Howard softball sweeps Reservoir, clinches county championship

Howard not only secured this year’s county title outright on Saturday against Reservoir, but accomplished the feat in grand fashion.

Playing the Gators in a doubleheader, the Lions used five home runs — three by Kayli Paugh — to win the opener, 6-1, and then completed the sweep in game two with a walkoff 5-4 victory courtesy of three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

With a two-game lead on the rest of the county heading into the day, the first victory guaranteed a share of this year’s title and then the second clinched sole possession of the crown — the program’s first since 2011.

“This is a big thing for us and knowing that I could tell the girls outright afterward that the county championship was theirs … it was definitely a special moment,” Howard coach Chuck Rice said. “To win it, and to do it that way, it’s something these girls will always have.”

Howard 6, Reservoir 1 (Game 1)

The Lions came roaring out of the gates in the opening game, smacking three home runs over the fence in the top of the first.

Taylor McGrann led off with a shot to right, Paugh followed two batters later with a solo home run to center and then Berit Batterton continued the onslaught with her own solo shot to centerfield.

“Counties is a big deal and we knew what was on the line,” Paugh said. “We came out really motivated and I think having hit so well yesterday against Oakland Mills, it just kind of carried over. I know I personally came in with a lot of confidence and I just tried to keep that going.”

Paugh, who had homered against Oakland Mills a day earlier, was just getting started against Reservoir.

By the time she got up for the second time, the Howard lead had grown to four runs courtesy of an RBI single by Kimmie Vaughn in the second inning. And with another moonshot, this time to left, Paugh upped that advantage to 5-0.

Then, two innings later, Paugh launched her third home run of the day to make it 6-0.

“I was feeling it today and I went up there swinging,” said Paugh, who had previously hit three home runs in a single game during her sophomore year on JV.  “I mean I saw the ball really well and sometimes, I guess, you just get into one of those zones.”

Reservoir didn’t give Paugh a chance to make it four home runs in four at bats, opting to intentionally walk her in the seventh. By then, though, the game was well in hand.

For as good as she was at the plate, though, Paugh was just as masterful in the pitching circle. She allowed just two hits and struck out six.

Reservoir’s lone run, coming in the bottom of the seventh by Monica Lamm, was unearned.

Howard 5, Reservoir 4 (Game 2)

While the Gators mustered little offense in the opener, they certainly wasted little time changing the tide in game two.

Right out of the gates against Howard pitcher Courtney Merson, Carly Clarke walked and came around to score on an RBI double by Anna Bennett. Two batters later, Caroline Winand singled Bennett home to make it 2-0.

That early offense, combined with Emily Wang settling in to pitch a scoreless opening two innings, had Reservoir looking like a completely different team.

“I was really proud of how the girls recovered. Really, after the fourth inning of the first game, I thought they showed a life in them, a fire in their eyes, and we came out in that second game with a lot of energy,” Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said.

Howard scratched across a run in the third on an RBI single by Brittany Bryson, but had the potential tying run called out at the plate. Then, in the fifth, Reservoir increased its advantage even further.

This time, a wild pitch scored Clarke and an RBI groundout by Caroline Winand plated Bennett to make it 4-1.

Howard didn’t roll over, though, getting one back in the bottom of the fifth on a SAC fly by Batterton.

“The energy was definitely down to start the second game … the long break in between the two games didn’t help,” Batterton said. “But as the game progressed we seemed to get ourselves into it. I think we all kind of felt like the hits and runs were going to come.”

Still, even as its offense showed signs of life, Howard came into the bottom of the seventh down two.

McGrann, however, set the tone for what ended up being a big inning by leading off with a single to right. Merson followed with a single to left and then, for the fifth straight time going back to the end of Game 1, Paugh was intentionally walked to load the bases for Batterton.

“I had confidence we were going to score at least one (that last inning) and Taylor was the key. With her getting on and Courtney coming up behind her, then them not pitching to Kayli, suddenly we had ourselves bases loaded,” Rice said. “And I’ll take my chances with Berit in that spot every time. She knew it was going to be on her shoulders that second game and she was ready.”

Sure enough, Batterton smacked a hard-hit ball to right center that fell in between the outfielders and plated two runs to tie the game.

“In the last inning, I was just kind of relaxed. I really was thinking whatever happens, happens,” Batterton said. “I figured if I put the ball in play something good would happen and it did.”

Then, with the winning run on third, Bryson drilled a hard-hit ball deep in the hole at short to drive in Paugh for the game-clincher.

After playing an incredibly strong first six innings, it unraveled quickly for Reservoir.

“We played six great innings and then that last one got away from us,” Frisvold said. “That happens though against a team that has such depth in their line-up like Howard has, they make you play to that last out. And we are still searching for that killer instinct a little bit. I told the girls afterward that I know they have it in them, we just need to find it for a full seven innings and, if we do, we can do some amazing things.”

Howard stayed afterward to celebrate the championship, the first softball title for most of the girls on the team. For Batterton, who was also a member of the county-champion Howard girls basketball team, the moment was simply the continuation of what has already been a pretty special sophomore year.

“This year has been a lot of firsts for me, playing on the basketball team and being a part of the first Howard team to win that (in a long time) and then softball is like my passion so to be able to contribute now to winning this championship too is just amazing,” Batterton said.

Box scores:

Howard 6, Reservoir 1 (Game 1)

            123 456 7        R-H-E

Ho       311 010 0        6-8-4

Re        000 000 1        1-2-1

Howard 5, Reservoir 4 (Game 2)

            123 456 7        R-H-E

Re        200 020 0        4-4-0

Ho       001 010 3        5-10-2

Other score:

River Hill 6, Glenelg 2

It took until the sixth inning, but River Hill’s offense eventually found its groove on Saturday and led the way to a victory on the road.

In the sixth inning of a tie game, 1-1, Caroline Hickey and Kinsey Johnson got the Hawks started with back-to-back singles. Then, with two outs, Sabrina Curtiss was hit by a pitch to set Kristy Selby up to do the major damage. Selby hit a 2-RBI single and then Jayne Tokar delivered an RBI infield single to score the third run of the inning.

River Hill kept things going in the seventh with two more runs for insurance. Hickey led off with a double, Kinsey Johnson reached on a fielder’s choice and Sara Mascone singled to load the bases. A throwing error allowed Hickey to score and then Selby singled home Johnson.

Glenelg did score a run in the seventh, getting a solo home run by Alison Wilcox, but couldn't come all the way back.

On top of her helping out the offense, Curtiss also delivered a standout game at pitcher by allowing just a handful of hits, one earned run and striking out six.

River Hill’s top hitters were Selby (2 singles, 3 RBI), Courtney Colosimo (3-4, double), Hickey (3-3, double) and Johnson (2-4, RBI).

            123 456 7        R-H-E

RH      100 003 2        6-14-3

G         000 100 1        2-6-1

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