By Brandon HENSLEY
It’s different this year, no question. When Hailey Cookson looks over her left shoulder on game days, she’s used to seeing her big sister Hannah in centerfield. There was comfort in knowing who was behind her, and together the two were nearly unstoppable in the lineup and on the field. Little sister didn’t strike out all of last year, and Hannah didn’t make one error with her glove.
Now Hannah is a freshman playing at Long Beach State, and Cookson is a senior for the Lady Falcons softball team, one that is still trying to figure itself out midway through the season.
“It’s rough. I’ve played with her my whole life,” Cookson said. “It’s different. I don’t really like it without her.”
Not that she isn’t enjoying her new centerfielder, senior Melanie Abzun, or any of her other teammates.
“I love this team. I think this year our senior class is the closest it’s ever been,” she said.
The Falcons thumped the Hoover Tornadoes on Tuesday at Crescenta Valley 10-0, a five-inning mercy rule victory. They batted around the order in the first inning, scoring eight runs, essentially putting the game away.
Cookson, who bats leadoff, collected a triple and a double in the frame. Crescenta Valley also received a boost from catcher Sydney Wells, who blasted a two-run home run in the first. Adela Alatraca and Kendall Ebert collected RBIs in the fourth inning to make it 10-0.
The Falcons improved to 10-7 overall, 5-2 in the Pacific League. They host Arcadia today a 3:30 p.m. in a battle for third place.
Cookson is one of the smoothest shortstops around, but this year she’s also tried her hand at pitching. In a perfect world, Coach Amanda Peek’s game plan includes early runs for a lead, and starting pitcher Alatraca going four or five strong innings. Cookson then closes the door.
That’s what happened on Tuesday. Alatraca pitched three strong innings then turned the ball over to Cookson, who went the last two. She put two runners on in the fifth with one out, but struck out the last two batters to end the game.
“She has good movement on her pitches, and it throws off the batters,” Peek said.
Cookson volunteered this year to pitch and said she’s enjoying it just as much, if not more, than playing shortstop.
“It’s a different scene,” she said. “It’s a different setting. I’m comfortable there. I like both, but [in the circle] I’m calm.”
While Hannah was able to commit to Long Beach before her senior year, Cookson is still trying to find suitors to play at the next level. She said she’s a “late bloomer,” and admitted that she’s grown impatient.
“I’m definitely frustrated. But whatever happens, happens,” she said.
Cookson committed only four errors in 99 chances last season. At the plate, she hit .561 with five home runs. She was one of only three players to play in all 29 games. She’s a “gamer,” as they say. Until the right opportunity comes, Cookson said she’ll work on perfecting her changeup. Even for someone like Cookson, there’s always room for improvement.
“I think I would like pitching in college, if I got better and pitched faster,” she said.