Lady Raiders outdone by Crescenta Valley in Wild Card round
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
LA CRESCENTA – The absence of shortstop Chelsea Purcell could be felt by the Sonora softball team in the first two innings of its CIF-SS Division 3 Wild Card game against Crescenta Valley.
Down 4-0, the sophomore was inserted on defense in the bottom half of the third inning and the tension of her teammates seemed to lift as the Lady Raiders scored three runs in their half of the fourth and fifth innings to make it a one-run game.
However, Lady Falcons leadoff hitter Hailey Cookson erased all that momentum with her second home run of the game, a two-run shot to center field in the bottom of the fifth inning to lift Crescenta Valley past Sonora 6-3, Monday afternoon.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora head coach, of the home run. “The girls still answered back a little, but we just didn’t have enough punch in the end.”
Despite sending the game-tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning, Audrey Castro grounded out to Crescenta Valley starting pitcher Olivia Thayer to end the ball game and Sonora’s season.
The Lady Falcons (16-11-1) squared the ball up well off Sonora starting pitcher Sam Casanas, totaling 12 hits in the ball game. Cookson led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run to right center field.
Taylor Hill and Sydnee Wells added RBI-singles and Crescenta Valley’s first six batters reached base with four hits and two walks.
“I talked with [Sam] before the game if she was nervous or afraid, because they have some big time hitters,” Rodriguez said. “She said that she was just struggling today. She looked a little defeated. As important as composure and attitude is, she doesn’t always show it, but she wasn’t scared either, it’s just her inexperience and being young.”
Crescenta Valley added an RBI-single by catcher Rachael Abboud in the second inning for a quick 4-0 lead.
Purcell missed the first two innings for disciplinary reasons, but the tides turned when she was reinserted. Crescenta Valley tested her immediately with a sharp grounder, but the sophomore shortstop handled it with ease, showing range and a strong arm to retire the leadoff batter in the third inning.
In the top of the fourth inning, Sonora got to Thayer. Audrey Castro singled, reached second base on an error and was sacrificed to third base. Purcell was hit by a pitch and stole second base before Madison Gimpl knocked them both in with an infield single.
In the fifth inning, Castro hit a double deep to left field, scoring Katie Amaral from second base to cut the deficit to one run.
“I think we learned a lot in the last week of the league season, we showed up late in both ball games,” Rodriguez said. “We can’t try to make up four runs in the last two innings, we had to chip away and that’s what we did. We executed a gameplan, scored some runs and kept it close. We had two mistakes and that was the difference.”
With one out in the bottom half of the fifth inning, junior Calley Ellingford hit an infield single to set the stage for Cookson’s second home run, a line drive shot over the fence in center field.
Sonora’s season ends at 13-13, but the Lady Raiders program continued to move forward with the opportunity of competing in its first playoff game since 2009.
The Lady Raiders will lose four seniors in Castro, Amaral, Leandra Jew and Brandi Landino to graduation. All four seniors were starters for Sonora this season.
“I feel we accomplished a goal, definitely,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t feel like we met the potential of what could have been, I thought we could have done some special things this season, but all-in-all, I’m very proud of what the girls accomplished this season.”