JURUPA VALLEY — Put in a situation where there wasn’t room for error, the Crescenta Valley 9-10 All-Star softball team shored up its pitching and defense to keep its championship aspirations alive.
Thanks to some clutch hitting from Alex Schwalbach and timely pitching from Katie Ward, Crescenta Valley earned an 11-8 win against Hesperia on Friday night in a Southern California Championship Divisional elimination game at Harvey Field.
Tri-Valley in the tournament’s championship game at 4 p.m. Sunday at the same venue. An if-necessary contest would be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Harvey Field.
Schwalbach had a key two-run double in the fourth to spur Crescenta Valley, which saw Ward go four innings in the circle to pick up the victory. Natalie Bitetti went the final two innings to notch the save.
“We went back to the things that have made us successful,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Bitetti, whose team finished with 13 hits. “We pitched a lot better and we didn’t make any errors, so that gave us a chance against a very good team.
“We went out there and eliminated a lot of mistakes. We put the ball in play and made some good things happen. I thought we came ready to play. We got a good effort from Katie when we needed it most.”
Ward struck out seven. The right-hander struck out the side in the second to provide Crescenta Valley with a spark.
Schwalbach, a first baseman who scored a pair of runs, said Crescenta Valley went back to the basics to earn the win.
“We knew that we had to keep calm,” Schwalbach said. “You start thinking about other things and that’s when you get in trouble.
“We knew we had to bounce back. It was fun to come out and get that lead. It’s great to be going to the championship game.”
Hesperia, which won the District 48 and Section 8 championships, took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring triple by Savannah Serrata. Hesperia had runners on second and third with two outs, but Crescenta Valley escaped the jam.
Crescenta Valley, which earlier captured District 16 and Section 2 crowns, then scored five runs in the second to take a 5-1 advantage. A run-scoring single by Ward tied it at 1 before a wild pitch scored Schwalbach to make it 2-1. Karlie Vinceri gave Crescenta Valley a 3-1 lead with a run-scoring single. A groundout by Aidyn Kehrli made it 4-1 before a run-scoring single by Natalie Bitetti capped the scoring to extend the advantage to 5-1. Crescenta Valley sent 10 batters to the plate in the second.
Serrata had a run-scoring double to trim the lead to 5-2 in the third. Hesperia then got a sacrifice bunt from Kelsey Kerns to make it 5-3.
Crescenta Valley, which suffered an 18-14 loss to Tri-Valley on Wednesday after picking up wins against Bellflower and Culver City, enjoyed a five-run fourth to grab a 10-3 lead.
Kehrli gave Crescenta Valley a 6-3 lead with a run-scoring double. Kehrli got to third and then stole home to make it 7-3. A run-scoring double by Esther Choi gave Crescenta Valley an 8-3 lead. Schwalback then had a two-run single to raise the advantage to 10-3.
“That hit by Alex proved to be the big one,” Bitetti said.
Hesperia scored four runs in the fourth to cut the deficit to 10-7. It then scored a run in the fifth to pull within 10-8.
Crescenta made it 11-8 in the sixth. Ward reached on an infield single to third, but the third baseman made an errant throw to second. The ball wound up in the outfield, allowing Schwalbach to score from second.
Mark Bitetti said Crescenta Valley will be prepared for Tri-Valley, which won the Section 9 championship.
“We know they have a good team that’s well coached,” Bitetti said. “We know them and they know us.
“I think if we continue to play like we did [Friday], then we have a chance.”