Seton Keough escaped potential danger in the first inning and then used dominant pitching and clutch hitting on its way to a 10-1 win over Archbishop Spalding in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game Thursday at the Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie.
The No. 2 Gators (14-2) dethroned the No. 10 Cavaliers (13-10), who won the previous two conference titles under coach Kristen Dulay, who played for Seton Keough and graduated in 2000.
"It's so much fun because as my alma mater I'm glad to see that Seton Keough is doing so well, but as coach of Spalding, it's not how we wanted the season to end," Dulay said. "But two out of four [titles] isn't bad at all. We said all season we wanted to be back here to this game to prove that we deserved to be here, and Keough was just the better team all year."
The pivotal inning was the first.
Spalding's leadoff batter, Kelsie Taylor, reached on an error and advanced to third with no outs on a stolen base and wild pitch. But she was erased at the plate by catcher Kasey Roszel after a grounder to pitcher Robi Zimmerman.
"I definitely wasn't expecting it, but it worked out in our favor," Zimmerman said. "It was definitely a nerve-wracking situation, but we got out of it."
The Gators squirmed out unscathed when third baseman Tiffany Kahl turned an around-the-horn double play on Melanie Gunning (2-for-3) with second baseman Amber Cosgrove and first baseman Julia Draper.
"They had a chance to go ahead and get that first run on the board, but the defense just picked us up and pulled us into the next couple innings," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, who will play atEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical Universityin Daytona Beach, Fla., next season, did her share. She allowed just three hits and struck out three, and at the plate, she was 3-for-4 (3 RBIs) with a single, double and triple.
Her single was the least impressive stroke, but most effective.It came in the bottom of the first on a blooper to right field and scored UMBC-bound senior Bridget O'Malley (2-for-4) with the first run.
"I was pulling everything down the line so the outside pitch, I just tried to poke it out there," said Zimmerman who fouled off seven pitches to left field before the clutch hit.
Hannah Tavik scorched a triple to the gap in left field tomake it a 2-0 lead, and the Gators had all the runs they needed.
They capitalized on five Spalding errors and got productive at bats from Draper (2-for-4), Allison Clampitt, Cosgrove, and Roszel.
"We put the ball in play, and that's a big thing with this team," Seton Keough coach Chuck Snee said. "In the beginning of the year we weren't doing that."
Starting seniors O'Malley, Zimmerman, Draper and Kahl helped the team turn the corner offensively, and the rest of the squad bought in.
"With the senior leadership on this team, there is not a whole lot of coaching you have to do," Snee said. "You put them out on the field and let them play, and they don't want to lose. As bad a loser as I am, they are much worse, and it's not acceptable to them because losing is not going to happen."
Finally, there's joy at Notre Dame Prep.
After striking out four times in the IAAM B Conference championship game since 2006, the Blazers captured the title Thursday.
NDP beat Catholic, 1-0, at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie behind the pitching of senior Casey O'Neill. O'Neill went the distance, striking out three batters while allowing just three hits and one walk.
She wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh after Catholic put runners at first and second with no one out.
NDP scored in the fifth, as Nellie Hines' double to left field drove in Casey Clarke, who reached on an infield hit.
Towson Times reporter Tom Worgo contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun