burbank had its last best chance to do damage at the plate in the top of the fifth, when Ashley Russo led off with a double followed by a walk to Diaz. But Ashby struck out the next two batters before retiring the side on a fly ball to center field.
"When you throw a shutout and you throw that many pitches, you've done a good job," Berry said of Ashby, who tossed 107 pitches, but needed just 21 over the final two innings.
Ashby, House and Delany Gay each collected two hits for the Falcons, who also got a hit from Cece Martinez.
"Any time you get into league, the stakes are different," Berry said. "You can play outside your league and not be nervous, but you can play in league and be nervous and just a little bit of nervousness can affect you as far as either your timing at the plate, or if your focus is not where it should be.
"League play is tough and Burbank did a good job today as far as hanging in there."