In a battle of first-place teams with contrasting styles, Mt. Hebron’s power bats prevailed on Friday afternoon against River Hill.
Mt. Hebron senior Alli Bluhm delivered a one-out solo home run over the fence in left-center field in the bottom of the fifth inning to provide what turned out to be the deciding run in a 6-5 Vikings victory. On the day, Mt. Hebron (8-1) had six extra base hits, including two by Bluhm, compared to one for River Hill (7-2).
“Coach (Chuck) Struhar always says hits are contagious and that certainly was the case today because once we got going, everyone was hitting,” Bluhm said. “We have power up and down the line-up and once one person hits we all seem to feed off one another.”
In a rematch of last year’s 3A East regional championship game, that River Hill won, Mt. Hebron indeed got offensive production from all parts of its line-up on Friday to turn the tables.
In fact, in the team’s big third inning that produced four runs, it was back-to-back doubles from the team’s No. 8 and 9 hitters — Sammi Cadigan and Maddie Bennett — that got everything going.
“The fact that Sammi and Maddie are batting eight and nine says all you need to know about our line-up … those two can absolutely pound the ball,” Struhar said. “They hadn’t been really hitting like they usually do lately, so they had to drop down there, but I think they both got a little angry and showed what they can do today.
“I was looking for them to hit the ball hard and they did that, which really turned things over for us.”
Bluhm, who added her own 2-RBI double in that big third inning, said last year’s playoff loss to the Hawks added extra motivation for Mt. Hebron to what was already a big game.
“Last year’s loss was a killer, so we definitely came into this year hoping to get them … we were ready,” Bluhm said.
River Hill may not have hit with much power, but the Hawks certainly did their share of damage against Mt. Hebron pitching.
Right off the bat, in the first inning, the team loaded the bases with one out on a pair of walks and hit batter. But Evvie Buehlman, who finished with nine strikeouts, struck out two batters in a row to escape the jam.
Buehlman couldn’t get out of the second or third innings unscathed, however, with Jalyn Cox scoring in the second and Sara Mascone scoring in the third on an RBI single by Kristy Selby for River Hill.
“We talk all the time about getting on the board first and I thought we did a great job of doing that,” River Hill coach Marni Rosenbaum said. “But we also did leave the bases loaded in the first and a couple runners on the next couple innings as well, so those could have been even bigger innings.
“Sometimes, against good hitting teams, those things catch up to you.”
Mt. Hebron’s bats came alive in that third inning, though, to put the Vikings ahead for the first time, 4-2.
Unfazed, River Hill simply stayed the course. The Hawks got another run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch that scored Caroline Hickey (single to center).
Then in the top of the fifth, after Mt. Hebron had added its fifth run on an RBI double by Buehlman that scored Cadigan, River Hill answered to tie the game at 5-5 on a 2-RBI double by Courtney Colosimo.
“I can’t ask for any more than the effort that they gave today … the girls never stopped,” Rosenbaum said.
But, as was the prevailing theme, Mt. Hebron had the answer for every River Hill push. Bluhm’s home run in the bottom of the fifth put the Vikings back up one and provided a lead the team never lost again.
River Hill had runners on first and second in the sixth inning, but Mt. Hebron got out of the jam with a pair of ground outs that forced runners out at third base. Then Buehlman set the side down in order in the seventh to close out the victory.