It has been at least 20 years since the Arundel softball team made an appearance in the county championship game.
The streak is now over.
Tiffany Jerman drove in Madison Gentry with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Grace Palmieri set Northeast down on four batters in the top of the seventh to escape with a 4-3 win to earn the right to face Chesapeake in Tuesday's county title game.
"Knowing I had someone on third, I knew that if I could knock them in it would be the game-winning hit and it would take us on to win counties as a team. I don't think we've ever done that at Arundel," Jerman said. "I knew if I could get a hit it would be something special. Over the years, this program has changed drastically. It wasn't so great my freshman year now we have so much team chemistry and we are really so close, which we never had before since I've been here. It will be very exciting to play for the county championship."
Arundel and Chesapeake split their two meetings this year. The Wildcats defeated the Cougars, 10-3, on March 30, but the Cougars returned the favor with a 10-4 victory on Monday.
"I'm so happy for the girls that we will be representing Arundel in the county championship game this year. It has been a while since we've been there," Arundel coach Lisa Mills said. "We were an out away last year, so to come back this year and get there is really great. All the credit to the girls for working hard and hanging in there."
The game started out with a great play in the top of the first when Kaelyn Lavin threw out Sarah Gordon, who singled on the second pitch of the contest, at third base for the final out of the frame.
Then controversy took over after Cheyenne Starr led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and moved to second on a throwing error. Jerman sacrificed her to third, but it was determined that Jerman batted out of order. Palmieri lofted a sacrifice fly to score Starr to give the hosts an early 1-0 advantage. As fate, and the umpires, would have it, Jerman made two outs in the inning.
Both starting pitchers, Arundel's Madison Gentry and Northeast's Jenna Matulonis, worked out of bases-loaded jams with one out in the second, with both using a strikeout for the second out and Gentry getting a pop out and Matulonis inducing a ground out for the third out.
The Wildcats had runners at first and second with one out in the third, but a liner back to Matulonis turned into a double play when she caught the runner off first.
Matulonis led off the fourth with a single and courtesy runner Makenzie Prince advanced to second on a wild pitch. An error put runners on second and third with one out, when Melanie Kral lifted a short fly to center for the second out. Prince was cut down at the plate for the third out on a perfect throw by Cheetham to end that threat.
Arundel scored twice in its half of the fourth as Steffany Jerman (2 for 3) bunted for a single and Maddy Miller reached on an infield hit. Palmieri drove in Jerman with the second Wildcats run and Gentry followed with a hit, scoring Miller to give Arundel a 3-0 lead, chasing Matulonis in favor of Christina Jordan.
The Eagles got back in the game in the fifth when Chelsey Manasala and Gordon had one-out singles and Maria Weddle tripled to right to score the pair.
Alexis Brengle started Northeast's half of the sixth with a double to right, but was caught trying to stretch it into a triple by a perfect relay from Kaelyn Lavin to Steffany Jerman to Caroline Mills for the out. Kral turned on the next pitch and launched it over the wall in left for the tying home run.
"We just wanted to make Arundel make plays. We wanted to be aggressive and force them to make perfect throws," said acting Northeast coach Steve Gorrick, who was substituting for head coach Joe Hart, who is out of the country on business. "I have to give Arundel credit. They made the plays. All three times they were good throws. But I have to give our girls credit for staying focused and staying in the game. They showed a lot of heart coming right back into this game after getting down 3-0."
Mills, whose team totaled 16 hits as everyone in her lineup had at least one, has ridden the arms of her outfield and the bats of her squad all season to get to the 17-3 mark.
"We've had a lot of runners thrown out from the outfield this year. I think Faith (Cheetham) has maybe five this year and Kaelyn (Lavin), our right fielder has a couple as well. So much credit goes to them for their work on their throws and hitting the cut-off," Mills said. "And our hitting has been there all year as well. Up and down our lineup, we can expect hits from any of them. It's leaving girls on base that has been an issue, just like it was today."
The Wildcats stranded 12 runners on base, with eight left in scoring position over the six at-bats.
Gentry finished 3 for 4 with a double, Miller went 2 for 3 with a double, while Starr, Caroline Mills, and both Tiffany and Steffany Jerman each had two hits. Brengle and Gordon were the only Eagles with two hits.
WP: Palmieri. LP: Jordan. 2B: NE - Brengle; AR - Miller, Gentry. 3B: NE - Weddle. HR: NE - Kral. RBI: NE - Weddle 2, Kral; AR - Palmieri 2, Gentry, T. Jerman.