GLENDALE — Hot bats and power pitching keyed the charge on Friday night for the Foothill Major All-Stars, but it was an overall change in attitude that seemed prevalent as the Glendale squad continued to ascend to new heights.
"We played a lot better [Friday], our attitudes were up, we never got down," said third baseman Sammy Fabian, who had three hits and three runs to spark a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Colton in the second round of the Southern California State Championships Tournament at the Ken Hubbs Little League complex in Colton.
In the circle, Alex Howard also proved dominant, striking out nine over four innings of work and allowing just one run to notch the victory.
Foothill (8-1), having won its fifth straight game overall, will now face Westchester, a 14-0 winner over Anaheim Loara, on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament semifinal.
On Thursday, Foothill opened the tournament with a 6-2 win over Coachella Valley that co-Coach Tyson Howard was hardly pleased with when gauging his team's performance and attitude. Friday was a far different story, however.
"It was a really good game today," Coach Howard said. "Both teams played really well.
"It was a 100% better game. They just played really well."
So too did host Colton, however, as it raced out to an early lead before Foothill roared back thanks to Fabian and Jordan Lousararian, who had three hits and two RBI, at the plate and Howard in the circle.
"It was a nailbiter the whole way through," Coach Howard said.
Colton jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first before Foothill answered immediately with a Fabian single to lead off the bottom of the inning. Danielle Ryan later connected on an RBI single to cut the score to 2-1.
Back-to-back doubles by Fabian and Lousararian tied the game at 2 in the third before Ryan put a ball into right field that was dropped and allowed Lousararian to score the go-ahead run.
Howard, who entered the game in the second, struck out the side in the fourth, leading the coaches to keep her in rather than stay with the formula of pitching Lousararian, who started and threw two innings, Howard and Ryan two innings each, as had been the constant in past games.
"[Alex] was just really pumped up and throwing hard," Coach Howard said.
In the bottom of the fifth, Fabian continued her tour de force with a triple.
"She was unreal," Coach Howard said. "They were just beautiful line drives she was hitting."
Fabian scored once again when Lousararian belted an RBI single. Miranda Diaz then added some insurance with a single to score Lousararian for a 5-2 advantage.
With two outs in the sixth, Howard ran into her first trouble, allowing a triple and a single, but was able to close the door on a victory that has Foothill a win away from the state finals.
"This tournament is really exciting," Fabian said. "It's a lot of fun."
And if Foothill has indeed hit its stride, and continues to play as it did on Friday, Howard believes his team is clearly on the right track.
"If we can continue to play like this," he said, "we'll be in good shape."