LA CRESCENTA — With the Crescenta Valley High and Burroughs softball teams tying for the Pacific League championship last season, the first meeting between the squads was a much-anticipated matchup.
However, that anticipation had to wait an additional 24 hours. The game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday, but the rains that pelted the area last weekend left the Falcons' home venue unplayable. That forced the teams to move the contest to Wednesday.
When the game finally got underway, the Indians came out like a team ready to make a statement, as they jumped out to an early lead and rode strong performances in the circle and at the plate by pitcher Haley Schulman to notch a 7-3 victory at Crescenta Valley in Burroughs' league opener.
Burroughs (9-1) — ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division III — was able to jump out to a 7-0 advantage after five innings, only to see Crescenta Valley (6-2, 1-1 in league) battle back to score its three runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Although Indians Coach Doug Nicol was pleased with the way his squad played in the early innings, he wasn't happy with his group's showing in the final frame.
"For six innings I thought we played great," said Nicol, who had two runners thrown out at home plate and another at third base. "And then the last inning I thought we kind of packed it in and thought the game was over and we thought that CV wasn't going to be able to come back. It's hard to get it back once you've done that.
"But I think we were able to learn a lesson today without getting a loss, which is good."
The Indians, which have won two straight league titles, and the Falcons have had their share of close battles the past few years. Burroughs earned an 8-2 win in the teams' first meeting last season at home before losing to Crescenta Valley, 5-2, in the second game.
"Any time you can come out with a win on CV's home field, it's huge," Nicol said.
The Falcons have been able to do remarkably well this season despite having to overcome a big obstacle. The program's long-time coach, Dan Berry, passed away in October, leaving a void among the Falcons' players and the program's faithful.
But interim coach Mark Samford said the athletes have remained strong and they have endured and are fighting to return the program to normalcy. The team's willingness to fight back after being shut out for most of Wednesday's game is a testament to that fight, Samford said.
"From the beginning of they year they've battled uphill with what happed with Coach Berry and everything surrounding that," Samford said. "The girls have done a great job at focusing on softball and they've battled and they don't quit. I am very proud of the way they've handled everything."
Schulman (7-1), a senior, was dominating through the first five innings, allowing no runs and just one hit. She ended her day in the circle with a complete-game seven-hitter, picking up 10 strikeouts along the way.
Schulman also helped herself out at the plate, going three for four with two doubles and three runs batted in.
"We thought it was going to be a tough game and we really wanted to come out and win so we could start off league in a really good way," Schulman said.
Burroughs senior catcher Shannon Trujillo also had a solid day at the plate. The backstop got the Indians on the board with a two-out solo home run to straight-away center field in the first inning to give Burroughs a 1-0 lead. Trujillo finished the game three for three with a home run, double, walk, two RBI and three runs scored.
Freshman Davina Del Castillo went two for four with a double for Burroughs, which had 14 hits.
Adding one run in the second inning, two in both the third and fourth and one more in the sixth, the Indians had a 7-0 advantage and appeared to be coasting.
But Crescenta Valley sophomore center fielder Hannah Cookson broke up the shutout in the bottom of the sixth when she powered a rocket off of Schulman that sailed over the right-field fence for a solo home run.
In the seventh, junior left fielder Brady Sanford tripled and scored on a double by sophomore second baseman Hailey Cookson. Hailey Cookson came around to score on an RBI-single by Hannah Cookson.
Hannah Cookson was two for three with a home run, a walk and two RBI.
"We respect CV and they always have good players and they are well coached," Nicol said. "But we're at the point with our program with the two straight titles, we want to be the team that has the bull's-eye on our backs and the one other teams are shooting for."