All postseason long Crescenta Valley-Foothill has been able to rely on its potent offense and strong pitching to not only keep it in games but win them, as it hadn't dropped a game yet.
That all changed Friday when CVFH suffered its first loss to Alaska, 10-6, in the second round of the Western Regional Junior All-Star Softball Tournament Friday at Arthur Pack Regional Park in Arizona.
Alaska had a number of seeing-eye base hits, CVFH Coach Will Thayer said, while what's been a hot CVFH offense went cold with just five hits in the game. Jordan Lousararian, who's been nothing but dependable in the circle as the CVFH ace, struggled in her second start in as many days with temperatures near or over 100 degrees.
"We did not play well at all," said Thayer, whose team also committed four errors. "We didn't have a hit until the [third] inning. The bats were off and their [pitcher] wasn't throwing that well so I don't know what was going on."
Alaska starting pitcher Lauren Syrup walked five but gave up just one hit and struck out six batters in four innings.
Offensively, Alaska got out to a quick start, as its first three batters logged singles to start the game with Morgan Hill driving home the first run of the game with a blooper to left field.
"Right out of the shoot they had a bunch of little dingers and everything fell for them, really for the whole game," said Thayer of Alaska, which racked up 16 hits in the game. "Not to take anything away from them, they have some big girls who can hit, but they had a lot of hits that came off the end of the bat. They found every hole today and we didn't find any."
Nanea Tali drove in another Alaska run with a hard grounder to third. The ball was fielded and thrown home, but not in time to catch Leiani Blair at the plate. Hill put Alaska up, 3-0, when she took home on a double steal, while Tali was thrown out at second.
While Alaska strung together five hits and sent 11 batters to the plate for its three runs in the first, CVFH had to scratch out its two runs without the benefit of a hit in the first.
Sammy Fabian drew a leadoff walk and moved to second when she beat out a throw on a grounder to the pitcher from Camie Ellingford. A passed ball moved Fabian and Ellingford up a base and they both scored on a wild pitch and passed ball, respectively.
Two singles and a walk led to another Alaska run in the second, as Blair scored on a two-out Felila Manu single to center field. A pair of CVFH errors and two more Alaska singles led to another run in the third.
"Well, [Lousararian] has been so successful and has really become our ace, she just wasn't sharp today," said Thayer, adding that the heat may have been to blame. "I think she was a little worn out."
Lousararian broke up Alaska's bid for a no-hitter in the bottom of the third when she singled to right field with two outs and moved to second on a throwing error. She moved to third and then scored on two wild pitches to cut Alaska's lead to two, 5-3, to keep hope alive for CVFH.
"We hung with them and through the middle of the game it was pretty close, but we gave up four more runs in the fourth," Thayer said.
Four hits and two wild pitches led to four more Alaska runs in the top of the fourth to push its advantage to 9-3.
CVFH kept itself in contention by loading the bases in the fifth on an error, fielder's choice and walk. Adela Alatraca brought home a run with a bases-loaded walk and Miranda Diaz plated Lousararian with a ground ball to first that was fielded and fired home but not in time, which cut the lead to 9-5.
There was no big hit for CVFH, though, as a Paige Baker grounder to third was fielded and thrown home in time to keep Ellingford from scoring. The inning ended on a ground out to shortstop.
Claire Smith and Alex Howard (two for four) started the bottom of the sixth with a single and double, respectively, but Smith was thrown out at home on a ground ball to shortstop and Howard scored on a Lousararian grounder to the pitcher to cap the scoring for CVFH.
"We kept coming back," Thayer said. "We had our chances but we just couldn't pull the big hit when we needed it."
An already-thin CVFH roster — with Callie Ellingford playing through a sprained ankle and two unavailable players — was dealt a big blow in the second inning when leadoff hitter and second baseman Fabian was injured on a double-play attempt at second base. An Alaska base runner upended Fabian, who came down on her back and near her neck. She wasn't moved for about a half hour while she was evaluated for a neck injury. Fabian didn't return and is questionable for tomorrow's game, Thayer said.
Thayer fully expects CVFH to rebound Saturday at 5 p.m. in a loser's bracket game with the winner of the Montana-Idaho game Friday.
"I told them it's all good, every team has a loss every once in awhile," Thayer said. "Tomorrow is a new day, go home and get some sleep and use it as a learning experience."