The Falcons escaped last week with a win, and now get a big test in Burbank.
By Brandon HENSLEY
For video on last week’s victory, click here
Hannah Cookson seems to be hitting her stride as the Crescenta Valley High softball team goes full on into the Pacific League portion of the season.
The rest of her Lady Falcons? Well, they survived a scary one against Hoover on March 28, and Coach Mark Samford wasn’t exactly over the moon about it.
Cookson’s two home runs saved the day in an 8-6 win over the Tornadoes, but the Falcons were at times impatient at the plate and committed costly errors. That probably won’t fly today when they host a Burbank team that is 9-1.
“We haven’t played up to our potential this year,” said Samford, whose team improved to 6-6-1, and moved to 2-0 in league. “Even for me personally, I try and stay pretty calm and composed but it’s just a real frustration to see us not play up to our abilities.”
The lack of plate discipline frustrated Samford, particularly in the first inning against Hoover, when the Falcons were already in a 3-0 hole when they came to bat against pitcher Breana Aguilera.
“She threw six pitches in the first inning, and we’re gone,” said Samford. “And we have good hitters.”
In the field, CV committed three errors. Pitcher Olivia Thayer went all seven innings, giving up nine hits, and was charged with just two earned runs of the six given up.
Hoover built that 3-0 in part because of a miscue by senior right fielder Brady Sanford, who misjudged a fly ball that bounced past her, leading to two Hoover runs on the play.
“I didn’t pay attention to the fact that it was a right-handed batter, so when she hit it and it bounced, it still had the spin on it, and it bounced off to the side,” said Sanford. “I should have realized that but I didn’t.”
Playing right field at 3:30 p.m. can be an adventure because of the position of the sun, and that might have had something to do with the play.
“It’s definitely a huge challenge,” said Sanford, a senior who has battled the sun for four years now. “You move on and don’t let it get to you during the game.”
Sanford later doubled and scored a run.
It was Cookson who came through the most when the pressure was on. The left-hander homered to right field in the first inning, and then in the sixth with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on, she pulled another Aguilera pitch and sent it over the fence for a 8-6 lead that CV would hold onto.
Cookson said she was disappointed with her previous two at-bats before the game-winning home run.
“The first at-bat, I was waiting for a good pitch, to see how she threw,” she said. “The next at-bats were kind of weak, so I said I gotta get a good hit to finish it.”
Cookson now has a team-leading four home runs. She hit 16 last year.
“I like those pressure situations … it makes you want to hit better,” she said.
Was the coaching staff looking for a home run in that spot?
“To be honest, it’s always a possibility,” said Samford. “She’s coming off of meniscus surgery, so I don’t think she’s quite in the shape she was in last year, but you can see she still has quick hands. She still rotates on the ball, and she’s just a good hitter.”
Cookson is batting .479 and her three RBIs last week pushed her season total to 19.
“The heavy weight she carries is high expectations,” said Samford.
But now here’s Burbank, the team that tied CV for second place in league last year. The Bulldogs are riding a six-game win streak, beat Glendale 17-1 in their game and have allowed seven runs total in 10 games.
CV on the other hand has allowed a whopping 67 runs in 13 games (although CV has scored 91 runs to Burbank’s 57, so there’s that).
Burbank boasts sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, who has allowed only four earned runs in 10 appearances.
Needless to say, the Falcons will have their work cut out for them the rest of the way going against Burbank and defending league champions Burroughs. Sanford said CV can compete with those teams if the girls’ priorities are in order.
“We’re working really hard and it’s all going to come down to teamwork,” she said. “We have the capability; we have the talent to do it. It just all comes down to teamwork.”
Being one of the team’s seniors, Sanford said she recognizes the onus is on players like her to lead when tension arises.
“When you see one of us get down … everyone else’s mood drops, and we have to refocus and regain that energy,” she said.