Strong pitching, clutch hitting lifts Howard softball past Broadneck

The way Howard’s pitching duo of Courtney Merson and Kayli Paugh were throwing through the first five innings Saturday against Broadneck, Howard catcher Alli Jakubek knew the team’s offense simply had to give them something to work with.

So, as Jakubek stepped to the plate with two runners on in a scoreless game in the top of the sixth, she knew it was time to deliver.

“Our whole mindset was score. We didn't have anything else to think about, just hit the ball in the right spots and make something happen,” Jakubek said. “We needed to break through and take some of the pressure off (our defense) and that (sixth) inning was a great opportunity.”

Lacing a hard-hit double to center field, Jakubek drove in Taylor McGrann (3-4 with two doubles) to get the Lions on the board and provide what ended up being the game-winning run in a 2-0 victory on the road.

Howard (1-0) later added an insurance run in the seventh on a RBI single by McGrann, which was more than enough for Paugh, who ended up striking out five over the final two innings. For the game, Merson and Paugh combined to allow just one Broadneck hit.

“Phenomenal pitching for us,” Howard coach Chuck Rice said. “Courtney was keeping the ball low and Kayli was overpowering with the rise ball. I thought both pitchers were at the high quality level that I expected them to be at.”

Howard’s duo on the bump had to be at their best because Broadneck (0-1) pitcher Ally Thompson had tremendous stuff as well. The freshman, making her debut, kept the Lions scoreless through the first five innings.

During that stretch, a double by McGrann and an error that allowed Shannon Wiley to reach, accounted for Howard’s only base runners.

“She had a fantastic game I thought, especially for a first game at the high school level,” Broadneck coach Deanna Romeo-Hamilton said. “I was very impressed with her composure, especially right away in the first inning when they got a runner on third with one out. She held it together the whole way and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.”

Merson pitched the first four innings for Howard, scattering a double by Broadneck’s Gabby Henson and a pair of walks. Then Paugh came in for the fifth and pitched a scoreless frame to set up the decisive sixth inning.

McGrann led off with a double, followed by a SAC bunt by Merson. Paugh then reached on a fielder’s indifference trying to keep McGrann on third, which set the stage for Jakubek.

The Lions’ insurance run came in the seventh, with Lori Sena stepping in as a pinch-hitter with two outs and roping a double to left field. McGrann came up next and delivered her third hit of the day to bring the run in.

“That second run was huge … Lori coming up big with the double and Taylor McGrann, what can I say? She hit the ball hard all day,” Rice said.

Paugh, who finished with six strikeouts in three innings, did the rest.

“I definitely felt good today … my fast ball was definitely at its best,” Paugh said. “I felt comfortable with my change-up, but we were coming out for the strikeout with my drop curve or the rise.”

For Howard, the victory was a great way to start off a brutal opening stretch to the season. Including the Broadneck game, the team has five games in seven days and all but one of those contests are against teams that had winning records last season.

“Starting off on a high note is definitely key to the rest of our week,” Jakubek said.

The next game on tap, against Mt. Hebron on Monday, has a little extra meaning for the Lions.

“Monday is obviously important because they bumped us out of the playoffs last year and then hopefully if we can win that it can boost us even more for the rest of the games next week,” Paugh said.

Howard 2, Broadneck 0

            123 456 7        R-H-E

Ho       000 001 1        2-6-0

B         000 000 0        0-1-2

Other scores:

Glen Burnie 9, Atholton 8

The Raiders ended up falling a run short in a slugfest against the Gophers, who scored the decisive run in the bottom of the sixth courtesy of an RBI triple by Jessica Robinson that scored Ali Moos.

But despite falling short, Atholton coach Bobby Baxter was thrilled with his team’s performance and fight against a Glen Burnie team that was a Class 4A finalist last season and comes into this spring ranked No. 2 by the Baltimore Sun.

