GLENDALE — With preseason aspirations of breaking into the top four of the Pacific League standings, Glendale High’s softball team was well aware it would need to pull off some victories versus teams it had traditionally struggled against.
Thursday provided just that situation and opportunity.
Glendale staved off a late Crescenta Valley comeback bid to claim a 7-5 league home win bolstered by a big four-run first inning and highlighted by the fleet-footed talents of Sammy Fabian and the tenacity in the circle of Jordan Lousararian.
“I said at the start of the season, we need at least one or two upset wins and I think this counts as one,” said Nitros first-year Coach Greg Martin, whose squad broke a three-game losing streak against the Falcons, as a May, 2012 win was the first for Glendale over Crescenta Valley since 2005. “We asked [the Nitros] before the game if they had played their best game of the year yet and they all said no.
“I’m really, really proud of our girls.”
Glendale (14-5, 6-4 in league), looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005, is now in a three-way tie for third place with Arcadia and Crescenta Valley (13-10, 6-4). The Falcons had won six straight before losing four in a row, including against Burroughs on Tuesday in a game for second place and then to Glendale on Thursday.
“This win feels really good, especially because we’re fighting for a playoff spot,” said Fabian, a freshman center fielder, who went three for three with three runs, a walk and a stolen base. “We were all so pumped and we all went out and played our best.”
As for the Falcons, it was somewhat the opposite as a rough first inning, sparse offense outside the heart of the order and some lackluster focus added up to a sour defeat.
“They beat us, they won the game. Not just the first inning, but the whole game,” first-year Falcons Coach John Pehar said of the Nitros. “It’s disappointing.”
The Nitros led throughout, but, with a 7-2 advantage heading into the seventh, saw Crescenta Valley make a final rally.
Walks to Calley Ellingford and Hannah Cookson (two for two, two walks, run and RBI) to begin the inning set up Taylor Hill, who doubled to center to score both runners.
Hill (two hits, hit by pitch, two RBI, run) later scored after Glendale recorded its first out in right field, but an attempt to double-up a runner at first bounced out of play and an umpire conference resulted in Hill advancing a second base to score and bring the tally to 7-5.
“I was dying,” said Lousararian of her nerves. “All of a sudden they’re hitting me, of all times. I was starting to think we didn’t have enough cushion.”
But the Nitros had just enough as Lousararian induced back-to-back ground outs with runners at second and third to end the game.
Lousararian went the distance, pitching through trouble in just about every inning, while allowing five runs (four earned), nine hits, four walks and striking out five.
Thus, the sophomore hurler admitted when the final out was recorded, while her teammates were ready to celebrate, she was breathing a sigh of relief.
“It was relief,” Lousararian said. “I was having a heart attack out there. When we got the final out, it was like yes, it’s finally over, we got it, it’s official.”
Fabian, who has hit safely in all 18 games she’s played this season, began the bottom of the first, in which Glendale was trailing, 1-0, with a single up the middle. After a walk by Sarah Brockway and a single to center field by Alex Howard loaded the bases, Lousararian lifted a double to deep left field.
It scored two, with Howard returning to third after it was ruled a ground-rule double as the ball had rolled out of play. Howard would come home on a Rachel Bartamian (two for two, two RBI) sacrifice fly, though, and Lousararian followed suit on a Tiffany Bartamian (two hits, RBI) sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
Glendale finished with nine hits, but was able to manufacture runs, scoring single tallies in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
“We jumped on them early and then we kind of went small ball, cause I knew they could come back,” Martin said.
It was a stark contrast for the Falcons, who stranded nine runners and ended the day with the game-tying run on second base.
“We left a lot of runners on base,” Pehar said. “We do have bats, but they didn’t work today.”
Hailey Cookson (two triples, run, RBI), batting leadoff, Hannah Cookson, batting third, and Hill, batting clean-up, combined for six of the Falcons’ nine hits, scored all but two of their runs and had all four of the team’s runs batted in.
Hailey Cookson tripled to lead off the game and came around to score on a single by Hannah Cookson for a 1-0 lead.
Glendale countered with its four-run first, which chased CV starter Kendall Ebert in favor of usual Falcons starter Olivia Thayer, who pitched the final five innings.
“[Ebert’s] a great pitcher. She got into a little trouble out there and she got out of it,” Pehar said. “We made the change.”
A triple by Sydnee Wells led off the top of the second for CV and Wells scored on another triple by Hailey Cookson to cut the score to 4-2, but Lousararian escaped without further damage.
In the top of the third, the Falcons loaded the bases with no outs, but Lousararian battled through.
Every inning was an adventure, with Lousararian retiring the order in the fifth for the only 1-2-3 stanza for either team.
Lousararian walked to lead off the third and was singled in by Rachel Bartamian for a 5-2 lead.
In the fourth, Fabian led off by chopping a single to center, taking second on a passed ball and third on a sacrifice bunt before Alex Howard’s sacrifice fly plated her.
Glendale took its 7-2 advantage when Fabian led off with a walk, went to second and third on wild pitches and Howard scored her again, this time on a groundout.
It was a far cry from the teams’ first meeting on April 8, when Crescenta Valley notched a 10-0 home victory.
“This time around, I think we weren’t nervous and we were ready to show what we have and we used that intensity to come out strong,” said Lousararian, whose team has a pivotal matchup at Arcadia on Tuesday, “and that set the tone for things.”
For Crescenta Valley, the tone must change quickly, though things get no easier for the Falcons when they host first-place Burbank on Tuesday.
“Can they make themselves mad enough … to work hard enough to win Tuesday?” Pehar said. “It’s up to them. They gotta want it.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.