MONTROSE — With their early lead, and even their starting pitcher, gone before the end of the top of the second inning, the tide seemed to be turning against the Foothill All-Stars in their District 16 9-10 Softball Tournament if-necessary championship contest with the Tujunga All-Stars on Tuesday.
Alex Howard was able to right Foothill’s ship with 2 2/3 innings of one-hit ball in emergency relief of Jordan Lousararian and Tujunga’s control and fielding difficulties provided Foothill with ample scoring opportunities in a 13-3 mercy-rule shortened game at Montrose Park.
Foothill will now represent District 16 in the upcoming Sectional championships.
“It’s nice to have a 1-2 punch,” Foothill Coach Todd Fabian said of Howard and Lousarian, who was hit in the leg with a line drive and left the game with one out in the top of the second in a 2-2 ballgame. “That’s what we had today and [the Tujunga All-Stars] are a good hitting team.”
Tujunga collected five hits on the day — to Foothill’s lone first-inning knock — with four of them coming in a two-run second inning.
Clara DiMino had just singled in Tujunga’s first two runs to tie the game at 2, when Abby Troy smashed a comebacker that deflected off Lousararian’s leg for an infield single.
Lousararian, who struck out the side in the first inning and would return to the game as the Foothill first baseman, went to the dugout immediately.
“I was prepared [to take the ball],” said Howard, who retired the side in the second inning on a groundout back to the circle and a strikeout.
After Lousararian’s first-inning double that scored Howard for the game’s first run, Foothill did the rest of its damage without the benefit of a base hit — beginning with a four-run second inning.
With two outs, Howard scored the tiebreaking run on a bases-loaded walk to Cailen Rodriguez. Foothill’s next three runs came on a fielding error that allowed Lousararian to score, followed by wild pitches to consecutive batters that brought Alley Johnson and Rodriguez home.
The third inning brought similar misfortune for Tujunga, as Foothill’s first two batters reached on walks and an errant throw to home on a grounder by Howard allowed Claire Smith to score and make it 7-2.
It was the beginning of a bad stretch for Tujunga, one in which five total walks, two errors and a run-scoring illegal pitch all contributed to Tujunga entering the fourth frame down, 12-2.
“They had one bad inning, and it was all pitching,” Fabian said.
In the fourth, Tujunga got a rally brewing with the bases loaded and no outs. But Howard got the next two batters to ground back to the circle to force the first two outs of the inning at home.
Even though Troy scored to make it 12-3 on an error on a ground ball hit by the next batter, the third out was recorded on the same play when a Tujunga runner was tagged out between third and home.
“I thought about what I would do before I pitched,” said Howard of making her snap decision in calmly throwing out two runners at home.
Fabian said having played Tujunga twice before in the tournament, including a loss in the second round and a win on Monday to force Tuesday’s game, helped his team prepare.
“This is the third time we’ve got to play them so we get to know each other,” he said. “If we played one more time, who knows what would happen — they’re a fun team to play.
“I’m proud of our girls though, they played a good game and they wanted to win.”
GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at email@example.com.