TUJUNGA -- A steady stream of offensive production can do plenty to boost a player's confidence, and perhaps lead them to succeed in other aspects on the baseball field.
Coach Rick Dickerson believes this to be particularly true about his 13- and 14-year-old players on the Foothill Junior All-Star baseball team. After all, it was Foothill's four-run opening inning that ignited a 12-8 win Sunday afternoon over Tujunga in the second-chance bracket of the District 16 Tournament at Tujunga Little League Fields.
"It was consistent hitting," Dickerson said. "We took a lead early, but we kept scoring. We scored throughout the game. And in this age group, scoring boosts morale and it makes them play better defense."
Scoring did indeed inject confidence in Foothill, which pounded eight hits and scored in six of seven innings. Defensively, however, there were some miscues, but not enough to put the game in jeopardy.
Foothill surrendered 11 hits and committed four errors, allowing Tujunga to hang around heading into the seventh inning. Yet, Foothill's lead never actually appeared threatened.
Up, 10-6, heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Tujunga scored twice to cut the lead in half. But then Foothill countered with two more runs by Blake Harriman and Nick Martin in the seventh to push the lead back up to four.
Justin French took the mound in the seventh and retired three batters, while allowing only one hit to secure the win. Morgan Dickerson (1-0), who pitched the first four innings, got the win.
Leadoff hitter Alex Spahr, who drew two walks and was struck by pitches twice, got on base in four of five at-bats for Foothill. He scored two runs.
Nick Ziecardi finished two for three with two walks. Harriman also went two for three, while Martin finished two for four with two runs.
"The beauty of this was that it was a real team effort," Dickerson said. "That's huge. That's what keeps the whole thing going."
There were 13 instances Sunday in which Foothill stole bases, including with all four players who scored runs in the opening inning. In fact, two of those stole third to help give Foothill a sizable cushion.
Of the 12 scored runs, Foothill got on base five times with walks.
After the game, Dickerson repeated the age-old mantra to his players: "One game at a time."
But it especially rung true to his players, with Foothill only one win away from climbing out of the loser's bracket.
If it defeats Crescenta Valley tonight at 6 at Scholl Canyon, Foothill would face Burbank in the championship game on Tuesday.