With a decade of coaching at Hammond — as an assistant and now the head coach — Brad Speierman can make a bold statement.
"This is the best hitting team at Hammond in my 10 years," he said.
With that talent, and two very promising young pitchers, Hammond has been poised to knock off someone this year.
But Mt. Hebron wasn't the victim today.
Instead, the Vikings pounded visiting Hammond for five runs in the fourth and won, 9-1, to maintain their standing in the county race.
Entering the day, Mt. Hebron, along with Howard, Glenelg and Reservoir, shared first place with two losses each. Howard also won today. Glenelg did not play today and the Reservoir at Marriotts Ridge game result was not reported by press deadline.
Maddie Bennett, a freshman, not only got the win after holding Hammond's potent offense to five hits, but she also drove in five of Mt. Hebron's runs.
Still, up until the fourth, it was a close game, and promised to continue that way.
Bridgette Vogan had scored in the bottom of the first on a sac fly by Bennett to give Mt. Hebron a 1-0 lead.
Hammond tied the game at the top of the next inning after Lauren Hutchison doubled with one out and scored on Samantha Speierman's single.
"I can see them knocking somebody off," said Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar about Hammond. "Here it is in the second inning and it's 1-1 and a close game. They are doing all the little things, they are slapping (down the ball) and doing the things that cause fits."
But Mt. Hebron did all the right things, too. Bennett didn't throw wild pitches. Her catcher today, Lindsay Bishop, didn't let balls get passed her. Offensively, the Vikings were patient at the plate, moved runners around, didn't make any baserunning errors, and got five hits off starting pitcher Emily Speierman in her 3 2/3 innings of work.
"We have to work everyday. We have to do the little things or we are in trouble," said Struhar.
Mt. Hebron took a 4-1 lead in the third, with Sammy Cadigan and Allie Bluhm scoring on Bennett's double.
Bennett retired the Bears in order in the fourth, and relied on her defense in the sixth after Jill Purdy singled to lead off that inning.
"Maddie is a just a freshman and still learning to pitch. She's focusing a lot better, though she was a little rocky" in the second inning, said Struhar. "And she's an unbelievable hitter. She hits line drives all over the place. She's going to keep getting better and better."
Bennett has 27 RBIs already this season. Bluhm, a sophomore who has an on-base average of .689, scored twice and, in the big fourth inning, pushed across teammates Aaliyah Montague-Bass and Lauren Lettieri. Bennett and Kelly Jones, who also doubled, got RBIs as well.
Molly Bishop, Bennett's courtesy runner, scored twice in the win.
Hammond (7-6; 8-6) didn't pull the upset today, but the potential is still there.
And, said Hannah Force, who caught the entire game for the Bears, the future looks promising.