NORTHEAST GLENDALE — As the sun set on Friday evening's Junior Softball Tri-Cities Tournament of Champions championship game, Crescenta Valley Muir-Chase had already succeeded in forcing extra innings and was looking to prolong the tournament considerably further.
By about 24 hours, actually, or the time today's if-necessary title game would have begun. That was a scenario Foothill wanted desperately to avoid, and did so, thanks to a two-out, eighth-inning rally capped by Sophie Georges' walk-off hit with the bases loaded to deliver a 7-6 win and the title.
"That's the way you want to go, it was a fun game the whole way through and both teams are so close," Foothill Coach Tyson Howard said. "I thought the game was going to go all night. I was worried it was going to because we only have two pitchers."
Crescenta Valley, which had plated three runs to tie the game in the top of the sixth, looked well on its way to getting out of the eighth inning after pitcher Brenda Gamez had recorded two quick one-pitch outs.
But Alex Howard singled to the pitcher with two outs and advanced to second on a throwing error. Cailen Rodriguez and Claire Smith loaded the bases with consecutive walks and Georges wasted no time going after the first pitch for a well-struck hit into the right-center field gap to plate Howard with the game-winning run.
"It feels great, I was really glad I got the last hit because earlier in the game I didn't get any," Georges said. "I was just trying to focus and drive it."
It was the first run scored by Foothill since the bottom of the fourth, as Adela Altraca tossed a scoreless fifth and sixth, while Gamez didn't allow a hit through the next 1 2/3 innings before the winning rally.
While Crescenta Valley's arms kept Foothill quiet, Muir-Chase, trailing, 6-3, climbed back in the game by taking advantage of two Foothill errors. Tiffany Bartamian, who walked, and Taylor Schaffer, who singled, both scored when a throw to third base from behind the plate skipped down the line all the way to the outfield fence. Paige Baker started the rally anew with a single and scored the tying run when Callie Ellingford singled with two outs, leading to an error in the outfield.
Still, despite the clutch scoring to tie the game, Crescenta Valley Coach Will Thayer said his team couldn't generate enough offense over the course of the game.
"They had us off-balance the whole time," Thayer said. "We just never seemed to play well from behind. We got behind a couple runs out of the chute and it was a battle the whole night. We just never got the key hit to spring us loose and propel us forward."
The first two innings, however, saw both teams trade some key hits.
Howard, who pitched the final four innings and earned the win, singled in the first to get a runner to third base and a walk to Rodriguez loaded the bases with one out. Jordan Lousararian, who pitched the first four, scored on a fielder's choice and Howard came in right behind her on an error.
But Crescenta Valley answered right back with a two-out, two-run single by Viviana Sandoval-Walsh that plated Schaffer and Shiyin Lim.
The tie was broken in the bottom of the second when Sammy Fabian tripled in Sausha Perry and Arianna Campbell for a 4-2 lead. Smith would then walk with the bases loaded to make it 5-2.
Gamez singled in Ellingford to make it 5-3, but Rodriguez grounded out to second to plate Lousararian, who had singled to make it 6-3 in the fourth.
"We didn't hit well tonight and that's a tribute to Jordan and Alex, their pitchers," Thayer said. "They kept us off-balance. We just did not square up enough balls and get enough hits to win the game."