Amato hurls Coronado softball past Foothill for Southeast crown

Danielle Amato had just allowed her first hit Wednesday — a go-ahead, two-run single in the third inning — when she decided it was time to have a quick chat with herself.

So, the junior pitcher for the Coronado softball team turned and briefly stared daggers at the left-field scoreboard.

“Honestly, I looked at the score and told myself, ‘They’re not going to get any more,’ ” Amato said. “I had faith my team would back me up the entire way.”

The host Cougars manufactured two runs in the bottom of the third to regain the lead, and Amato made it stand up as Coronado held on for a 3-2 win over Foothill.

The win gave third-ranked Coronado the outright Southeast League title. The Cougars (22-10, 10-0) will host the Northeast League’s No. 4 seed at 4 p.m. Monday when the Sunrise Region playoffs open.

No. 8 Foothill (22-13, 8-2), which would have earned the top seed with a victory, also will host a playoff game Monday against the Northeast’s No. 3 seed.

“We had set several goals at the beginning of the season, and this was the first one,” Coronado coach Missy Krueger said. “It’s nice to get that taken care of. We knew we would have to go through Foothill to get that done.”

Amato retired the Falcons’ first seven batters before two Coronado errors allowed Foothill to threaten with one out in the third inning.

With runners on second and third, Amato thought she struck out Foothill leadoff hitter RaeAnn Brems on a 1-and-2 changeup. But the pitch was called a ball, and Brems lined the next pitch to right for a two-run single that put the Falcons up 2-1.

Amato got out of the jam with no further damage and allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way. She gave up three hits and struck out six.

“I think we made enough contact, it was just up in the air,” said Foothill coach Tom Mayes, whose team had eight flyball outs. “In a game like this for first or second in league, it comes down to who executes and who doesn’t, and they executed a little more than we did.”

Falcons starter Vanessa Parrales kept Coronado in check early with a steady diet of changeups before the Cougars went ahead for good in the third.

Emily Hendrix scored on an error following Kendall Sauter’s bunt single, and Kiley Harrison swiped home on a double steal one batter later to break a 2-all tie.

Alex Battest’s run-scoring double put the Cougars up 1-0 in the second inning.

“This was big for us,” Amato said. “They took the league title away from us last year, so this was our revenge season. Nobody was going to take it away from us. We worked too hard.”