LA CRESCENTA — Having played catch-up all afternoon to visiting Hoover High on Wednesday, the Crescenta Valley softball team didn't think twice when the opportunity to take a lead finally presented itself in the bottom of the eighth inning.
It would call for some quick thinking, aggressive baserunning and was a bit of a gamble, but the Falcons' guile paid off in an 8-7 Pacific League victory on Hannah Cookson's daring attempt to score from second base on a bases-loaded infield single and subsequent errant throw to the plate.
Tiffany Briscoe's pop fly dropped just out of the reach of the retreating Hoover second baseman to score Allison Lacey, who had led off the frame with a single, for the tying run. There were still no outs in the frame, but when the throw home came in a bit wide right of the plate, Cookson made a break for home and slid in just ahead of catcher Lilly Rivera's tag in a bang-bang play at the plate.
"Hannah [scoring] from second base, that's a great play," Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Samford said. "I think because she had hit a couple of home runs, [Hoover] had only seen her really jog. They hadn't really seen her run, so I think she caught them a little bit by surprise. [Third-base] Coach [Ashleigh] Viers-Gordillo made a great aggressive call. It was a good way to win it."
Prior to her game-winning scramble, it was mostly Cookson's home-run trot that kept CV in the game. The center fielder and No. 3 hitter went deep twice, including a game-tying two-run shot in the sixth, to finish three for four with a walk with four runs batted in and three scored. Her sister, second baseman Hailey Cookson, also had a big game at the top of the lineup, going four for five with three doubles and three runs scored.
"Their sisters are killer," said Hoover Coach Rich Henning, whose team got out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning when shortstop Kaitlyn Williams belted a two-run homer and Rivera (three for four with two runs and a RBI) scored on an error after singling her way aboard. "It's like a nightmare for every coach facing those two girls."
Although Crescenta Valley cut Hoover's lead down to 3-2 on a run-scoring groundout by Hannah Cookson and a RBI double by Briscoe in the bottom of the first, Hoover remained in control of the game behind pitcher Bre Aguilera and just enough offense to keep the lead.
Williams (two for four with three RBI and two runs) came up with a two-out single for a 4-2 lead in the top of the second and the rally continued with Rivera's double to score Jessica Rivera.
The Falcons (13-5, 6-2 in league) added an unearned run in the bottom of the second to draw closer, but neither team would score again until the fifth when Hoover took a 6-3 lead on a two-out single by Kenya Buckley that plated Lilly Rivera.
Cookson led off the bottom of the fifth with a home run to center field, but the Falcons were unable to cut the lead further when Bri Manzanero made a running shoestring catch of Claire Ortiz' sinking line drive in right field to end the inning with the bases loaded.
"I'm really proud of these girls," Henning said. "They wouldn't quit, they just kept on working and moving forward."
Hailey Cookson led off the sixth with a single and went from first to third on a groundout to third base, bringing up Hannah Cookson.
"I was expecting them to walk me," Cookson said, "but if I got a pitch, I would [hit it]."
Henning said it was his intent to work off the plate to Cookson rather than concede first base outright. Unfortunately for the Tornadoes, a 2-0 offering found its way back over the plate and into Cookson's wheelhouse en route to a hasty retreat over the right-field fence for a tie ballgame. Cookson's blast was followed by a walk and two straight popouts.
"We just wanted to pitch around her and we had our catcher looking with one eye down at third base and if she had strayed a little too far, the ball would have gone down there," Henning said. "We were trying to sucker [their runner] in with watching Hannah in her at-bat and lose focus on what they were doing at third base. We weren't going to give her anything close to hit."
Hoover (5-10, 2-6) didn't stay down for long, though, as Aguilera led off the eighth with an eight-pitch walk. She was erased on a 6-4 fielder's choice, which actually may have helped the Tornadoes by replacing Aguilera on first with the speedy Buckley. That speed paid off when Buckley scored from first on a double into the right-field gap by first baseman Sarah Hill.
But the Falcons greeted Hoover with a clean single from Lacey to begin the bottom of eighth, followed by a walk to Hannah Cookson and a sharp base hit to left field by Jessica Morena that scooted just under Jessica Rivera's glove at third base. When Briscoe's blooper fell, things looked bad for Hoover, but Cookson saw no reason to prolong the pain.
"I was thinking just go as hard as I can," Cookson said, "and what happens, happens."