There was no sugarcoating it — Kayli Paugh and Howard couldn't wait for another shot at Glenelg.
No player on the Lions roster had ever beaten the Gladiators and several of the losses had come in agonizing fashion, including two defeats in the final inning the last two years.
So on Friday when the squads met for the only time this season, Paugh made sure she brought her 'A' game. The senior pitcher hurled seven innings, allowed just one earned run and struck out nine, while also going 3-4 at the plate with a double, home run, 5 RBI and three runs scored.
Paugh's performance, combined with several other standout all-around efforts from her teammates, ultimately added up to an 8-1 Howard victory.
"We came in with the mentality that we had to get this game," Paugh said. "We haven't beaten them in four years and this was going to be our year. We weren't going to let them beat us again."
Howard (5-0, 6-0) hadn't beaten Glenelg (4-2, 4-3) since 2011 and the victory this time around was extra important because it keeps the Lions as the last undefeated county team this spring.
Howard coach Chuck Rice, who watched his girls score six runs through the first two innings, said he knew the team was locked in well before the first pitch.
"They were so psyched coming to the field. They came down early, got back into the tunnel and started preparing," Rice said. "We got that timing down and those first two innings showed it. We hit the ball hard and even when we did get out, they weren't easy outs."
In the first inning, Taylor McGrann kicked things off with a ground-rule double and then Courtney Merson (4-4, 2 runs scored) followed with a single and stolen base. That brought Paugh up, who laced a 2-RBI single for a quick 2-0 lead.
Before the inning was over, Shannon Wiley drove Paugh in with a single to right that made it 3-0.
Glenelg threated in the second by getting two runners on, but failed to score. Then Howard came out in the second and picked up right where it left off. Singles by Brittany Bryson and Merson set the table again for Paugh, who stepped up and smacked the first pitch she saw over the left-center-field fence.
"I just kind of went after it and it went over," Paugh said. "The at-bat before that I had gotten that single and 2 RBI, so I went in having confidence."
To go along with the big hits, Paugh also was in control right from the start in the pitcher's circle. Using an effective rise ball to her advantage, she held Glenelg without a single extra-base hit on the day and had a couple 1-2-3 innings, back-to-back in the third and fourth.
Meanwhile, Howard kept its foot on the accelerator. The Lions added insurance tallies in the fourth inning, on a double by Alli Jakubek, and in the sixth, on a RBI hit by Kayla Devin.
"It's not that our girls didn't come out ready to go, it was just that once Howard got going it was a gut shot a little bit and they kept going," Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner said. "It just took our girls a little too long to get back into it and you have to credit Howard for some of that.
"Those first six innings we were making a little noise, but just not enough, and I think we really needed to simply get that first run to break the ice."
Glenelg did threaten several times, including getting back-to-back singles by Toni Pritchard and Sharon Mielke to leadoff the sixth inning. But, despite later loading the bases, the Gladiators were held off the board because of two great catches by McGrann and Steph Yarrish.
"Big, big catches there by the two of them, and really we've done that every game this year in terms of making a big play to get us out of what very well could be a wide-open door for the other team to come in and get some momentum," Rice said. "We have such great versatility on this team … players that I know when I put them in a position, they are going to give me 110 percent."
It wasn't until the seventh inning that Glenelg finally scratched a run across. Pritchard brought home Brittney Everett with an RBI single to break up the shutout. Any comeback hopes, however, were dashed as Paugh struck out the next batter to close out the victory.
Glenelg, the reigning two-time county champs, now finds itself two games back of the Lions in the standings.
"Tough loss today, but we have to come right back on Monday and come right back at it. Still a lot of season left," Gerstner said.
Howard 8, Glenelg 1
123 456 7 R-H-E
G 000 000 1 1-5-1
Ho 330 101 x 8-17-1
River Hill 12, Reservoir 2 (5 innings)
After falling behind 2-0 in the first on a home run by Reservoir's Hannah Pinion, the Hawks came back with an 8-run second inning to grab the lead and never look back en route to the five-inning victory.
