Glen Burnie - In a rematch of last year's MPSSAA Class 1A softball state semifinal matchup, the Perryville Panthers were once again stopped one step short of the Maryland championship game, beaten, 4-3, by the Mountain Ridge Miners on Tuesday afternoon at Bachman Park.
In last year's contest, the Panthers suffered a 1-0, eight-inning defeat. This time around, they were able to provide a bit more offense, thanks to a tip offered by head coach Rusty Moore before the top of the third inning, when visiting Perryville, trailing 1-0, was set to take the plate.
"I told them that the umpire's strike zone was pretty low, from about the belly button down, and that we should not even swing at their pitcher's rise ball," Moore said of his between-inning pep talk. "I also saw that she changed her grip when she threw her rise ball. She held it with three fingers, and everything else was a fastball, so I told the girls to look for that, and to let that pitch go. We faced this same pitcher last year, and it was something we didn't pick up on. This time we were able to pick up on what she was throwing and had a pretty good inning in the third."
The tip worked, and the Panthers managed to load the bases with just one out. Bethany Rinehart came to the plate and smoked the first pitch she saw up the middle for a game-tying, RBI single. Panther pitcher Lindsey Poore stepped up next and stroked an opposite-field base hit to right, scoring two teammates and putting the Panthers ahead, 3-1.
Poore, who surrendered Mountain Ridge's first tally in the bottom of the second on a solo, in-the-park home run, got out of a jam in the bottom of the third, when Mountain Ridge put two runners in scoring position with two down. The Perryville hurler ended the inning with a strikeout, blowing a high fastball by the Miners' hitter.
Poore tossed a perfect fourth, then ran into a little trouble in the fifth, allowing one run. With two outs and two runners one base, Poore surrendered a fly ball to short center field that looked like it might drop in, but Marissa Phillips made a running, basket catch to retire the side.
Phillips kicked off the sixth inning with a single to left, but was caught at second on a sacrifice bunt attempt, while the next two Panther hitters went down in order.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Miners attacked Poore, scoring twice on three straight singles to go ahead, 4-3. With the bases loaded and no one out, Poore reached back and got back-to-back groundouts to shortstop Rinehart, then ended the rally with a strikeout.
"Lindsey has done that all season," Moore said. "She's a great pitcher, tough. She's going to work hard no matter what. That's why she was pitching here today, to give us a chance to win a state championship. I couldn't be more proud of her."
Trailing, 4-3, in the top of the seventh, Perryville's Kaitlyn Willis led off the inning with a single up the middle. She stole second after Rinehart was retired on a foul out to the catcher, and Poore, representing the go-ahead run, dropped a single into left field. The Panthers rally fizzled, however, as the next two Perryville hitters were retired on a foul out to first base and a grounder to second, respectively.
"We had a great season," Moore said. "I feel bad for our seniors, having to go out that way, but they did a great job. We had a lot of expectations this season, because of how far we got last year. We lost to this same team last year. We talked all year about coming back here and about putting the dagger in when you've got a chance. We didn't quite do that today."