LA CRESCENTA — With the Pacific League title on the line and their archrivals opposing them with the backdrop of senior day, motivation for Thursday afternoon's softball game was hardly in short supply for Crescenta Valley High.
And after a strong start to its regular-season finale, a focused Falcons squad reestablished itself atop the league after a brief hiatus, as Crescenta Valley's 4-0 win over visiting Arcadia assured it a share of the Pacific crown.
"It feels good, seeing as how we didn't get it last year, to prove to everybody that we could get it and we could come back," Falcons senior first baseman Sydney House of winning the league title after finishing second last season brought about the end of a three-year streak of championships. "We knew that we had to win this game and I think we definitely came out pumped up and ready to play."
House blasted a solo home run that skipped off the top of the left-field fence before coming to rest on the other side to give the Falcons a 2-0 first-inning lead. Single runs by Crescenta Valley in the second and third innings built the final score, which hardly represented the rather lopsided feel of the game.
"They played well, they were focused," said Falcons Coach Dan Berry, whose team improved to 21-3 and 13-1 in league with its 12th straight win and secured a share of the league title with Burroughs, which defeated Burbank, 5-3, on Thursday night. "I think it was important that they stayed focused and worked hard. I think after the first game against Burroughs they saw the light."
Crescenta Valley, ranked 10th in the latest CIF Southern Section Division III poll, lost to Burroughs, 8-2, on March 31, but was able to avenge that loss on May 3, winning, 5-3, and has kept pace in first place ever since.
"Only so much is in our control," said senior Erin Ashby, who combined with Helene Cook for a shutout in the circle and also contributed two hits offensively. "We work as hard as we can to take advantage of what we can and hopefully things fall into place.
"I think the loss [to Burroughs] kinda pulled our team together. It was a wake-up call."
While matters didn't fall into place for the Falcons to secure the league title all to themselves, they certainly took care of everything they could on their end.
Ashby twirled five shutout innings in her start, allowing just two hits and one walk, while striking out five. Offensively, she had a double and a single and gave way to courtesy runner Christina Tomic, who scored in the third-inning for a 4-0 lead.
"Erin is the cream of the crop of the league," Berry said. "Erin is tough and she's a competitor."
Cook, also a senior, came on over the last two innings and maintained the shutout, retiring the side in order in the seventh on eight pitches. She survived a bloop double and a single in the sixth, thanks to a stellar, sliding catch in right field by senior Maria Leon and senior catcher Kelly Bako throwing out a would-be base stealer for the final out of the frame. CV played flawless defense that was also highlighted by an excellent over-the-shoulder catch of a foul out by third baseman Allison Lacey, a 1-3 double-play off a lunging Ashby catch and an all-around solid day from senior shortstop Brielle Walker.
Lacey scored the first run after singling in the first, moving to third on a Hannah Cookson double and scoring on a wild pitch. The ensuing pitch saw Cookson break for home on a passed ball, but she was tagged out at the plate. On the very next pitch, House pulled her solo dinger to left field.
Cece Martinez did all the work to put the Falcons up, 3-0, as she singled to center with two outs in the second inning, stole second base and came all the way around to score on a wild pitch that hit the backstop and then caromed toward third base.
The Falcons had runners on in every inning, but their scoring came to a halt in the fourth.
Arcadia (8-12, 7-7 in league) finished in fourth place in league and, along with Crescenta Valley, awaits Monday's unveiling of the Division III playoff pairings. The Falcons will enter as the league's second seed due to a reported league tiebreaker of head-to-head run differential.