In that second inning, River Hill had seven hits and four walks, with Hayley Lala (2 RBI single) and Kinsey Johnson (2-RBI triple) doing the major damage.
Kristy Selby then did the rest on the pitching rubber, not allowing any more runs and finishing with three strikeouts. Courtney Colosimo also helped keep the Gators off the board by making a pair of tough catches in center field.
Colosimo (2-4, double, 2 runs scored, RBI), Caroline Hickey (2-2, 2 runs scored, RBI), Johnson (2-4, 2 triples, 2 runs, 4 RBI) and Kallan Dirmeyer (3-4) provided the standout offensive days for River Hill.
123 45 R-H-E
Re 200 00 2-2-1
RH 083 1x 12-12-2
Marriotts Ridge 8, Centennial 5
The Mustangs started fast, scoring four runs in the first inning and later added three more runs to carry it to the win over the Eagles.
Isabelle Sala and Kelly Hamilton each delivered doubles to help pace the Marriotts Ridge offense. Hamilton and Kate Smith split the pitching duties.
Centennial had scored quickly in the first with Camryn Allen (2-4, RBI, run) coming across after a leadoff single. But the team couldn't maintain the pace, finishing with six hits. Sammy Kastner (2-3, double, run) and Emily Allen (1-4, double, RBI) were the other offensive standouts for the Eagles.
Emily Bowman started the game at pitcher for Centennial before being relieved in the third by Josefine Jensen.
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C 100 400 0 5-6-5
MR 401 120 x 8-7-1
Mt. Hebron 12, Hammond 4
After a slow start, falling behind 3-1, the Vikings came on strong over the final four innings to pick up the eight-run win. Alli Bluhm went 4-4 with two triples, two runs and two stolen bases to spearhead the offense.
Evvie Buehlman also had a strong all-around day by reaching base four out of five at bats and then pitching first five innings with six strikeouts. Maddie Bennett ended up coming on in relief and struck out six of the seven batters she faced.
Rylee Kinsella, Buehlman and Kathryn Diaz each had 2 RBI apiece. The Vikings improved to 5-1 with the win.
Despite the loss, Hammond got a strong pitching effort from Emily Speierman who went the distance for her fourth game in as many days. She struck out nine batters and kept the Vikings off balance with a mix of curve balls and off-speed pitches.
Candace Jasper, Alycia Johnson and Samantha Mesol provided strong defense in the outfield for the Golden Bears. Amber Ginzburg (double, RBI), Keyuana Griffin (single, RBI) and Emily Dowdall provided the hits for Hammond.
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MH 010 305 3 12-8-2
Ha 210 010 0 4-3-6
Long Reach 15, Oakland Mills 0 (5 innings)
The Lightning won their third game in four days on Friday, scoring 11 runs in the first inning on the way to a lopsided victory over the Scorpions. Christina Doshim stayed hot for Long Reach, hitting a home run, a triple and a single. She had 5 RBI and scored three runs.
Other standouts for the Lightning were Stephanie Moy (1-2, walk, double) and Kelsey Widmaier (single at the plate, pitched 5 innings of shutout ball with one strikeout).
For Oakland Mills, Tekelle Evans (2-3) and Sydney Heflinger (single) led the way.
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OM 000 00 0
LR (11)03 1x 15
Atholton 21, Wilde Lake 1
The Raiders bounced back from a loss on Thursday with a five-inning victory.
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Wilde Lake got its lone run in the bottom of the fifth on a triple from senior Brittany Kuntz, which was her second of the week.
St. Paul's 5, Chapelgate 4
The Yellowjackets made a seventh inning rally, but fell a run short. It was Chapelgate's first loss of the spring.
Bethanne Venkatesan, Hyeji Cho and Jen Wolinski all had multi-hit games for Chapelgate, while Gabby Rowan had a team-high 2 RBI. Phoebe Cleaver and Venkatesan split the pitching duties.
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STP 104 000 0 5-3-0
CCA 002 000 2 4-8-1