Howard softball coach Chuck Rice couldn't single out any one player or particular aspect of Friday's win at No. 1 Reservoir.
Everybody contributed, and everything seemed to be working well.
The No. 7 Lions hit the ball hard, got strong pitching from Kensey O'Neill and made defensive plays at key times to stun the previously undefeated Gators, 6-0.
Shortstop Jules Natoli was the catalyst at the plate, hitting a run-scoring double and a home run as she drove in four runs and scored twice.
Howard (11-2, 9-1 in Howard County) had six of its nine hits go for extra bases, and O'Neill did her part, allowing five hits but always getting the key out.
After opening their league schedule with a loss to Glenelg, the defending county champions have rattled off nine straight wins.
"Right now we're playing really well," Rice said. "We're hitting the ball really well and defensive plays left and right — everybody is contributing to the game. It's like on player might hiccup, but the other eight are going to pick them up. I can't pick out a person on this team that's leading, because the whole team is leading this effort. This is nice because we're finishing up the county and heading into states, so it's a really good time to start playing well."
The Lions started out fast on Friday and never let up. Taylor McGrann opened the game with a triple to right field and scored on Natoli's fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead. Two more runs came across in the third when the Lions strung together three straight one-out hits. Katie Wilkinson and Natoli smacked back-to-back doubles, and Sage McGrann added an RBI single.
Reservoir (12-1, 9-1) threatened in the bottom of the first with runners on second and third, but O'Neill got out of the jam. Later in the game, outfielders Sam Travisano and Taylor McGrann made fine catches to end innings.
"In the first inning, we were able to [get a run in], and the next couple innings we got a couple big hits," Natoli said. "Kensey was pitching real well, she was hitting her spots, and the balls luckily came to us and we made the plays."
Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold was quick to credit Howard and believes her team can learn from the experience. Anna Bennett and Amy Bresson each had a double and a single to lead the Gators..
"I think it was a combination of having the pressure of being undefeated at this point and going up against a good team that's been there before," Frisvold said. "They have the experience, and that's what came through today. I told the girls I'd rather lose this one now than later down the road.
No. 7 Howard 6, No. 1 Reservoir 0
H 1 0 2 1 0 1 1 — 6 9 1
R 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 5 0
O'Neill and Latimer; Brown and Bennett
2B: H – Natoli, McMillan, Wilkinson; R – A. Bresson, Bennett. 3B: H – T. McGrann, Wilkinson. HR – H – Natoli.