Strong starts have been customary for the Crescenta Valley-Foothill Junior All-Star softball team's postseason run and it got a head start to the Western Regional Tournament thanks in part to Montana.
CVFH, the Southern California representative, couldn't have asked for much more to start regional play Thursday against Montana at Arthur Pack Regional Park in Arizona. Its offense loaded the bases in each of the first three innings and exploded for 12 hits in a 14-3 mercy rule victory after six innings.
"It was very important," CVFH Coach Drummond Schaffer of the quick start. "We drew visitor's side and that's been our friend this year. When we're visitors we plan on coming out aggressive and putting the pressure back on the other team like we have all year."
Alex Howard's three-for-five day at the plate with a run batted in led the CVFH offense, which had hits from eight of 10 players and multi-hit games from Sammy Fabian (two for three, RBI) and Miranda Diaz (two for four), and also benefited from five Montana errors, six walks and three wild pitches.
"We were hitting really well," Diaz said. "We were able to get on top of the pitching and go through three of their pitchers."
The victory puts CVFH in a 5 p.m. game against Alaska today.
CVFH, which has already won the Section 2 and Southern California Division III tournaments, posted four runs in both the first and second innings on just three singles. It quickly loaded the bases to start the game with walks to Fabian, Camie Ellingford and a Howard single and they were quickly cleared on an error in right field off a Jordan Lousararian line drive.
Calley Ellingford, who left the game in the second inning with a sprained ankle, drove in another unearned run when Lousararian scored on a ground out to the pitcher to put CVFH up, 4-0.
Montana allowed CVFH to load the bases again in the second without a hit with two errors and a walk. A bases-loaded walk to Lousararian and two wild pitches led to three more CVFH runs and Calley Ellingford singled home Lousararian for an 8-0 advantage.
"We played really relaxed, we usually play much more relaxed when were ahead," Diaz said. "Those errors helped a lot."
CVFH loaded the bases again in the third on singles from Diaz and Fabian and a walk to Claire Smith. Howard drove in Diaz and Lousararian came up with two outs and the bases loaded and drove in Fabian and Smith with a single to right field, which pushed the advantage to 11-0.
"It was good because we were all nervous and it was nice to start out with a lead and come out strong in the beginning," said Lousararian, who was one for two with four RBI, of the first three innings.
Lousararian also struck out six batters through four innings in the circle with all three of Montana's runs and four of its seven hits coming in the fourth. Kendall Rauk and Chelsea Todd drove in Montana's runs with a two-RBI single and run-scoring double, respectively, in the frame.
CVFH forced the mercy rule victory with a two-out rally in the sixth that produced three more runs on two errors, a walk and a Fabian RBI single.
Adela Alatraca pitched a nearly perfect fifth and sixth inning in relief of Lousararian, as she faced just seven batters with one walk and two strikeouts.
Lousararian said the decisive win means a lot for CVFH's confidence moving forward through the Western Regional Tournament.
"It just boosts our confidence," Lousararian said. "We all know we can compete now and we know we're one of the better teams out there."