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Penksa powers Foothill

Lauren Penksa’s sophomore softball season at Foothill hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.

The Falcons catcher missed time to focus on her academics and was moved out of a power slot in the batting order to the No. 8 position.

But from that spot Tuesday, Penksa came up with the biggest hit of her team’s season.

Penksa slammed a 1-0 pitch into left field with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Rhiana Balaun with the winning run as the Falcons (15-10, 8-5 Southeast) clinched a Sunrise Region playoff berth with a 2-1 win over visiting Liberty.

“I don’t feel like my year has been bad,” Penksa said. “I feel like last year, I might have come out harder. Now that I’ve moved to the eight-hole, it feels good to pick up the back half of the lineup, because that’s my job. If the team needs me there, I’m there for them.”

Penksa hit .410 with 24 RBIs as a freshman but had knocked in only 11 runs this season.

“She missed out on a lot of games, and I think she’s pushing herself, thinking what she’s done in the past and putting a little more pressure on herself,” Foothill coach Tom Mayes said. “But having her hitting eighth, she’s still going to get some runs batted in. That’s why I have her there, hoping for something like this to happen.”

Mayes and Penksa couldn’t have drawn it better in the ninth.

Balaun led off the inning and reached base on an error.

Alex Petrolia muscled a single through the middle to move Balaun to second. After a fly out, Palmer Bosanko slapped a single into right.

Liberty right fielder Diana Cassaro came up with the ball quickly and fired a one-hop strike to the plate to hold Balaun at third.

She didn’t stay there for long.

Penksa’s drive hit the left-field fence on one bounce to end the game.

“It was a middle-in pitch,” Penksa said. “If the ball hit the grass, the run scored. It could have been a sac fly, it could’ve been anything. I just wanted to hit it out of the infield.”

Each team scored a run in the sixth, with Liberty’s coming on Francesca Foti’s one-out RBI infield single.

Foothill’s Pamela Sakuma executed a delayed steal of home in the bottom of the inning to tie the score.

“We chanced it,” Mayes said. “We’ve done that once before, and it really sparked us.”

Petrolia tossed a six-hitter for the Falcons, working out of early trouble to allow one walk and strike out six.

The Falcons, who completed a regular-season sweep of Liberty (18-10, 7-6), can still finish as the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed in the Southeast League.

“I haven’t had butterflies in a long time, but before this game, I had them,” Mayes said.

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