Falcons fly back into title picture

LA CRESCENTA — In its bid to climb back into the Pacific League title chase, the Crescenta Valley High softball team took a giant step with a 6-3 victory over Burbank, one of two teams along with Burroughs that the Falcons trailed going into Friday's games.

The most telling tally behind the final score was the error count, 4-2, in favor of host Crescenta Valley, which did surrender an unearned run in the top of the second, but overall fared much better in the field that the Bulldogs. Burbank, which is now tied for second in league with CV, allowed six unearned runs, including four in the pivotal third inning that saw the Falcons post a four-spot to take a 5-2 lead.

"The way they started off with a couple of errors, it made us gain a little more confidence," said Falcons right fielder Whitney Craig, who made two putouts in her only chances and also drove in the Falcons' fifth run with a two-out double. "I think our team got a little happier, so we could play better than them."

The Falcons (14-5, 7-2 in league), who lost to Burbank, 7-6, on March 29, still trail Burroughs (18-2, 9-0), while Burbank falls to 15-4, 7-2, with its only other league loss coming to the archrival Indians. Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki said there's still plenty of time left to get back on track, but wasn't pleased with the team's approach on Friday.

"To be completely honest, I think our girls have a hard time handling pressure," said Drabecki, who saw her lineup leave five runners aboard and fail to get a runner on in the sixth and seventh innings against CV starter Olivia Thayer, who went the distance with two earned runs allowed on eight hits. "This was a big game for us and we needed to be consistent with our hitting, consistent with our defense and clutch and we were none of those."

Burbank starting pitcher Caitlyn Brooks (seven hits allowed in six innings with six strikeouts) helped her own cause with a two-out home run to dead-center field in the top of the third to put Burbank up, 2-1.

It was the last lead the Bulldogs would own, though. Falcons catcher Allison Lacey singled with one out to get the four-run third started. Hannah Cookson followed with a hit by pitch to put runners at first and second. Brooks struck out the next batter and induced a grounder to first base with two outs, but it was booted, bringing courtesy runner Amber Alsamman home with the tying run.

Taylor Hill's soft ground ball back toward the circle with runners on second and third was quickly scooped up by Brooks, but the hurler's throw to first hit Hill between the shoulder blades for a two-run error. Craig followed with a clean double to the left-center field gap to score Hill from first for a 5-2 lead.

"Up and down the lineup they did a great job," Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Samford said of his team. "We put the ball in play, got some breaks and came away with a win, kind of like they did to us [at Burbank]."

Burbank struck back with a lead-off home run by Nalani Hernandez to start the fourth inning, but ended the frame with the bases loaded after Ashley Russo, Kaitlin Brooks and Bridgette Pisa all singled in succession with two outs.

Crescenta Valley added yet another unearned run in the bottom of the fifth when Tiffany Briscoe (two for three with a run batted in) doubled with two outs and courtesy runner Elena Leon scored one batter later on a throwing error.

"That is completely unacceptable," Drabecki said. "We had two outs where four different batters came up and that can't happen. I think the girls played scared today."

Crescenta Valley meets Burroughs on May 1 at Olive Park, where it will attempt to inch a game closer in the standings.

"We had to win this, we've got to win them all, but mathematically we're still in it," Samford said. "I told the girls we've just got to focus one game at a time and make sure that the match works in our favor."

Added Craig: "We're going to work really hard. Our team really wants to beat Burroughs."

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