CANYON COUNTRY — For five innings on Thursday afternoon, the Foothill Major Softball All-Stars allowed rival Quartz Hill too many chances and squandered the few they were afforded.
Unpredictably, it turned out to simply be setting the stage for an amazing Foothill comeback.
Held to just one hit over the first five innings and down by three runs entering the final inning, the District 16 champions rallied with seven hits, two walks and seven stunning runs in a come-from-behind 7-3 win for Foothill over Quartz Hill in the opening game of the Section 2 Tournament at the Canyon Country Little League facility.
"They're just a great bunch of girls, they don't give up," said Foothill co-Manager Tyson Howard, whose team is now 3-0. "We haven't really been down. To see these girls come back really makes me happy. It was impressive."
Foothill won its two District 16 games by a combined 26-7 score and features a core group of players from the Foothill Giuseppe's squad that won a Tri-Cities title in dominant fashion. Making Thursday's game even more improbable was that the comeback came over the District 51 champions that had defeated Foothill in last season's championship game for the third straight year.
"It's huge because we never beat them," Howard said. "We lost to them three years in a row. …I thought they were gonna get us again."
Both teams will now await the winner of today's District 17 San Marino-District 40 Mission Hills contest. Foothill will play the winner on Saturday at 9 a.m., while Quartz Hill will play the loser in an elimination game at noon.
Alex Howard and Jordan Lousararian each had a pair of hits, with Howard shining in the circle over three innings of no-hit relief for the victory. But for Foothill, the rally was indeed a team effort, as the lineup caught fire after pinch-hitter Katie Colwell's bloop single over second in the fifth inning had stood as the team's only hit.
"We just started coming alive with our bats," said Lousararian, who had a run and an RBI in the sixth.
Until the sixth, Quartz Hill twirler Sam Arriola had handcuffed the local all-stars, allowing just one hit and no walks over the first five innings.
"She was money," Tyson Howard said. "I thought we'd hit her better, but we just didn't."
Many of Foothill's hardest struck balls were right at Quartz Hill fielders, but in the sixth, Foothill dinked and dunked its way dramatically back into the game, beginning with a leadoff bloop to shallow left-center field by Lousararian. Then Howard skipped a single just inside the third-base bag and then Danielle Ryan drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases — a scenario that would remain for much of the remainder of the inning.
After Arriola notched a six-pitch strikeout for the first out, Miranda Diaz clutched up with another bloop single to score Lousararian and put Foothill on the board.
"Usually we hit triples and home runs," said Alex Howard, who sprinted home to make it 3-2 on a high chopper to third base by Julia Smith in which the Quartz Hill third baseman had no other play but to come home as Howard slid in just before a force out.
And then, on an 0-2 count, Sophie Georges hit the equalizer, tying the game on a one-out bloop single that scored Ryan. But the rally was merely at its midpoint, as Arianna Campbell drew a bases-loaded walk to push in what would stand as the game-winning run in the form of Diaz.
Interestingly enough, it was only after Quartz Hill fell behind, 4-3, that its coaches finally called timeout and had a meeting in the circle. It was too little and far too late, however.
A Samantha Fabian walk pushed Smith across to make it 5-3 before Georges scored on a groundball single to right by Lousararian. Howard delivered the final RBI on an infield single to short that plated Campbell.
"It was good because we've been trying to beat them for four years now," Lousararian said.
That trend looked as if it was going to continue for the majority of the game.
Despite Lousararian and Howard reaching base on errors in the first and Smith reaching on a second-inning error, the base runners were left stranded and the Foothill bats remained stagnant. And in the bottom half of the innings, Quartz Hill put two runners aboard in the first and another in the second, but Foothill was able to wiggle free of the predicaments.
Quartz Hill finally broke through in the third after it looked as though Foothill would survive again.
A single and an error began the inning, though Foothill had a golden opportunity to get the leadoff runner being too aggressive when she tried to take second, but then beat a rundown back to first. With runners on first and second, the runner on first was caught trying to steal an occupied second later in the inning, but also returned safely. But when Foothill turned an impressive 5-3-2 double play, it looked as though it would still escape once more.
"They made a great double play," Tyson Howard said. "I thought it was gonna get us out of it, too."
But more shaky defense allowed Quartz Hill to notch three two-out runs.
After a single to right brought the score to 1-0, Quartz Hill's Karlee Porter sent a line drive to right field that was charged and misplayed by the right fielder, allowing the ball to roll to the fence. The right fielder then threw to second rather than first to relay to home and the score was 3-0.
"I think cause we faced them so many times and struggled against them, we had nerves," Lousararian said.
Meanwhile, the Foothill offense went down in order in the third and fourth, but the tide began to change a bit when Alex Howard took the circle in the fourth. A two-out walk in the stanza was her only blemish over three innings.
"I just thought if we held them, we might [have a chance to come back]," said Howard, who emphatically struck out the side to end the game.
And, in the end, one inning of chances was more than enough to have Foothill celebrating.
Of course, Tyson Howard was quick to tell his team it was just the first game, though they celebrated nonetheless. But he's rather certain it won't be the last time his team will see its rivals.
Said the skipper: "We know we're gonna see them again."