This time, Glenelg's softball team didn’t wait until the seventh inning to deliver the knockout blow against Howard. Mandy Bendix and Faith Kujawa each delivered two-run home runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday afternoon, breaking open a tie game and providing the deciding runs in a 6-3 victory that keeps the Gladiators undefeated this spring.
The win also secured Glenelg (13-0, 16-0) a season sweep of Howard (9-4, 11-5), having come back to win the first meeting over the Lions back in March by scoring four times in the top of the seventh.
“I don’t know how we keep doing it, but we seem to keep finding ways to pull it off at the end of the game when it gets close,” said Bendix, whose home run in the sixth was her second of the day. “Today it was one inning earlier, but it was still those same clutch plays and hits.”
Glenelg ended up scoring all six of its runs courtesy of the long ball — a couple solo home runs from Marissa Saglimbeni (2-3 at the plate) and Bendix (2-3) in the early innings, followed by the pair of two-run blasts in the sixth. Even for a Gladiator team that is among the county leaders in home runs, the power display was a season-high.
“Everyone today was absolutely killing the ball. We even had a couple other deep fly balls that were within a couple feet from clearing the fence,” Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner said. “You could just see the focus on their faces. Our seniors here haven’t lost to Howard and that’s saying something because that is a tremendous program.
“They didn’t want today to be that first one.”
In the loss, Howard showcased its share of power as well. The Lions hit two home runs of their own, getting solo shots from Brittany Bryson in the fourth inning and Katie Wilkinson (3-4, 2 RBI) in the seventh.
It just wasn’t quite enough to keep up with the fireworks Glenelg was producing on the other side.
“I actually thought we played a very good game, they just outhit us,” Howard coach Chuck Rice said. “They hit good pitches too. Our pitchers were on today and our defense made just one error … they were just a little better. I give a lot of credit to them.”
Howard pitchers Kayli Paugh (5.1 innings, 5 strikeouts) and Courtney Merson (2 strikeouts in relief) allowed a combined nine hits and just one walk.
Glenelg simply made the most of its opportunities.
After a scoreless first two innings, Saglimbeni put the Gladiators on the board with a leadoff shot over the fence in left center.
Howard came back in the top of the fourth with Bryson’s shot over the fence in right.
Bendix delivered her first home run in the fourth for a 2-1 lead, before Howard squared things up again on an RBI double by Wilkinson in the fifth.
The Lions were threatening to take their first lead of the game in the sixth, putting runners on second and third with one out, but Glenelg pitcher Colleen Regan (7 innings, 7 strikeouts) responded with back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the jam without any damage.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Bendix came up with Leah Allen on second base and delivered another shot to left-center for her first multi-home run game of her high school career.
“After the first one I was just trying not to over hit it … definitely not trying to hit another home run. But I got one right in my zone and it just kind of happened,” Bendix said.
Two batters later, with Merson having come in to relieve Paugh, it was Kujawa’s turn. Her blast over the fence made it 6-2.
Trailing by four, Howard did get one back in the seventh on Wilkinson’s home run, but the Gladiators got a couple big plays from Allen at shortstop to close the game.
At 13-0 in the county, Glenelg remains a game ahead of Atholton in the league standings. The two teams are scheduled to meet Monday in what could amount to a county-championship game atmosphere.