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.
“This group of girls is very, very resilient. They don't worry about the things in the past, like the end of that first game,” Rice said. “They knew that they could come out and get on top, and that’s exactly what they did. Our bats set the tone and let our pitching do the rest.”
McGrann was the offensive star of the day for the Lions, going a combined 8-9 between the two contests.
“Chesapeake was a really big game personally for me, and for the team, because last year we had been up on them, we thought we had the game and somehow they came back and beat us,” McGrann said. “That was definitely a tough loss and something we all remembered today. I came out ready to play.”
Despite losing its opening game of the tournament against North Harford, Centennial coach Katie Grimm said that she was extremely pleased with the effort of her girls.
So Grimm wasn’t one bit surprised when her team came out in game two and put everything together for a lopsided, 10-4, win over North County.
“We played a great defensive game the first game, but the bats weren’t quite there. I was proud of them, though, for carrying that high intensity of defense into this game and they got the reward because of it,” Grimm said.
Emily Bowman starred on the mound and Centennial took advantage of some North County defensive miscues to string together a couple big innings.
After dropping five of their first seven games of the season, the Eagles have now rebounded to win three of their last four, including a 6-3 win over county-leader Howard right before break.
“We’re very young and we know that. I feel like we just needed time to be able to trust each other and get comfortable playing with one another,” Grimm said. “We are finally getting to the point now where we are just playing really good team softball.”
Roberts lifts Atholton
Prior to Saturday’s tournament, Atholton had been on the wrong end of three games decided by two runs or less. Thanks to a clutch 3-RBI double by Kaya Roberts in the bottom of the fourth inning against North County, though, the Raiders finally managed to get on the other side of one of those close games.
“It all boils to preparation. Kaya has spent the whole year working so hard improving her game … and she did a great job there hitting the ball where it was pitched,” Atholton coach Bob Baxter said.. “It was an outside pitch and Kaya executed with a drive to right field. Really, a great job of timely hitting and that’s something we’ve kind of struggled with a little bit so far.
“It was a huge boost to the team to have her come through there.”
Atholton pitcher Alex Herschman did the rest to secure the 4-3 win, as she finished with 13 strikeouts on the day. Three of those strikeouts came in the final inning, helping her close the door after Sydney McCain had launched her second home run of the day to bring North County within a run.
In the second game of the day, Atholton was shutout by North Harford.
Reservoir rides defense
Emily Wang pitched a pair of gems, combining for 19 strikeouts and just two runs against in a pair of complete-game efforts in the circle.
Her efforts, including a one-hitter in a shutout of Old Mill, allowed the Gators to emerge from the day with a win and a tie.
“I honestly can’t say enough good things about Emily,” Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said. “She is a hard worker and is obviously the glue that holds this together. Today, I know was challenging, so I kept talking to her between innings. Like in the fifth inning of that second game, it was just nine more batters … sixth inning, just six more batters. She was so strong for us out there today.”
In a second game where Reservoir managed just six hits against Arundel, Wang’s effort was critical. Just as big, though, were the plays by the defense around her, including catcher Anna Bennett picking off one runner and catching another stealing.
Bennett then also added a 2-4 effort against Arundel at the plate, going with her identical 2-4 line against Old Mill. Monica Lamm also went 2-4 against Arundel, with her and Bennett each plating a run to account for the team’s scoring.
Against Old Mill, Tara Thompson (3-3) and Caroline Winand (2-4) were offensive standouts.
River Hill wins one, loses one at Cavalier Classic
The Hawks beat Urbana, 4-2, and lost to Leonardtown, 4-3, in its two games Saturday.
Against Urbana, Kristy Selby struck out six, walked one and gave up two earned runs — both in the fourth inning. In the field, Caroline Hickey and Courtney Colosimo each produced big plays.
At the plate in the victory, River Hill got a triple apiece from Colosimo and Sara Mascone.
Against Leonardtown, the Hawks found themselves down by a run going to the seventh inning. With two outs, though, the team staged a rally led by a single by Kinsey Johnson, Kallan Dirmeyer getting hit by a pitch and Sabrina Curtiss delivering a single of her own to set up Johnson being able to score on a throwing error to tie the game.
But Leonardtown escaped the inning without further damage and then delivered a walk-off home run in the bottom half of the frame.
Curtiss pitched well in the defeat, striking out five and walking none.
River Hill 4, Urbana 2
123 456 7 R-H-E
U 000 200 0 2-4-1
RH 110 002 x 4-4-1
Leonardtown 4, River Hill 3
123 456 7 R-H-E
RH 011 000 1 3-4-0
L 003 000 1 4-12-4