CV-Foothill rivalry placed aside for Junior All-Star run

Dave Ritchie had to take a picture of the Crescenta Valley-Foothill Junior All-Star softball team jerseys when he first saw them. He had never seen both leagues represented on one jersey before.

No one had.

In Ritchie's 15 years as the District 16 volunteer administrator he'd often attempted to convince CV and Foothill league coaches to join forces, but the idea was never received warmly because of the rivalry between the two leagues.

"The coolest thing for me is seeing Crescenta Valley-Foothill across their jerseys," Ritchie said. "I actually took a picture of it and sent it to one of my friends, who used to be a Foothill League official, and asked if he would have ever thought he would see this day."

CVFH has yet to lose since it debuted in the Section 2 Tournament on July 14. CVFH won the Section 2 title with 8-0, 7-0 and 13-9 wins and dominated the Division III Tournament with 10-0, 10-2 and 9-0 marks before it knocked off host Westchester Del Rey in the championship with a walk-off, 5-4, victory on July 26.

In doing so, CVFH became the first District 16 Junior All-Star softball team to advance to Western Regionals since another merged team — Foothill-Tujunga — did so around 2000.

Ritchie said this is the first time any CV and Foothill teams have paired up for an all-star run, but there was plenty of motivation for both leagues to put the rivalry aside this year.

First of all, numbers for both leagues had taken a dive.

Secondly, both leagues had come close, but were unable to advance past the Southern California Division III Tournament. CV and Foothill had both suffered defeats in the championship round of their respective Junior and Major division tournaments to see their 2011 seasons end.

Still, combining both teams didn't seem a possibility until after the 2012 season began.

"No, I wouldn't have thought [combining teams] was possible a year ago," said CVFH and former Foothill Coach Tyson Howard.

Foothill Coach Todd Fabian and CVFH and CV Manager Drummond Schaffer began to discuss the possibility of teaming up for a Junior All-Star run during the 2012 season to help both teams get over the Division III hump and into regionals.

"Let's see what we can do together," Schaffer said of the mind set behind teaming up. "We definitely set our goal to take it one game at a time to the championship round and to get past divisionals where both teams had taken second place last year."

Howard and Fabian would have also been unable to coach the Foothill team to a deep postseason run on their own with work commitments and vacation plans.

"I was pretty happy that we were combining because CV has a bunch of good players," said Foothill and CVFH leadoff hitter Sammy Fabian, the daughter of Todd Fabian. "When I heard, I thought we would go pretty go far. All the girls that are on it from the CV team are all really good and wanted to play and so are the Foothill girls."

Crescenta Valley Coach Will Thayer couldn't have been more excited once he saw the Foothill team in action.

"I had asked for time off [from work] for [the Western Regionals] Tournament months ago because I could feel it," Thayer said. "I just knew there was enough talent before the girls had even come together to win [the division]."

Howard said both teams balanced each other out with CV providing a stout offense and Foothill offering dominant pitching and a dangerous top-of-the-order attack.

While success was expected, no one could have predicted how quickly the two former rivals would bond.

"To me, one of the surprises is how they've been able to come together so well," Ritchie said. "I think it's about the coaches. They get along so well and it just flows down to the girls."

Sammy Fabian said the team bonded quickly with no fighting or cliques since the team formed.

"We have been really tough rivals," Howard said. "We had some good battles back and forth yet the coaches never really got on each other's nerves or anything, and I think the girls had mutual respect for each other. Now they are singing and dancing in the dugout. It's kind of weird, they are all good friends now."

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