On the heels of having this year’s season-opening District V softball showcase event being canceled because of rain, a few of Howard and Anne Arundel county’s top teams got a chance to square off in a similar head-to-head format on Saturday.
Playing in a two-game mixer format, 20 teams were in attendance at the Bachman Sports Complex for the inaugural Anne Arundel County Spring Break Tournament. And on a day filled with big match-ups, Howard County emerged as the big winner.
The five Howard schools in attendance — Atholton, Centennial, Howard, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir — managed to combine for a 6-2-2 mark on the day.
“I know none of us got to play Northeast, but I think everyone kind of enjoyed the chance to see some of our best against their best,” said Howard coach Chuck Rice, whose squad tied Glen Burnie, 5-5, before beating Chesapeake, 8-2. “And I think you saw today that our county is right there at that (top) level. I think you go through cycles and, right now, you are seeing a peak cycle for Howard County.”
Mt. Hebron was among the day’s biggest winners, with the Vikings taking down Severna Park, 7-3, and then backing that victory up with a 4-3 win over Glen Burnie.
The tournament’s other double winners were North Harford — which defeated Centennial, 6-2, and Atholton, 5-0 — C.M. Wright, Broadneck and Northeast.
Northeast, which shutout Huntingtown and Seton Keough, was technically crowned as champions thanks to its two victories and having the fewest runs against.
Reservoir, like Howard, went 1-0-1 with a win over Old Mill, 7-0, to go with a tie against Arundel, 2-2.
Centennial and Atholton each earned splits on the day, balancing the losses to North Harford with each picking up a win over North County.
Mt. Hebron firing on all cylinders
The Vikings came into Saturday’s tournament having won eight straight games and simply continued that momentum.
The team put two runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning against Severna Park and then added another three in the second on a 3-RBI triple off the fence by Alli Bluhm. Mt. Hebron never looked back en route to the four-run victory, 7-3.
“We have been working a lot in practice on seeing the ball and on bat speed, which has really turned things around for me because earlier this season I wasn’t seeing the ball well at all and just guessing where the pitches were,” said Bluhm, who currently leads the county in extra-base hits. “Now I’m just looking for it and hitting what I like.”
Mt. Hebron, which got a strong effort by pitcher Evvie Buehlman in the win over the Falcons, then handed the ball to Maddie Bennett in game two against Glen Burnie and she picked right up where Buehlman left off.
Bennett pitched seven innings, striking out 12 and walking none to help hold on to the lead Mt. Hebron had grabbed with three runs in the fifth inning.
“The reason I wanted to get in this tournament was to get to play some other really good teams and get a chance to prove that we can compete in this setting,” Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar said. “We are playing pretty well right now, really starting to hit the ball, and I thought this was a nice little test for us to see where we are at.”
Howard finishes strong
After leading almost the entire way against Glen Burnie in the opening game of the day for both teams, the Lions surrendered three runs in the top of the sixth and ended up having to settle for a tie. Glen Burnie’s Alyssa Allender provided the big hit in the comeback to drive in two of the late runs.
However, against Chesapeake in the afternoon contest, Howard not only started fast but was able to finish strong as well. Through the first two innings, Kayli Paugh and Courtney Merson each had RBI hits and Taylor McGrann crossed the plate twice as part of an early 4-1 Howard lead.
That turned out to be more than enough for Paugh on the mound, who proceeded to shut down a Chesapeake team that had already lost to CM Wright, 5-1, in its first game of the day. She finished with 11 strikeouts and allowed just two runs.