Falcons edged out by Eagles in first round

OAK PARK — With the tying and go-ahead runs on base and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Kelly Bako worked the count full.

Seeking some late-game heroics, Bako hit the seventh pitch of her plate appearance hard. Unfortunately for Bako, the ball was snagged on one hop by Oak Park High pitcher Morgan Simmons, who rifled the ball to first base for the final out.

It turned out to be that kind of day for Crescenta Valley, which saw its season end Thursday afternoon with a 6-5 loss against host Oak Park in a CIF Southern Section Division III first-round game at Valley View Park.

"We fought all day and came from behind," said Crescenta Valley Coach Dan Berry, whose team shared the Pacific League championship with Burroughs. "We had a heck of a year, but it wasn't meant to be [Thursday]."

The two-hour game featured plenty of twists and turns for Crescenta Valley (21-4) and Oak Park (19-9).

Added to the mix was an unpredictable wind pattern that knocked down a hard-hit ball by Crescenta Valley's Hannah Cookson in the sixth that quelled another potential big inning.

"It was definitely a strange game," Berry said. "We had some chances."

The game also proved to be the final one for Crescenta Valley standout pitcher Erin Ashby, who struggled at times against Oak Park's talented and disciplined lineup. The Stanford-bound Ashby, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, stood on deck looking for one more at-bat to extend the Falcons' season.

It never materialized.

"We came into the game in a good state of mind," said Ashby, who struck out six and yielded five walks. "We had some tough spots and we couldn't quite recoup.

"Sometimes the outcome doesn't turn out the way you would like it to be."

Oak Park, which finished second in the Tri-Valley League behind top-seeded Oaks Christian, took a 2-0 lead in the first. With one out, Christine Langlois lined a triple to right to score Morgan Schlobohm to make it 1-0. With two outs, Ashby walked Emily Dinino. Dinino stole second and the throw by the catcher went into center field, allowing Langlois to score for a 2-0 advantage.

The Falcons came back with a run in the third. With one out, Ashby singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Allison Lacey. Cookson then doubled to score Ashby.

Crescenta Valley took its first lead of the game in the fifth. Lacey and Cookson collected back-to-back singles with one out. Sydney House then singled in Lacey to tie the game at 2. A groundout by Jessica Morena drove in Cookson to make it 3-2 before Cecelia Martinez registered the first of her three singles that drove in House (three hits) to extend the lead to 4-2.

The Falcons' lead didn't last long, as Ashby got into immediate trouble in the bottom of the inning.

The right-hander walked Simmons to lead off and Simmons was replaced by courtesy runner Whitney Craig. Craig then beat a play to second on a play that also allowed Schlobohm to reach safely on a fielder's choice. Both advanced a base on a wild pitch.

Ashby and the Falcons appeared on the verge of escaping danger when Kelsey Haines lined out to Cookson in left field. An alert Cookson made an accurate throw to third base to double off Craig.

Ashby then walked Langlois before Carly Silliman tripled to right to tie the game at 4.

The Falcons then fell apart on defense, as an error by the shortstop gave the Eagles a 5-4 lead. Two more fielding errors extended Oak Park's lead to 6-4.

In the sixth, the Falcons had runners on first and second with two outs and Cookson at the plate.

Cookson sliced a ball to left-center that at first appeared would drive in two runs. However, the ball appeared to get caught in the wind and Silliman made a circus catch to preserve the lead.

"That was a good catch," said Cookson, who finished with a pair of hits. "I thought it was going to be a hit.

"That was a good game and they are a good team. We competed with them."

Oak Park Coach Roger Newell said Silliman's catch loomed large.

"That ball hit the wind, and like a parachute, the ball just dropped to where she could catch it," Newell said. "We have a loose bunch of players and a fun team.

"[Crescenta Valley] has a real good team. They hammered the ball, too."

Crescenta Valley, which had 14 hits, closed out the scoring in the seventh on a groundout by Maria Leon that scored courtesy runner Brady Sanford, but could get no closer.

"We had a very good season and I'm proud of the four years we had with Erin," Berry said.

Ashby and Morena finished with two hits apiece.

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