River Hill leadoff hitter Kat Varga will be the first to tell you, through her first three at bats of the 3A East softball quarterfinals Monday against Atholton, she was struggling.
But, as the Hawks’ senior showcased with her team’s season on the line, it’s all about how you finish.
Varga delivered RBI singles in her final two at bats against the Raiders, including the walk-off hit down the left field line in the bottom of the eighth inning to seal the deal on a comeback, 7-6, River Hill victory.
“I was not hitting all game, I kept hitting to the same spot every time, and I was so angry,” said Varga, who had two fly outs to left and a strikeout to open her afternoon. “We had a couple situations early on where I could have gotten a hit to help the team, so I went up there at the end thinking it had to be done.
“I had to get a hit … I couldn’t let my teammates down.”
Varga’s single in the bottom of the sixth plated the second of two River Hill (14-5) runs in the inning to tie the game at 6-6. Then in the eighth inning, after River Hill had escaped a second-and-third situation with one out in the top half of the frame, Varga came up again with a runner on third and laced a hard hit down the left-field line.
The ball ended up falling just fair, plating Courtney Colosimo — who had started the inning on second base under the International Tiebreaker Rule — for the winning run.
“Kat’s had a tremendous season hitting, so she’s definitely one of the ones that I would want to have up in that situation,” River Hill coach Marni Rosenbaum said. “For her to be able to put that ball in play, in that spot, was huge.”
The victory advances River Hill into a region semifinal match-up Wednesday at home against Reservoir, which defeated Stephen Decatur, 3-0, in its quarterfinal game.
Also advancing in 3A East were Howard, a 6-3 winner over Northeast (AA), and Mt. Hebron, which defeated J.M. Bennett 8-0.
The game between River Hill and Atholton had the makings of an old-fashioned slugfest at the onset.
The visiting Raiders put three on the board in the top of the first, highlighted by a 2-RBI double by Amanda Petersen. Then, in the bottom half of the inning, River Hill answered right back with four runs of its own. Sara Mascone had a 2-RBI double, while Kallan Dirmeyer and Sabrina Curtiss each had RBI singles.
Both pitchers, however, settled in after that. Atholton’s Alex Herschman and River Hill’s Curtiss each rattled off three consecutive scoreless innings after the initial onslaught.
“It was definitely a weird game,” Varga said. “We were hitting than we all stopped … I couldn’t tell you why. And there were a bunch of errors early and then some great plays the next couple innings. Just an odd game, where you have to stay in it and just keep playing.”
It was Atholton that finally broke the scoreless drought, scoring three times in the fifth inning to grab back the lead. Again it was Petersen that delivered a big 2-RBI double, making it 6-4.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth, as River Hill got a lead-off single from Kristy Selby and then singles later in the inning from Courtney Doyle and Varga to knot the score at six.
River Hill actually had a great chance to walk off in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs and Colosimo working a quick 3-0 count. But Herschman battled back to a full count and eventually induced a pop out to left that forced extra innings.
“That was a moment that really impressed me … she’s throws another ball and the game is over, but she hung in there and gave us another chance,” Atholton coach Bob Baxter said. “We have nothing to be ashamed of, we left it all on the field just like we have all year.”
The next inning, Varga simply didn’t let another great opportunity slip by the wayside.
In the loss, Atholton got a big day from senior Melanie Berger (2-4, double) in addition to Petersen.
River Hill 7, Atholton 6 (8 innings)
123 456 78 R-H-E
A 300 030 00 6-7-0
RH 400 002 01 7-9-3
Other 3A East scores:
Howard 6, Northeast (AA) 3
The Lions fell behind by two runs early, but regrouped to score five straight runs on their way to a victory over the top-seeded team in the region.
Courtney Merson picked up the win on the pitching rubber, going the full seven innings, striking out three and allowing just eight hits.
Alli Jakubek was one of Howard’s leaders offensively with three hits, while Katie Wilkinson (2-4, triple) Taylor McGrann (1-3, 2 RBI) and Brittany Bryson (1-3, double, 2 RBI) were standouts as well.
Howard advances to face Mt. Hebron on Wednesday at 4 p.m. on the road.
123 456 7 R-H-E
Ho 002 211 0 6-12-0
N 020 010 0 3-8-1
Mt. Hebron 8, J.M. Bennett 0
The Vikings went on the road for the quarterfinals and put together a dominating performance. Evvie Buehlman pitched a shutout in the circle, while Maddie Bennett led the offense with 4 RBI.
Stephanie Bluhm also chipped in offensively with two big hits.
Alli Bluhm and Molly Bishop were on top of their game all afternoon on defense, with Bishop also chipping in with a big bunt single to help the offense.
Mt. Hebron will host Howard in the semifinals on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Reservoir 3, Stephen Decatur 0
The Gators made the long trip to the Eastern Shore and knocked off the region’s second seed on the strength of another shutout outing from pitcher Emily Wang.
Wang went the complete game, allowed just two hits and struck out three and got to pitch the entire afternoon with the lead. Reservoir scored twice in the first inning and tacked on another in the second to provide all the cushion the defense would need.
Clarke (3-4, run), Caroline Winand (2 RBI) and Anna Bennett (2-3, run) were the offensive stars for the Gators.
123 456 7 R-H-E
Re 210 000 0 3-7-3
SD 000 000 0 0-2-2