After losing to Centennial twice to close regular season, Long Reach softball bounces back to beat Eagles in opening round of the 3A East region playoffs
It's said that it's hard to beat a team three times in a season, and theoretically even harder to beat them three times in a single week.
On Thursday, in the opening round of the 3A East region playoffs, Long Reach traveled to Centennial and proved that old saying to be true.
Starting fast with three runs in the top of the first inning and never really slowing down from there, the sixth-seeded Lightning produced the offensive power needed to knock off the third-seeded Eagles, 12-8.
"Today meant a lot, especially to me as a senior going out. I told all of my teammates how important it was that we really come out and put our all into this game and that's what happened. Everyone contributed," said Long Reach senior Alina Milauskas, who finished the day 2-3, with a double, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored.
Long Reach (4-15) had lost both games of a double header against Centennial (11-8) to close out its regular season on Monday. But given the chance at redemption, the Lightning responded with what coach Melissa Boardman called one of the biggest wins for the program during her tenure.
"It's crazy to see each other three times this week and to be coming off those two losses, but when it mattered the most these girls pulled together to get this big win," Boardman said. "We were so aggressive on the bases today, which was excellent, and everyone in the order hit. We were talking, communicating and, most of all, having fun. For all my seniors, but especially Alina, to send them off with this is so great."
On the other side, Centennial coach Katie Grimm said some early miscues cost her team, with the Eagles making five errors on the day, but more than anything she just thought Long Reach came ready to play.
"I told the girls over there, we have to give it up to them … they played very well. They hit the ball well and took advantage of the mistakes we made," Grimm said. "Long Reach came here and meant business today. My hat is off to them. We actually hit the ball well from top to bottom of the line-up, we just made a few too many errors and they beat us."
Long Reach got going in the top of the first, as Stephanie Moy (4-5, double, 4 runs scored) led off with a single. The next two batters got on courtesy of errors and that set the stage for a three-run inning, with Milauskas and Isa Carunungan each picking up RBI.
Boardman said the fast start was huge for the team's mentality.
"We talk all the time about scoring in the first inning, getting on with our leadoff, getting their leadoff out … those are all big things in those first couple innings," Boardman said. "Not having to play catch-up, it changes everything. Playing from ahead is an entirely different mindset and I think that made all the difference today."
Centennial didn't score any runs in the first inning off Carunungan, who finished the day with five strikeouts as Long Reach's pitcher. But the Eagles, after setting the Lightning down in order in the top of the second, came through with a big inning of their own.
Sam Kastner led off with a single, Brita Hawtof followed with a single and then Abbey Strott drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Jordan Burk.
Centennial's leadoff batter proceeded to launch a bomb over the fence in left-center field for a grand slam that quickly gave the Eagles a 4-3 advantage.
"She has been an absolute stud for us all year and is so versatile. You saw it today, she laid down a bunt for a base hit and then shows her power with that grand slam," said Grimm. "A lot of people don't think she has that power, because she's so fast, but her slugging numbers this year have been terrific. She's been a big leader for us all season and that was her, in that moment, trying to carry this team and put everybody on her back."
But, as was the theme all afternoon, Long Reach's players never hung their heads. Instead, the Lightning came right back out in the top of the third and answered with four more runs of their own.
Again it was a leadoff single by Moy that started things. Rachel Jascavage added a single, Milauskas had an RBI infield hit and Kayla Widmaier had a RBI single as well. Those plays, combined with a two-run throwing error on a stolen base attempt, put Long Reach back ahead 7-4.
The Lightning never lost the lead again.
"We had a great practice yesterday where we really mentally and physically prepared for everything. And I have to give (Centennial) a lot of credit, they fought really hard back and that grand slam was one of the nicest hits I have ever seen," Milauskas said. "But (we) were just so determined today to not let this game slip through."
Long Reach tacked on another run in the fourth, with Moy doubling and coming around to score. Then, after Centennial cut its deficit to one, 8-7, with three runs in the fifth — courtesy of RBI singles from Kastner, Hawtof and Caroline Strott — the Lightning issued the knockout blow.
In the top of the sixth, Milauskas and Carunungan each smacked 2-RBI hits to increase the team's lead to 12-7.
Then over the final two innings, Long Reach shut things down defensively — allowing just one unearned run — to close things out.
Long Reach advances to play on the road against second-seeded City on Monday.
For Centennial, while disappointed in seeing the season come to an end, Grimm had nothing but praise for what her group of seniors was able to do in terms of leading this year's team to one of its most successful campaigns.
"It was a great season and I don't think at the beginning of the season there were that many teams that were afraid of us. But to battle through the injuries we did, losing our middle infield for a couple weeks, and still finish 11-6 (in county), I just couldn't be more proud," Grimm said. "This is the best group of seniors that I've ever coached. I told them at the beginning of the year that this season was going to be what they make it and they really took that to heart and executed a full year."
The Golden Bears bats started hot, scoring eight runs in the first inning, and that surge carried the team the rest of the way to the opening-round playoff victory.
On the game, Hammond finished with 20 hits. Bethany Hewitt (4-5, double, 4 RBI), Becky Straub (3-5, double, 3 RBI), Kelly Smith (3-5) and Caroline Goyne (3-4, RBI) all had huge days at the plate.
Oakland Mills actually had the early lead, as Eugena Jones picked up an RBI to drive in Zoe Smith in the top of the first to make it 1-0 in favor of the Scorpions.
But in the bottom of the inning, Hammond got hits from its first seven batters and 10 hits overall on the way to eight runs. In that frame, Smith led off with a bunt single and stole second base. Goyne then singled her in. After Hewitt singled to right, Emily Dowdall drove in Goyne with a single. Straub then delivered a big 2-RBI double and, later in the inning, Sophie Baldwin added a 2-RBI double of her own.
Also in the first, Hammond got a hit from Julia Fato, an RBI from Karina LaCroix a RBI single from Smith, a single by Goyne and a 2-RBI double from Hewitt.
Oakland Mills didn't quit, however. The Scorpions got back into it with three runs in the second inning. Maitreya Bird-Walker led off with a single and then Kiara Cornelius walked, setting up Megan Threatte and Emily Yarn (2-RBI double) to drive them in.
Oakland Mills then added another two in the top of the third to make it 8-6 courtesy of a handful of Hammond walks.
That, however, is as close as it got. Straub delivered a 2-RBI single in the bottom of the third that plated Goyne and Hewitt to push the lead to four once again.
After both teams kept the opposition off the board in the fourth and fifth innings, Hammond got its final two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Jaymee Schoditch singled, LaCroix reached on an error and then both scored on a 2-RBI single by Hewitt.
Starting pitcher Caroline Goyne, who had been relieved by Becky Straub in the middle innings, came back in to the game in relief in the sixth inning. She retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to close out the win.
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Atholton 17, Wilde Lake 0 (3A East)
The pitching combination of Patty Drumheller and Jenny Mathews combined to throw a no-hitter and the Raiders exploded for 14 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to break things open for the shutout win.
Atholton finished with seven hits, including a double by Danielle Dolbow.
With the end of its season, Wilde Lake says goodbye to seven seniors: shortstop Marissa Sciabarra, first baseman Cierra Lester, pitcher/outfielder Mekayla Tucker, third baseman Amber Love, second baseman Erin Riggin, and outfielders Tiara Brown and Nia Woods.