Evvie Buehlman says she was determined to make sure this time was going to be different.
Almost exactly one year ago, with Buehlman at pitcher, Mt. Hebron found itself one out away from clinching the program’s first region championship since 2005. But before the Vikings could close the door, River Hill swooped in and mounted a final-inning rally to walk off with the victory.
So on Thursday afternoon, in a tie game late in this spring’s 3A East regional title game against Glenelg, Buehlman knew it was time to make something happen.
“I was definitely thinking at the end, ‘we are going to get it this time.’ We weren’t going to let what happened last year, happen again,” Buehlman said.
Stepping to the plate with runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth, Buehlman ripped a 2-RBI double into the gap in right center to give her team the lead. Then, in the top of the seventh, she pitched around a one-out double to get the three outs necessary to clinch s 3-1 victory over the Gladiators and the elusive championship.
“We talk all the time about how getting a hit is not a big deal, but getting a game-winning hit or a hit with runners on second and third … that’s big time. And Evvie is a big time player,” Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar said. “It was time for the big time players to step up and we had gotten a couple runners on and she delivered a shot.
“And then, just as important, she came right back out and finished it with that big strikeout at the end.”
Mt. Hebron advances to face Linganore in the state semifinals on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Bachman Park. The Vikings have never won a state championship and haven’t been to the finals since 1995.
Getting to the big stage this time took holding off a Glenelg team that Mt. Hebron had split with during the regular season.
And, in the early going, it was the Vikings that drew first blood.
In the bottom of the first inning, Buehlman led off with a single into right field. Later, after another single by Rachel Cadigan and a walk by Rylee Kinsella that loaded the bases, Maddie Bennett delivered a SAC fly to make it 1-0.
For Buehlman, being able to go out into the pitcher’s circle for the top of the second inning with a lead made a huge difference.
“It helped me be able to take a deep breath and just pitch,” she said. “If I walked someone or there were runners on base I knew it wasn’t the end of the world or anything because we had some insurance.”
For the first four innings, Buehlman had Glenelg’s number. She allowed just a single infield hit, while scattering three walks.
But it was in the top of the fifth, though, that the control issues and walks caught up to her a little bit. Claire Swan reached on a hit by pitch and then Grace Daigle and Brooke Redmond each walked to load the bases for Gladiator pitcher Colleen Regan.
Regan proceeded to draw a walk of her own after a lengthy at bat to tie the game at 1-1.
“We knew coming in, whether it was Evvie or Maddie pitching for them, everyone had to be patient at the plate,” Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner said. “They are a good team and we had to make their pitchers work. Every run was going to be huge.”
The score stayed knotted at one going into the bottom of the sixth and that’s when the Vikings delivered the decisive blow.
Stephanie Bluhm led off with a walk, Aaliyah Montague-Bass followed with a bunt single and then Alex Stim moved them over with a ground out.
That brought Buehlman up with a chance to be the hero.
“Before that, Alli and I were kind of talking about putting it in play anyway we could,” Buehlman said. “I was looking for my pitch and I got it. I was trying to hit it to the right side with the runner on third and I got what I wanted.”
Suddenly down by two, Glenelg relief pitcher Gina Netreba did a solid job of limiting any further damage. She struck out Rachel Cadigan and then got Alli Bluhm to fly out to left.
Then in the top of the seventh, a Toni Pritchard double actually brought the tying run to the plate for the Gladiators with one out. But Buehlman composed herself and got a lineout and a strikeout to end it.
“I didn’t even really hear anything … it was kind of a surreal moment. It was just like me out there pitching with no one else around,” Buehlman said.
After coming so close to reaching the state semifinals last year, Struhar said the moment was extra sweet for the program this time around.
“It was heart-wrenching last year, it really was. We did talk about it and we told the girls that it’s our time this year,” Struhar said. “Maybe last year was River Hill’s time, but this was ours. We never panicked and we made the plays in the big spots.”
For Glenelg, the loss may have brought an end to the team’s season, but Gerstner encouraged his players to keep their heads up.
“I told the girls not to forget about the great wins. Don’t just hang your hat on a loss like today, look at your victories too … yesterday against Reservoir was a great win,” he said. “It’s a building block for next year and stepping stone for the future.”
Mt. Hebron 3, Glenelg 1
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