LA CRESCENTA — The Hoover High coaches and players felt this was the perfect time for the program to finally break a long standing Pacific League stranglehold that Crescenta Valley has possessed for years.
And it looked as if the Tornadoes were ready to dispel the ghosts of defeat Thursday in a league game against the host Falcons.
Hoover jumped out to a three-run lead to open the game, and even when Crescenta Valley fought back to take the lead, the Tornadoes didn’t wilt, but instead did some battling of their own to tie the score.
But there is a reason why Crescenta Valley has been one of the premier — if not the premier — programs in league for decades. And with perhaps the most potent offensive weapon in the league in Hannah Cookson, the Falcons have a knack for finding a way to win.
That’s just what they did Thursday.
Cookson delivered a monster two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that broke a tie and paved the way for an 8-6 victory for the Falcons.
Crescenta Valley (6-6-1, 2-0 in league) did notch the win, however, Hoover (2-3, 0-2) proved it has the talent to challenge the storied Falcons.
“You have to give every bit of credit to Hoover,” Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Sanford said. “They came in, they weren’t afraid, they played the way they needed to play and you have to give them a lot of credit for the game that they played. You can tell that their coach works hard and their girls work hard.”
Hoover Coach Rich Henning said this year’s team is like nothing he’s coached in his six years he’s been with the program. He said the players are dedicated, they put in a great deal of extra time and they are committed to making the program a winner.
“I got a bunch of seniors, and they are all committed this year, and that’s something I haven’t always seen in this program in the past,” Henning said. “Right now, we really feel like we can play with anybody in league.
“But we gave up some runs that we shouldn’t have, and we committed some errors that we shouldn’t have that led to some runs. But what I’m most proud of is that in the past, they would have just collapsed after those errors. But they didn’t this time.”
Although it was Hoover that put the pressure on the Falcons early, it was Crescenta Valley that would finish things — thanks to the bat of Cookson.
With the score tied at 6 in the sixth inning, Adela Alabraca roped a double to the right-center field fence with one out. Cookson then came to the plate and took a pitch for a ball. The next offering from pitcher Breana Aguilera was high in the strike zone, and Cookson turned on it and sent a blistering, towering shot into the outfield. The ball carried over the fence, continued to soar over a fence surrounding the school and landed on Prospect Avenue.
“It was high and I like high pitches,” Cookson said. “I was just waiting for a good pitch. When I hit it I knew that it was going out.”
It was Cookson’s second home run of the afternoon. She also delivered a solo shot to right field in the first inning and finished the game with three runs batted in.
Crescenta Valley also received a solid effort from Alabraca, who was two for four with a double. Teammate Chloe Fairbrother was two for three with an RBI and Taylor Hill was two for three.
Despite Crescenta Valley’s late heroics, the Tornadoes proved that they are a team to be reckoned with. Hoover scored three runs in the top of the first inning on singles by Karina Moreno and Kelly Crockett, as well as a walk from Jessica Rivera. Crockett’s hit to right field brought home two runs.
“When he had bases loaded with one out and we got that second out, I thought ‘Oh boy, here we go again,’” Henning said. “But they came through and we were able to score the three runs.”
The Falcons made it 3-1 in their portion of the inning on Cookson’s homer.
Crescenta Valley then gave itself some breathing room by pushing across five runs in the third inning to take a 6-3 advantage.
But Hoover fought right back, notching three runs of its own in the fourth inning to knot the score at 6. Three Falcons errors and a run-scoring double by Alejandra Villasenor helped the Tornadoes’ cause in the frame.
Villasenor was two for four and Alissa Barcena was two for four with a double.