Trailing for the first time all afternoon against visiting Dulaney in the 4A North region quarterfinals, Howard senior Katie Unkle said she felt the nerves creeping in as she stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning.
The season and her high school career were down to three outs, and it was up to her to start the rally.
“I was already nervous, then I got to two strikes on me and I started to freak out a little bit. But then I looked at coach and he said to “just do what you can, the worst you can do is go down swinging and trying your best,’” Unkle said. “So I just put a hard swing on the ball and hoped it would find a hole.”
Unkle’s hard hit up the middle ended up rolling into the outfield for a leadoff single, serving as the spark in what ended up being a two-run final frame on the way to a 10-9 walk-off victory. Unkle was responsible for scoring the tying run and fellow senior Shanya Gordon later provided the game-winning RBI to score pinch runner Jenna Unkle and set off a celebration just to the left of home plate.
After a game with several wild momentum shifts, Howard coach Chuck Rice said it was fitting that things came down to his seniors.
“In those big moments, I think you naturally turn to your seniors and today they did what they had to do,” Rice said. “Katie got us the start we needed, putting a hard hit ball in play, and then with the bases loaded our other senior captain [Shanya] finished it off. Emotions were flying a bit high, but they delivered.”
Howard advances to face Catonsville in the region semifinals on Wednesday.
For Dulaney, which had defeated Perry Hall by a score of 8-7 in the opening round, the comeback simply fell a run short. The visiting Lions had trailed 3-0 and 6-3 early on before battling back to tie the score on two different occasions.
Later, entering the top of the seventh, Dulaney was trailing by a run, 8-7. But with two outs and a pair of runners on, freshman Kristen Dasch laced a 2-RBI double into left centerfield to put her team ahead.
Howard, however, simply refocused and answered with the runs it needed to re-grab the lead and the win.
“I was never worried about scoring runs and even in that last inning, when I knew we needed a couple runs, I actually sacrificed an out to get Kristen up to the plate. She may be just a freshman, but she’s one of the best hitters on the team and she delivered,” Dulaney coach Dave Barwick said. “Offensively, we did what I knew we could. We just unfortunately made a few too many miscues defensively and ended up on the short end. A tough way to finish.”
Howard (15-5) — 10, Dulaney — 9
..........123 456 7 R-H-E
D ..... 030 310 2 9-12-5
Ho ... 303 200 2 10-13-3
2A South region, Section I semifinals:
Marriotts Ridge (16-3) — 15, Hammond (10-10) — 5 (F/5)
............123 456 7 R-H-E
Ha ..... 220 01x x 5-7-3
MR ... 100 0(14)x x 15-10-2
Marriotts Ridge scored 14 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 15-5 five-inning victory. Madi Costigan (RBI, 2 R), Megan Hughes (5 RBI, 2 R) and Molly Nies (2 R) each had two hits, while Grace Tolle and Romy Lindahl had two RBIs apiece. Hughes allowed two runs in two innings and Mikayla Barnard allowed one run on two hits and struck out three.
Hammond’s Abbie Weirich went 2-3 with a single and her first career home run. Taylor Liguori went 2-3 with a single and a home run.
Glenelg (15-6) — 6, River Hill (11-9) — 4
3A East region, Section I semifinals:
Centennial (12-9) — 5, Mt. Hebron (7-12) — 0
............123 456 7 R-H-E
MH ... 000 000 0 0-6-5
C ....... 000 032 x 5-4-0
Centennial’s Jordan Hinz allowed six hits and no run while walking none and striking out three in the shutout win. Grace Bennett went 2-3 with two RBIs, while Olivia Reese went 2-3 with an RBI.
Mt. Hebron’s Kieran Davis went 2-3 while Meghan Holquist, Julie Watts, Tori Mannarelli and Erin Rogers also had hits.
Reservoir (15-5) — 10, Long Reach (6-13) — 0 (F/5)
...........123 456 7 R-H-E
LR ... 000 00x x 3-3-4
Re .... 240 04x x 10-14-0
Reservoir’s Emma Bailey allowed three hits and no runs while walking one and striking out four in a shutout win. Holly Daum went 3-4 with three runs, Hunter Little went 2-3 with a double and three RBIs, Maddy Jones went 2-3 with a run, Macayla Allen went 2-3 with four RBIs and Desi Hatzakos went 2-2.
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports