Liberty sophomore Francesca Foti took a secret onto the field Wednesday.
The Patriots’ starting pitcher was battling a severe cold and wasn’t even certain she would be able to play.
Foothill never noticed.
Foti overcame her illness to strike out 12 batters, and she helped herself by going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs to lead Liberty to an 8-2 victory over the Falcons (17-13) in the Sunrise Region playoffs at Majestic Park.
The win lifted the Patriots into Thursday’s semifinal round, where they will play Green Valley at 6 p.m.
“I’m sick right now, but I think I actually play better when I’m sick,” Foti said. “I think I play better when I’m under pressure. It was hard to breathe, but I just worked through it.”
Foti’s teammates made her job a little easier by providing run support, starting in the opening inning. Megan Patras lined an RBI single to left field to give Liberty a 1-0 lead.
Diana Cassaro then helped the Patriots (23-8) jump out to a 4-0 lead in the third by driving in two runs with a single to left field.
Foothill scored a run in the fourth and another in the seventh, but Liberty’s four-run seventh gave Foti some breathing room. Carson Cooper’s home run in the sixth sealed the victory for the Patriots.
Liberty coach Kris Jensen said he never doubted Foti would come through, even with the health concerns.
“She’s been a go-to spark plug for us this year,” he said. “She’s pretty much been the pitcher who has won all our big games.”
Jensen said the win was particularly satisfying because it kept his team in the tourney’s winners bracket.
“It’s really hard once you lose a game, because then you have to play that back-to-back doubleheader (to get into the finals)” the coach said. “It’s important to stay in the winners bracket to give yourself an opportunity (to qualify for the state tournament).”
Cassandra English went 2-for-3 for the Patriots, and teammate Megan Patras was 2-for-4.
Myranda Mortel and Aricia Dami each had two hits for Foothill.
Green Valley 2, Basic 1 — A key ninth-inning error by the Wolves put Alicia Firelein at third base, and Carly Aughney drove her in with a single to right field to give the Gators a dramatic extra-inning win.
Green Valley (26-6) scored a run in the first, but Basic (19-6) knotted the score with one in the fifth, and the teams remained deadlocked until Augney’s late heroics.
Desiree Laswell tossed a complete-game six-hitter for Green Valley to earn the victory.
Firelein led the offense with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate.
The Wolves will play Las Vegas (21-9) in an elimination game Thursday at 4 p.m.
Valley 4, Eldorado 3 — Winning pitcher Mickayla Romero drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the fifth, and the Vikings held on to complete a comeback victory over the Sundevils in an elimination game.
Taylor Schroeder was 2-for-3 to help Eldorado (15-15), which scored three runs in the first inning.
But Cristina Medina, Zoe Galindo and Romero had key hits in the fifth to help the Vikings (16-13) rally.
Las Vegas 4, Rancho 1 — Monique Hernandez threw a one-hitter, striking out 13, to help the Wildcats (21-9) eliminate the Rams (11-20).
Hernandez also went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs for Las Vegas, and teammate Jasmina Salas was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Wildcats scored all four of their runs in the third inning.