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From CIF to Hall of Fame

Crescenta Valley High's 1986 championship softball team, under direction of Berry, to be inducted into school's athletic hall of fame today

May 25, 2012|By Charles Rich

Scrapbooks have recently been pulled out of drawers, boxes and closets. Memories suddenly begin to flow from what has proved to be the pinnacle moment for the Crescenta Valley High softball program.

Recollections pour out from the 1986 season, when Crescenta Valley Coach Dan Berry piloted the Falcons to the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship. Certain at-bats, pitches, defensive plays and pregame speeches from each of the five postseason contests have been recalled as if they happened yesterday.

After starting the softball team from scratch in 1983, Berry nurtured a splendid core of players who would serve as catalysts for the program's first and only championship three seasons later. The Falcons found themselves at the top when they posted a 5-4 victory against top-seeded Woodbridge on May 30, 1986, at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.

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Roughly a quarter-century later, the Falcons' major accomplishment will be celebrated again with the subsequent inductions of Berry and the team into the school's athletic hall of fame at 7 p.m. today at Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland. Berry will be honored posthumously after leading the Falcons to 20 Pacific League championships. Many of the players from the 1986 squad plan to attend today's ceremony.

"This will be a special time for a special team with a respected man in Mr. Berry being honored," said Landa (Temple) Jensen, who was a senior catcher. "He set the bar high and you knew what to expect.

"There was a mutual respect between him and the players and he was ahead of his time and has left a big legacy. I recently found my scrapbook and so many great memories have popped up. We had so many great players."

Many players from the 1986 team, which finished 24-4 and won its last 18 games, agreed that Berry, who died Oct. 26, 2011 at the age of 65, was the architect behind their championship.

"He instilled in us not to give up," said Lisa (Erickson) Tibbetts, who played third base. "When we played Woodbridge for the championship, we were playing a team that was so strong and we were this scrappy team from the foothills.

"He was like a pioneer of softball. He believed in us. He took us under his wings and those are the special moments that you can't forget. It's an honor to look back on what he did because he touched a lot of lives and opened up a lot of doors for us."

Krista (Miller) Hardin, a second baseman, said Berry laid the groundwork for the program to blossom.

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