It took 13 innings to determine a winner the first time Burbank and Crescenta Valley high schools faced off this season in softball, with the Falcons earning a narrow 1-0 win. After that, the second meeting figured to be another tight affair, and it was.
By the narrowest of margins, the host Bulldogs notched a 4-3 comeback win over the Falcons in Pacific League play at McCambridge Park Thursday afternoon, keeping Burbank in the mix for the league title.
“It was huge,” Burbank coach Melissa Sanchez said of the victory. “It was a little bit bumpy. It was an ugly win, but at the end of the day, a win is a win and we’ll take it.”
The Bulldogs pulled ahead in the bottom of the sixth inning and carried the 4-3 lead into the top of the seventh. Burbank’s Maddison Kellogg walked CV’s Mila Reddy to open the frame, putting the tying run at first. Jaiden Sabelis followed and smashed a ball deep into the outfield. Reddy took off and was rounding third base as the relay throw came in toward the plate, where catcher Shelby Cribbs waited. The ball arrived just ahead of the runner. Reddy appeared to avoid the tag initially, but she slid past the plate. Cribbs stuck with the play and tagged a prone Reddy’s outstretched arms, her fingers short of the plate, for the first out of the inning, thus preserving the advantage.
“When I saw [Reddy] rounding the bag I knew that [Samantha] Buckley, my shortstop, had a strong enough arm where she got the ball it was just an easy tag,” Cribbs said. “I did have to recover on that tag just depending on if [Reddy] was able to slide around me or not, and I held my tag. She slid over the plate, and I got her out.”
Even so, Crescenta Valley had the tying run in Sabelis at third, but Kellogg struck out the next two batters to bring home the win.
“We had some opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize on them,” CV coach Joel Curtis said. “One thing we worked on was not chasing the high one, and we chased the high one a few times. It was just trying a little too hard and wanting a little too much.”
Kellogg went the distance for the win while allowing just three hits and striking out 12 Falcons in the process, on 103 pitches. The three runs Crescenta Valley did score all came as a direct result of fielding errors by the Bulldogs in the early innings.
“[Kellogg] is unbelievable. I really think that she is the league MVP,” Curtis said. “She has thrown really well and kept us off balance for two games in a row.”
The game had been knotted at 3-3 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Burbank’s Eliza Bowren started it at the plate for the hosts and smashed a double that sailed deep over the center fielder’s head. Samantha Cafferty followed, laying down a sacrifice bunt to advance Bowren to third. With two out, Delilah Alvarado swatted a ground ball up the middle. The Falcon shortstop got to the ball but could not do anything with it, allowing Bowren to score the go-ahead run. The play was officially scored a single, meaning Alvarado had come through with what turned out to be the game-winning RBI.
Crescenta Valley scored the first three runs of the contest. In the top of the third, with two out and runners at second and third, Kellogg walked Sophia Kupperstein, but when ball four briefly got away from Cribbs, Reddy took off from third for home. The Bulldogs quickly trapped her in a rundown. As the play developed, Sabelis arrived at third base from second. This gave Reddy no base to return to, meaning all the Bulldogs needed was to drive her back to the occupied base and tag her out. Instead, the rundown continued until a throw to toward third went wild, allowing both Reddy and Sabelis to score.
The Falcons tacked on another run in the top of the fourth. CV’s Megumi Ono led off with a double down the left field line. The next batter, Alexa Johnson, used a sacrifice bunt to advance Ono to third, but when the Bulldogs fired the ball across the diamond after the out at first, the throw sailed high and Ono came in to score.
The Bulldogs put up three runs in the bottom of the fourth to erase the deficit. With one out and the bases full, Cribbs hit an infield single to score pinch-runner Leilah Hernandez for the host’s first run. Now with two outs and the bases full, Buckley hammered a double deep into the left field corner to score Cafferty and Cribbs to tie the game.
Both squads are still in contention for a league title, chasing frontrunners Burroughs and Arcadia.
“It’s [nearing] the end of the season and we are getting into a groove,” Sanchez said.
First published in the April 22 print issue of the Burbank Leader.