When the Catonsville softball team won the 2021 Class 4A state championship, they followed a first-round bye with four straight shutouts.
This year’s No. 9 Comets are repeating the same formula. After an opening-round bye, the Comets advanced to the regional finals with a 7-0 victory over visiting Perry Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
The victory advances Catonsville (14-2) to the regional finals against Dulaney.
Senior pitcher Maggie Kreis tied her season-high with 14 strikeouts, allowing only two hits and two walks in the complete-game effort. She also had two hits and two RBIs offensively.
“She was mixing in everything in there, I saw she had her change-up early, her curveball was looking good and the rise ball has always been there, so when she is mixing all that together, she’s lights out,” Catonsville coach Paul Harris said. “She’s had very good success against this team and she just continued that today.”
The Comets defeated the Gators 16-6 and 9-0 during the regular season, so first-year Gator coach Denny Lee was happy his team only trailed 1-0 after four innings.
“We were getting 15-runned and 12-runned and we finally got to playing full games and they came out here and pulled this together,” Lee said. “I’m very proud of them and we have a good nucleus coming back next year and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Kreis allowed two walks in the second inning, but settled down and struck out the side in the third and fifth innings.
“I didn’t feel like I had my rhythm yet,” Kreis said. “I was trying to work spots, we’ve played them two times, so we are pretty familiar at this point, so we were kind of exploiting what you know already know about each batter, where they might struggle.”
She allowed her only hits to Jordy Collins in the third and Jenna Neff in the fourth, but faced the minimum 12 batters in the final four innings. The only base runner reached on an error, but caught stealing by catcher Caelyn Voss.
Kreis drove in the Comets’ first run, singling home Sam Rickwalder in the bottom of the third inning.
In the fourth inning, Kyleigh Grieve led off with a single and Rickwalder reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt.
Abby Mitchell singled to load the bases and Kreis followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
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“I think for me just fouling off a lot of pitches is something that I’m pretty good at, the longer my at-bats are, the better they are,” Kreis said.
Grace Bielski drove in two more runs with a single to center field for a 4-0 lead.
Harris attributed the rally to the contributions from the bottom of the lineup.
“We know if the bottom of the order can find a way to get on base we are going to put up a crooked number that inning and it’s worked out that way,” he said. “So, we have a good feeling whenever we can get the bottom of the order on and we were able to do that today.”
Perry Hall sophomore pitcher Neff allowed nine hits, while fanning two and walking none in the complete-game effort.
Catonsville tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Abby Grimes singled and Grieve reached on an error. They both scored on Abby Mitchell’s double. Bielski’s third RBI of the day plated Mitchell.
“That’s always good as a team when you get rallies like that, it gives me a little more time to prepare for the next inning, but also you get those insurance runs that are pretty crucial,” Kreis said.