NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Leading by eight runs and needing one more out to advance to the second round of the District 16 9-10 Softball All-Stars Tournament, Foothill looked to be comfortably on its way.
But its opponent Tujunga's upcoming two-out rally would cause some unexpected nervousness on one side, and a sudden sense of newfound hope on the other.
In the end, sighs of relief overshadowed jubilation marked by an improbable comeback at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields, as Foothill ultimately held on for the 18-16 victory Tuesday evening.
"Our pitcher was throwing strikes and we just needed to make plays," said Foothill Coach Poli Poli on whether he considered relieving pitcher Gabby Poli, who made the final out of the ballgame after six runs came across. "We started making errors and that sparked their comeback."
It was a fitting end to a high-scoring affair. The six-run final rally ended a game that saw Foothill score 15 of its 18 runs in two innings, starting with the first.
With runners on second and third, Emily Mulcahey smoked a ball past Tujunga's shortstop and left fielder, scoring herself and the two runners on board for a quick 3-0 advantage.
Foothill would go on to score six more runs in the inning, highlighted by run-scoring singles from Trinity Dawoodtabar, Olivia Jukes, Poli and Alasia Urena.
Jukes, Poli, and Urena — the team's first three batters — hit consecutive singles for three of the team's final four runs in the inning, with the other coming on a Tujunga error.
As a team, Foothill connected on six of its 13 hits in an inning that also saw Tujunga score five in the bottom half.
"We have really good hitters," Coach Poli said. "We like to swing at the ball any time there is a strike and are not looking to walk."
Tujunga scored in every inning but the fifth. A solo home run off the bat of Ryelle Cox sparked a two-run fourth inning that brought Tujunga's deficit down to 12-9.
It turned out that Foothill's second big inning came at the perfect time, as it put up six runs in the fifth to pull away from Tujunga.
Mulcahey continued her big day at the plate, picking up her fifth and sixth runs batted in of the contest to give Foothill the 18-9 advantage.
Mulcahey picked up her fourth RBI on a double in the third inning that scored Urena, which, at that point, gave Foothill a 12-6 lead.
Then, Tujunga scored three straight runs in the third and fourth innings, but that was quickly forgotten by the hot Foothill offense that came one run short of bringing the mercy rule into play.
Jukes picked up three hits in the win. Foothill's pitchers, Mulcahey and Poli, combined to strike out 10 batters while giving up 13 hits.
Foothill will play today at 7:30 p.m. in second-round action against the winner of the Crescenta Valley-Burbank meeting.
"We've been hitting all season and will look to continue doing so as the tournament moves forward," Coach Poli said.