Howard, Alatraca pitch Crescenta Valley-Foothill a step farther

LOS ANGELES -- The Crescenta Valley-Foothill Junior All-Star softball team used nearly perfect pitching coupled with a late offensive surge to propel them to a 10-2 victory over South El Monte in the second round of the Southern California Division III Junior Softball Tournament on Kent D. Mace Field at the Carl E. Nielson Youth Park in Westchester Sunday afternoon.

Crescenta Valley-Foothill held South El Monte without a base runner until the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh inning, when Jasmine Cabrera hit a single off of relief pitcher Adela Alatraca to break up the perfect game bid.

Alex Howard started in the circle for CVFH and threw four perfect innings while striking out seven. Howard also got things going in the scoring department for CVFH, breaking a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning with a two-out single up the middle that gave the Section 2 champions a 2-0 advantage. Alatraca and Brenda Gamez, who both had singles earlier in the fifth, scored the runs.

“I was thinking to make contact and get them in,” Howard said of her fifth inning at-bat.

Alatraca, in a move consistent with CVFH’s pitching strategy this postseason, took over for Howard to start the fifth and faced the minimum number of batters in that inning and the sixth. South El Monte led off the seventh inning by stringing together all three of its hits in the contest to score both of its runs before Alatraca retired the next three batters, catching a pop fly for the final out to secure the win.

“Alex was phenomenal today and Adela as well. Except for the couple hits at the end, the pitching was awesome,” CVFH Coach Will Thayer said.

With Sunday’s victory, Crescenta Valley-Foothill stays in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, in which the champion earns a trip to Tucson, Ariz. and a spot in the Western Regional Tournament. CVFH will play next on Tuesday at 7 p.m., once again on Kent D. Mace field, against the winner of the game between Westchester Del Rey and Victorville.

“We are happier every time we win because we are closer to where we want to be,” Howard said.

South El Monte hurler Domica Mendoza, who went the distance in the circle, held CVFH scoreless over the first four innings while yielding only one hit. However, after giving up the two runs in the fifth inning, Mendoza saw three scored in the sixth and five more in the seventh.

“We got off to a slow start because [South El Monte] had such a really good pitcher,” Thayer said, “She had a variety of pitches and was probably the best that we’ve seen so far in the tournament. It took the girls a little while to figure it out.”

CVFH’s Calley Ellingford helped break open the game in the sixth inning with a one-out double that bounced once before hitting the fence in left-center field to drive in two runs. Alatraca followed with a successful sacrifice bunt to the pitcher, advancing Ellingford to third, but as South El Monte was slow in making the play, Ellingford kept going, touching the plate well in front of the throw to give her a team a 5-0 cushion.

In the seventh, Crescenta Valley-Foothill hit five singles, while South El Monte committed two costly errors, to score five more runs. In the frame, Camie Ellingford hit a RBI single and, three batters later, Cailey Ellingford hit a single to left field to drive in her third run of the contest.

Crescenta Valley-Foothill had three players score two runs: Jordan Lousararian, Gamez and Calien Rodriguez.

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