Kayli Paugh

Howard pitcher Kayli Paugh struck out seven and allowed just five hits Tuesday, helping the Lions earn a key 12-1 victory over Hammond. (File photo by Brian Krista / April 23, 2013)

Howard coach Chuck Rice had been waiting all season for his girls to put it all together. Tuesday, on the road against Hammond, he got his wish.

The Lions produced hits in bunches, got a shutdown pitching performance from Kayli Paugh and rolled their way to a convincing, 12-1, victory over the Golden Bears in five innings.

“That was our ‘A’ game … (Coach Sam Vonella) and I have been waiting all season to see a game like that from this group,” Rice said. “Our two seniors led us with their bats and everybody seemed to follow them.

“By far, that’s the best game I’ve seen these girls play.”

Howard (8-3, 10-4) scored at least one run in every inning and really broke things open in the fifth when it plated seven runs to create the game’s first double-digit advantage. All nine batters in the line-up scored at least once on the afternoon.

Senior Katie Wilkinson led the way offensively with a couple RBI on three hits, including a double and a triple. Fellow senior Julie Barnhouse also chipped in with a couple hits and two RBI.

In the circle, Paugh gave up just the one earned run — a double by Hammond’s Jill Purdy that scored Samantha Speierman (2-3) in the third inning. The Lions pitcher struck out seven batters and allowed five hits.

Samantha Speierman pitched for Hammond (8-3, 9-3) and struck out eight batters herself, but did allow 10 hits and didn't get any help from the handful of errors behind her. It was the most runs she’s surrendered all year.

Emily Speierman, who came on to finish out the fifth inning, went 2-3 at the plate for the Golden Bears.

The win was a big step forward for Howard, which already has three county losses this spring but has been playing better of late.

“We keep telling the girls that this whole season is like a journey and they have to take each game as a step down the road toward regionals and then hopefully states,” Rice said. “We’re trying to get them to learn something from each game, use it to make them better … you can see we are starting to take those steps and that’s definitely exciting.”

Howard 12, Hammond 1

            123 45             R-H-E

Ho       112 17             12-11-0

Ha       001 00             1-5-6

Other scores:

River Hill 9, Centennial 1

After two straight setbacks the Hawks got back on the winning track Tuesday, capitalizing on a four-run second inning and cruising the rest of the way.

Kristy Selby pitched for River Hill and had seven strikeouts and no walks. At the plate, Kat Varga (3-3), Meg Sterling (3-4), Kinsey Johnson (2-3) and Selby (2-3) all had big days. Courtney Colosimo added a double.

Emily Bowman led Centennial with a 3-3 day, including an RBI. Emma Harring and Jordan Burk each added doubles for the Eagles, who finished with seven hits.