All season, even with its ups and downs, Hammond has been able to hit the ball.
So on Thursday, faced with an offensive shootout in the opening round of the 2A South playoffs against Oakland Mills, the Golden Bears felt fairly comfortable.
Banging out 12 hits and scoring at least one run in each of the first five innings, Hammond (4-14) was able to break open what was a close game in the early going for a 19-9 victory.
"For all the losses we've had, aside from a couple exceptions, we have been able to generate offense. I actually looked back through our stats and, of our 14 losses, we outhit our opponent in seven of them," Hammond coach Brad Speierman said. "So in that kind of game, I think we knew we could put runs on the board. It was just a matter of avoiding errors and getting outs defensively, which has been what has killed us all year."
In the end, pitcher Emily Speierman and the Golden Bears indeed had enough in the tank to hold on for the win.
Oakland Mills (1-16) had scored a run apiece in the first two innings, along with four runs in the third and three more in the fourth, but as Hammond's offense pushed to put the game away, Speierman buckled down to keep the Scorpions off the board in the fifth and set up the walk-off 10-run victory.
"It was hot and it's been a long season, and it was definitely a hard day physically for me. But knowing that we were putting runs on the board, it made it a lot easier to find the ability to power through," Emily Speierman said. "I knew that if I could find ways to get us out of the innings, then the offense was going to pick me up,"
Up seven going into the bottom of the fifth, Kelly Smith delivered a 2-RBI single and then came around to score the clinching run on a wild pitch.
In truth, the three late runs were a fitting capper to a day where the offense had started for both teams right away.
After Oakland Mills scored in the top of the first, Hammond answered right back with a solo home run from Keyuana Griffin. It was her first home run of her career and kick-started the Golden Bears bats.
"Seeing Keyuana hit her first high school home run in her last home game, it was a great moment," Brad Speierman said. "It was very rewarding to see a kid like that who has worked through a lot of obstacles, been to the hospital twice and not being able to play catcher anymore, come through."
After falling behind, 2-1, Hammond was back at it in the second. This time RBI hits from Caroline Goyne and Emily Speierman spearheaded a four-run inning.
But Oakland Mills, which had mustered only three runs against Speierman in a regular-season loss, showcased impressive resolve to keep itself in it.
In the third inning, the Scorpions sent 10 runners to the plate and scored four runs of their own to retake the lead, 6-5. RBI hits from Alexis Wales and Eugena Jones highlighted a frame that included four hits, two walks and some heads up base-running.
"We put a lot of emphasis on just learning how to hit since the first time (against them) — just turning out hips, taking our hands to the ball — and the girls responded well," Oakland Mills coach Skip Yarn said. "We've always been able to put the bat on the ball, but we have the tendency to hit the ball to infielders and today we found more holes. The girls were hitting the ball sharply."
On the day, Oakland Mills finished with nine hits.
But just as the Scorpions had grabbed the momentum back, Hammond responded with its biggest inning of the day. Sending 13 players to the plate in the bottom of the third inning, the Golden Bears scored eight runs to take a 13-6 lead.
In the breakout inning,
Oakland Mills never stopped fighting, scoring three more in the fourth inning, but ultimately never closed closer than four the rest of the way.
"Today they just hit us a little better than we hit them and we had a couple of errors that were costly, but overall I am really proud of the girls. They did an excellent job," Yarn said. "I can't even explain it … they are miles in front of where they were at the beginning of the season."
For Hammond, the playoff victory snapped an eight-game losing streak to close the regular season.
"While we wish that it had been a cleaner win, it's still pretty special," Emily Speierman said. "I actually just took a second and stepped back and realized, 'hey we just won a game in the playoffs.' This is when the wins mean even more."
The Golden Bears now advance into a Monday match-up on the road against top-seeded McDonough.
"We've got McDonough, but you know if the girls play seven good innings, we can beat them," Brad Speierman said. "We are an underdog by a long way going in there, but we are capable and that's what I told the girls … it comes down to playing to our potential."
Isa Carunungan (6 strikeouts, 2 walks) and Kelsey Widmaier (2 strikeouts, 1 walk) combined to pitch a no hitter, while every Lightning batter picked up at least one hit on the way to the first playoff victory for all the players on the active roster.
Highlights included two singles from Stephanie Moy, a double from Heather McKay, two singles and a double from Kayla Widmaier, a single by Andrea Padilla, a single by Kayla Appler and two singles from Alex Walters.
Christina Doshim, though, had the biggest day at the plate by going 5-5, with a double and two triples. She scored three runs and had 5 RBI. Alina Milauskas had 3 RBI of her own.
Long Reach will play Mt. Hebron on Monday.
123 45 R
DH 000 00 0
LR (11)43 4x 22
Reservoir 11, Wilde Lake 0 (5 innings)
Emily Wang pitched a perfect game, striking out seven batters to lead the way to the five-inning victory on the road.
Offensive stars for the Gators were Hannah Pinion (1-1, triple, 2 RBI), Caroline Winand (3-4, double, 3 RBI), Monica Lamm (2-3, double, triple, 3 RBI), Robyn Pidlisky (2-3) and Wang (2-3, 2 RBI).
Reservoir will play River Hill on Monday.
123 45 R-H-E
Re 451 01 11-11-0
WL 000 00 0-0
Calvert 5, Marriotts Ridge 1
Chapelgate 13, St. Paul's 3 (6 innings)
The Yellowjackets won the IAAM B Conference playoff game, sparked by a six-run third inning.
Bethanne Venkatesan had a great all-around game with 11 strikeouts at pitcher to go along with three hits and three RBI at the plate. Phoebe Cleaver also had a strong offensive day with three hits and two RBI for Chapelgate.
Chapelgate advances to face Maryvale Prep on Friday.