GLENDALE — Although Foothill Giuseppe's co-Manager Tyson Howard called it a close game early and one of the toughest tests his team faced in the Tri-Cities District 16 Major Softball Tournament of Champions, Monday night's championship game against the Crescenta Valley Red Hots at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields ended up much the way the team's past tournament games have — in a big win.
Alex Howard went the five-inning distance in the circle for Giuseppe's in a game that ended on a bases-loaded smash by Regina Kim over the outfielders' heads in the bottom of the fifth to make the final score 12-2 and enact the mercy rule.
"It was a tougher game than the score," the elder Howard said. "We usually don't leave Alex in all game. We were kind of forced to. They played us as tough as we've been played all year. We were pushed. Even though 12-2 sounds like a lot, it didn't feel like that much to me."
Howard was two for three at the plate, Kim had a pair of hits and Claire Smith doubled three times for Giuseppe's, which led, 11-2, with two runners on in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Hots loaded the bases intentionally to set up a force out, but Kim was able to easily clear the drawn-in outfield for the game-ender.
The win completed a thoroughly dominant run through the tournament for Giuseppe's, which won its three games, including a 15-0 win over CV Sanfillippo in the semifinals on Saturday in which three pitchers combined on a perfect game, by a combined score of 42-3.
Nonetheless, Giuseppe's found itself in the unfamiliar position of trailing on the scoreboard early Monday, when the Red Hots opened scoring in the top of the first inning.
Tiffany Bartamian tripled for the Red Hots in the first inning and scored on a fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead, but it didn't last.
"They pretty much shut us down after that," Red Hots Coach Dave Fox said.
Giuseppe's evened the score on a home run by Alex Howard in the bottom of the first.
"It was actually a really competitive game early," Tyson Howard said. "We just kind of creeped away."
Foothill raised its lead to 4-1 in the second inning and 6-1 in the third.
The Red Hots scored their second run in the top of the fourth inning on three straight singles by Taylor Schaffer, Paige Baker and Rosa Douglas, with Douglas' hit plating Schaffer to make it 6-2.
For the Red Hots, Monday's loss came on the heels of a season-defining 10-6 victory over archrival Sanfillippo on Sunday in the loser's bracket semifinal, their first win over Sanfillippo in six meetings this season.
"On Sunday, truthfully, we played the game of our lives," Fox said. "We finally beat [Sanfillippo] this year. We were close all season long against them, but in that one, we finally put things together."