BURBANK — Looking to throw its bid squarely into the running for the Pacific League title, the Burbank High softball team got to visiting Crescenta Valley early in Tuesday's meeting at McCambridge Park.
But a five-spot put up over the first two frames wasn't enough to finish the Falcons off, as they chipped away at the lead bit by bit before sealing a 7-5 win with a three-run rally in the top of the seventh, keyed by Hannah Cookson's two-run double.
"One thing that this team did not do against Burroughs and against Burbank is they did not let down," said Falcons Coach Dan Berry, whose team (20-3, 12-1 in league) swept the two-game season series over the Bulldogs (12-12, 10-3) with Tuesday's win, which also kept it locked into a first-place tie in league with Burroughs (18-7, 12-1). "I think that was mighty important. They just kept the charge on and kept saying, 'We're going to keep playing.'"
Crescenta Valley pitcher Erin Ashby, two days removed from being bed-ridden with illness, according to Berry, gave up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks over the first two innings. Laina Do singled in the first run of the game and Sarah Riojas knocked in two more with a single to center field in the first inning before Katie Hooper's run-scoring triple and Nalani Hernandez' single immediately following made it 5-0 in the second.
"We knew going into this game we had an opportunity to have a three-way tie for first place and our girls were going to prove to everyone here that we can compete with Crescenta Valley," said Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki, whose team lost to the Falcons, 2-0, at Crescenta Valley on March 29. "[The Falcons] have tremendous talent, good pitching, great hitting, and we maintained confidence.
"It was so great and wonderful to have a quick lead. I'm so proud of my team."
Following Hernandez' RBI, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs in the second on a single by pitcher Crystal Diaz and an error that allowed Ashley Russo to reach base. But Crescenta Valley then got a big break on Do's hard line drive to first base, which Sydney House fielded for an out before stepping on first base to double off Russo and throwing to second to complete a bang-bang triple play.
It was a momentum changer that would herald the end of the Bulldogs' offensive success — they would not get a hit off Ashby over the final five innings — and the beginning of the Falcons' comeback.
"We did not know how strong she was going to be," Berry said of Ashby, who allowed just four base runners on two walks and two errors over the final five frames. "As the game went on, she got a lot stronger."
The Falcons got on the board in the top of the third after Brielle Walker singled with one out and scored when Kelly Bako's sharp single down the third-base line was misplayed for an error. Bako moved up from second to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Ashby to make it 5-2.
In the Falcons' half of the fifth, Bako and Ashby drew one-out walks and both scored on a two-out double smoked to deep left field by Cookson, who finished two for four with four runs batted in.
"We just waited for our pitch and it turned out as planned," Cookson said of whittling down the deficit.
In the seventh, it was Cookson coming through again with some more clutch power, ripping a one-out ground-rule double into the right-field corner to plate Ashby and Whitney Craig, who had singled back to back, for a 6-5 lead.
Jessica Morena (two for four) singled in Cookson for an insurance run as the Falcons continued to extend the frame.
"Just anything close [to the plate]," said Cookson of what she was looking for in her two game-changing at bats. "I clutched up. Having a great team behind me helps."