CANYON COUNTRY — On a torridly windy Saturday afternoon at the Canyon Country Little League complex, the Crescenta Valley-Foothill Junior All-Stars softball team made its debut and promptly blew past District 40's Canyon Country-Mission Hills in the opening round of the Section 2 Tournament, 8-0.
Bolstered by a standout performance in the circle and at the plate from Jordan Lousararian, CVFH used patience at the plate to grab an early lead, stellar pitching to maintain it and contagious hitting later in the game to make it a blowout — taking advantage of seven wild pitches, three stolen bases and two passed balls along the way.
"After we started getting more and more hits, we started getting more and more confident," said CVFH's Camie Ellingford, who had a run batted in, a run and two of her team's nine hits, "and we knew we were gonna win."
CVFH will now meet District 51 Quartz Hill, a 7-4 winner over District 17 San Marino earlier Saturday, at 9 a.m. Sunday in the winner's bracket, with a berth in Tuesday's championship final on the line.
Lousararian tossed four shutout innings before giving way to Adela Alatraca, who finished out the game with three innings of one-hit scoreless ball, allowing one hit and striking out two while retiring the final seven District 40 players of the game.
"Our two pitchers were really hitting their spots," CVFH Coach Will Thayer said. "Jordan and Adela really came through."
Lousararian allowed just one hit — which didn't come until the bottom of the fourth on a slow infield bouncer that went roughly six feet — through four innings, struck out four, walked one and never allowed a runner past second base. At the plate, the No. 3 hitter was three for four with two RBI and two runs.
"Jordan had a great game on both sides of the ball," Thayer said.
Lousararian settled in nicely from the start thanks to two key moments ignited by Sammy Fabian.
Fabian led off the game by working an 11-pitch walk in the top of the first, as she fell behind in the count, 0-2, before fouling off countless pitches and finally drawing the base on balls.
"It wasn't easy," Thayer said. "She was down in the count early, but she fouled off a bunch of pitches and was able to come back."
It was also a foreshadowing of CVFH fortune, as the District 16 representatives walked seven times in all.
Fabian moved to second on a walk to Cailey Ellingford, who had two walks, two stolen bases and two runs, and then to third on a wild pitch before scoring on another wild pitch — the first of a four-pitch walk to Cailen Rodriguez (single, two walks, stolen base and a run).
"I think I did well," Lousararian said of her performance in the circle. "It helped that we had a run cushion when I started."
Lousararian walked the first batter she faced before the second batter laced a shot to second. But Fabian made a nice pick and threw to shortstop Alex Howard who turned a 4-6-3 double play, ended by a nice stretch from Cailey Ellingford.
"The tone really was set early by that double play," Thayer said. "[Canyon Country-Mission Hills] were all charged up thinking they had two runners on and all of a sudden they had two outs."
The following District 40 batter reached base on an error, but Lousararian sat down the next eight batters she faced in order.
Camie Ellingford led off the second with her team's first hit, a single to right field before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a passed ball and scoring again on a wild pitch.
"It really got our team pumped up," Ellingford said of notching the team's first hit after a first inning in which the locals walked three times, struck out three times and stranded two runners. "We were really confident after that."
With a 2-0 lead heading into the third, CVFH began to break the game open, thanks in large part to a gutsy coaching call.
Cailey Ellingford drew a leadoff walk before stealing second and then came around to score on a sharp line drive to right field by Lousararian. Walks to Rodriguez and Camie Ellingford loaded the bases with two outs before pinch-hitter Paige Baker laid down a perfect squeeze-bunt single to score Lousararian for a 4-0 advantage.
Lousararian scored Cailey Ellingford in the fourth, but the aggressive base running that had buoyed CVFH throughout ended the inning on a most uncommon 9-3-5-4-2 double play as a single to right by Rodriguez was answered by a puzzling throw to first base by the right fielder. Lousararian made a heads-up move, taking third on the throw, but Rodriguez was then cut down going to second and Lousararian was then tagged out going home.
It mattered not, as the 5-0 lead was more than enough even before the exclamation point came in the form of a three-run seventh inning. Howard singled in Lousararian before Camie Ellingford singled home Rodriguez with Howard also scoring on the play after the right fielder booted the ball.
In the end, it was quite a debut for a team comprised of all-stars from two leagues playing in its very first game with designs of it being the first of many.
"It makes us want to work harder since we have two teams combined of great girls," Camie Ellingford said. "We had to earn our spots."