If Brad Speierman offers to pick your numbers in the next Mega Millions drawing, you may want to listen to him. In August, the Hammond coach said that "as the season goes along, this team will get better and might surprise a few teams down the stretch."
It's the stretch and Hammond has surprised two teams now. After toppling Reservoir from among the league leaders earlier in the week, the Golden Bears pulled a second upset by beating Howard Thursday, 3-1, in eight innings behind a three-hitter from Samantha Speierman and a home run by Hannah Force.
"I couldn't be prouder of the Hammond girls!" said coach Brad Speierman. "Before the game I told them to go out and play loose and have some fun and they really did that the entire game. I'd never seen them so loose and confident, from start to finish, of a game.
"I knew they had it in them, but even I was surprised they managed two in the same week. I've got to be the proudest coach in the county right now," he added.
With this latest upset pulled off by Hammond, Glenelg is left at the top of the standings and just two games away from the county championship. The Gladiators, with two county losses, did not play Thursday but have Centennial and Mt. Hebron left on their schedule.
Howard, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir all have three county losses and share second place, thanks in big part to Hammond.
Today's game was scoreless into the eighth inning. Hammond, with its first winning season since 2009 when another Speierman — Stephanie — set state pitching records, scored three runs in the top of the inning and held Howard to one in the bottom of the eighth.
Keyuna Griffin sac bunted Caroline Goyne, starting at second in the tie-breaker system, over to third and then Samantha Speierman drove in Goyne, slapping a ball past the pulled-in third baseman and shortstop and made it to first.
Two batters later Force ripped her first pitch over the left field fence for a two-run home run to put Hammond up 3-0.
In the bottom of the eighth Howard pushed the tie-breaker runner across with a single to left, but Hammond buckled down and was able to get the next batter to pop out to short. Speierman, who pitched the complete game, struck out the final batter to close out the upset.
Speierman struck out 11, walked one and gave up no earned runs.
Howard's Kensey O'Neill also struck out 11 and walked one. She gave up three runs (one earned) on four hits.
O'Neill had two singles for Howard.
Samantha Speierman had two singles and an RBI to help her own cause.
Hammond, which was shut out, 8-0, by Howard in their first meeting earlier this season, is now 11-6 overall and 10-6 in the county.
"When we played Howard the first time, they hit both Samantha and Emily (Speierman) pretty hard," said Brad Speierman. "We put together a game plan for today where we wanted to throw a lot of off-speed pitches and see if we could keep the batters off balance. Samantha did a great job delivering the pitches where we called them and the infield did an incredible job of handling all of the miss-hit balls that resulted from the off-speed stuff she was throwing.
"As the game progressed, Samantha worked a few more curves and rise balls into the mix and it really helped continue to keep the Howard batters off balance through the finish," he added.
Howard is now 13-3 in the county and 15-4 overall.
Hammond - 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 -- 3 3 0
Howard - 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 -- 1 2 2
WP: S. Speierman
HR: Ha - Force
Grand slam is Rowan's first
Gabby Rowan hit a grand slam to lead Chapelgate to a 15-5 victory over winless Park, in the final regular game of the season.
Starting pitcher Phoebe Cleaver got her third win in as many starts this season for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference team.
Rowan's grand slam, the first home run of her varsity career, came in the second inning and opened up a 10-2 lead for Chapelgate.
"I really like our playoff chances this year. We are peaking at the right time," said Chapelgate coach John Isaac.
The IAAM playoffs start May 8 for Chapelgate. The Yellowjackets meet Annapolis Area Christian. Chapelgate beat Annapolis Area, 14-13, in a regular season game.