Foothill's Alex Petrolia had every reason to be nervous Monday, but she wasn't.
The senior pitcher remained calm and collected, even after falling behind in a game holding significant playoff ramifications.
Confident that her team would rally, Petrolia withstood the early deficit and tossed a four-hitter to lead the Falcons to a 3-2 home win over Coronado. The victory propelled Foothill into first place in the Southeast League.
"I tried not to put too much pressure on myself," said Petrolia, whose team can clinch the league title with a victory over Liberty on Wednesday or against Tech on Thursday. "I was confident in our hitting, so I tried not to stress out."
Petrolia's offense did not let her down. Hannah Stevens' fourth-inning slap single to the left side of the infield worked its way between two Cougars gloves to make the difference, driving in the third and ultimately decisive run for Foothill.
The Falcons (20-7, 10-2 Southeast) squandered opportunities in the first two innings, blowing their first chance when a runner was thrown out at the plate in the first and another by hitting into a bases-loaded double play in the second.
Even so, Petrolia said she was encouraged by the early action.
"I was happy about all the early hits," said Petrolia, who struck out six. "Usually we don't score until late, so those first two innings were comforting."
The Cougars (19-10, 10-3) broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth when Danielle Amato led off with a double to left field and Kiley Harrison drove in courtesy runner Emily Hendrix by legging a two-out infield single.
"I knew it was going to be decided by one or two runs either way," Foothill coach Tom Mayes said. "But the girls have never let anything get to them. Adversity has hit us a few times, and they've learned to battle."
Foothill scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the fourth. After Pamela Sakuma and Gabby Canibeyaz opened the inning with singles, Sakuma scored on a passed ball. Lauren Penksa followed with an RBI single off the glove of Coronado right fielder Aysha Sipe, setting up Stevens' timely hit that gave the Falcons a 3-1 lead.
The Cougars got one back in the fifth inning on an RBI fielder's choice by Alyssa Ayers.
But Petrolia did not allow a hit after the fourth inning, and she retired the last six batters to earn the victory.
"(Petrolia) has been doing a good job all year," Mayes said. "She kept the ball down and gave the infield a chance to make plays today."
Canibeyaz went 3-for-4 to lead Foothill, and teammates Penksa and Stevens added two hits apiece.
Ayers went 2-for-4 to lead the Cougars.