GLENDALE — In an initial meeting, the Crescenta Valley Red Hots major softball team suffered a mercy-rule loss at the hands of the Tujunga Bulldogs that dropped them to the bottom bracket of the Tri-Cities District 16 Tournament of Champions.
Undeterred, the Red Hots battled back to win their next two games, setting up a rematch with the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Scholl Canyon with a chance to play for the title on the line.
Saturday turned out to be a completely different story, but the same result, as the Red Hots gave the Bulldogs all they could handle, overcoming an early deficit and scoring five runs in the final two innings before falling just short, 9-8.
“I’m so proud of these girls. I can’t really say much more,” Red Hot Coach David Fox said. “They were in this game through the entire six innings. It was a great job.”
The Bulldogs (22-2), who led, 5-0, after one inning, carried a 9-5 advantage into the bottom of the sixth.
With one out, the Red Hots got their next two batters to reach base. Starting pitcher Liz Meza, who had pitched the first four innings, then came back to the circle to face Red Hot Brianna McReynolds. McReynolds hit the fourth pitch of her at-bat just over the second base bag, driving in two, and raced around the bases for a triple.
“Basically what we were doing was fake bunting until we got them to throw strikes,” McReynolds said, “and when I finally got the perfect pitch I tried to lob it over the outfielder. It didn’t work, but luckily the outfielder was just walking to the ball, so I was able to get to third and I slid in.”
Crescenta Valley’s Elizabeth Heinemann then struck out, but she made it a productive one. After the Tujunga catcher dropped the third strike, she hustled down the line, forcing the Bulldogs catcher to throw her out, allowing McReynolds to score and cutting the lead to a single run. However, that would be as close as the Red Hots would get as Meza recorded her ninth strikeout of the contest to end the game.
“We would have rather won, but a loss is OK the way they played,” Fox said.
The Red Hots (14-10) fell into an early hole, giving up five runs in the first innings due to a combination of less-than-crisp fielding and strong Bulldogs hitting. Taylor Hoogenhuizen, who went the distance for the Red Hots in the circle, finally struck out her second batter of the frame to end the inning.
“Getting a lead early and putting the pressure on the other team is one of the most important things we can do,” Bulldogs Coach Brian Oost said. “We came out and put five on them in the first inning and that kind of really set the tone for us throughout and kept them on their heels the rest of the game.”
Crescenta Valley put up single runs against the Bulldogs in the second through fourth innings.
Hanna Wright got it started in the second with a clean single to left field to drive in Hoogenhuizen. Amy Wurst led off the bottom of the third with an inside-the-park home run hammered to left-center.
In the fourth, the Red Hots’ run came without the benefit of a hit. Everly Pompa led off, drawing a walk before stealing second and advancing to third on an errant pitch. Pompa then came in to score on an Alisa Meduedeva groundout.
The Red Hots then scored two runs in the fifth, once again without the benefit of a hit. Bulldogs pitcher Lauren Coronado walked the bases loaded with one out. Hoogenhuizen then hit an RBI groundout. Pompa followed with a fielder’s choice that scored McReynolds. Two batters later, the bases were full again with the tying run at the plate before Coronado escaped with a strikeout.
With the win on Saturday, the Tujunga Bulldogs advance to play Crescenta Valley San Filippo Monday in the title game.