“To play and compete like that with a tough team like Glen Burnie, a highly ranked team, it had me very excited for this season,” Baxter said. “We had that fighting mentality and that fire. It would have been a shame to come out here and lose by eight or nine runs, so to come out and play them to the final inning is a great sign going forward.”

After the two teams exchanged runs early, Glen Burnie looked poised to break things open after a five-run third inning. In that frame, the Gophers got home runs from Robinson and Hannah Eslick, along with doubles from Amanda Varden and Ali Moos.

But Atholton came out and answered right away in the top of the fourth with five runs of its own. Kaya Roberts and Amanda Petersen each delivered key hits in the inning, but it was a 3-RBI triple by Maya Schwartz that served as the biggest blow.

“Maya Schwartz came in here when the game was 6-1 and said to the girls, ‘this is not over yet.’ Then she came out the next inning and gets that huge triple,” Baxter said. “It starts with the captains, Maya, Alex (Herschman) and Jaimie Cardea … they kept their heads up, didn’t give up and led us back.”

After Herschman (eight strikeouts) pitched a scoreless bottom of the fourth, the Raiders grabbed their first lead with two more runs in the top of the fifth. In that frame, Danielle Dolbow and Gina D’Asto each reached base after being hit by a pitch and eventually came around to score. Herschman delivered a key RBI-single along the way.

It was in that top of the fifth inning that Atholton also chase Moos, who was the starting pitcher for Glen Burnie, out of the circle. The Gophers opted to turn to Ashley Gardner in relief.

“Ali Moos likes to work the plate, so I told the girls I wanted them to take a pitch and get into the count a little bit. I felt like we got to the point where Ali was getting a little tired and we made her work,” Baxter said. “She has a fantastic rise ball, but we made her bring the ball down in the zone and that allowed us to get the bat on the ball.”

Glen Burnie’s bats kept coming, though. In the fifth inning, a pinch-hit double by Jaelyn Belt plated two and tied the game at 8-8.

Then in the sixth, Moos started things with a double and then scored the go-ahead run on Robinson’s line-drive over the outfielder’s head in left.

Atholton had a great chance to tie the game in the seventh when Allison Orlosky led off with a triple. But Orlosky ended up being thrown out at home the very next batter when she tried to score on a bunt attempt.

Petersen ended up as Atholton’s offensive leader on the day with three hits in five at bats.

            123 456 7        R-H-E

A         010 520 0        8-10-1

GB      105 021 x        9-10-0

Reservoir 5, North County 3

The Gators came from behind to win their season opener, outscoring North County 5-0 over the final five innings.

Emily Wang earned the win at pitcher, striking out four while allowing five hits and four walks. Offensively, there were five Reservoir players that finished with two or more hits. Hannah Pinion was the leader, going 3-4 with a double, triple and 2 RBI. Behind her, Caroline Winand (2-3, 2RBI), Tara Thompson (2-4, SB) and Anna Bennett (2-4) also excelled.

            123 456 7        R-H-E

Re        002 300 0        5-12-3

NC      020 010 0        3-5-0

Northeast 14, Glenelg

The Gladiators gave up a few runs early and never fully recovered on the way to the lopsided loss on the road. Northeast scored a run in the first and two in the second, but really broke things open in the fourth when the team scored five runs.

Northeast pitcher Brooke Steinbach had a no hitter going through 5 1/3 innings. In that sixth inning, Glenelg’s Breanne Smith led off with a long at bat that seemed to wear Steinbach down a little and open the door for the Gladiators to get their offense going. Smith didn’t get on, but Brittney Everett came up next and ended the no-hitter with a shot to the opposite field. Grace Daigle followed with a walk and then Toni Pritchard brought Everett home. Gina Netreba followed with a 2-RBI triple to make it 10-3.

In the top of the seventh, though, Northeast pulled away for good with four more runs.

Colleen Regan and Netreba split the pitching duties for the Gladiators in the loss.

            123 456 7        R-H-E

NE       120 511 4        14-19-1

G         000 003 0        3-3-2

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