Playing its third game in three days to open the season, Howard coach Chuck Rice told his girls that the team's match-up against Centennial on Wednesday was going to be the measuring stick for where it's at so far.
Judging by the result, a 13-3 six-inning victory over the visiting Eagles, it appears the Lions just might be ahead of schedule.
Howard (3-0) strung together 13 hits, scored at least two runs in five out of the six innings and got a solid pitching performance from junior Jamie Bahrijczuk on the way to its third straight win this spring.
"I told the team before the game that Centennial is our barometer. They are equal to us at this point, basically the same caliber team," Rice said. "So this was a real test and our girls really showed up. We skipped some beats against Reservoir and Hammond the last two days, but from an all-around standpoint I was really pleased today.
"We hit, we got pitching and we did it against a very good Centennial team that were the only ones to beat us during the regular season last year."
The Lions wasted little time setting the tone. After holding Centennial (2-1) scoreless in the top of the first, Howard's Shannon Wiley led off with a double to left field. By the end of the frame, eight batters had come to the plate and the Lions had scored three runs.
"I think everybody starting out, playing as hard as they could, went down to everybody else in the line-up. We were all positive and we all stuck together," said junior Katelyn Penix, who got on base three times and scored a pair of runs on the afternoon. "Coach talked about starting out strong in the first inning and being ready to go for this (Centennial) team."
Errors played a role all afternoon for the Eagles, who committed two in the first inning and finished with five overall. The Lions capitalized on the mistakes almost every time, ending up tacking on two more runs in both the second and third innings.
While its offense didn't produce the runs it had in lopsided victories over Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills in the first two games of the season, Centennial still had plenty of hits of its own against the Lions.
As a team, the Eagles had a hit in each of the final five innings and finished with 10 hits on the day. Emily Allen had one of the day's biggest highlights when she led off the second inning with a home run over the fence in centerfield. Brita Hawtof and Emily Davis also added doubles.
The key for Howard was that, all game, it was able to limit the damage. Bahrijczuk continually made big pitches with runners in scoring position to halt rallies.
In the fourth inning, she got a strikeout to strand two runners on base and in the fifth she got a ground ball out to third with another two on.
"My catcher Rachel (Oliver) is great and we have played together for awhile, so she knows how to make me laugh and stay calm somehow in the tough spots," Bahrijczuk said. "It's really good to have her and to also have that great defense behind me, where I know they are going to pick me up."
Howard ended up putting the game away in the sixth inning, as pinch-hitter Eryn Keenan delivered a two-out 2-RBI single to right to bring in the final two runs and kick the slaughter rule into effect.
Rice says that ability to bring a hitter like Keenan off the bench is what makes this team so exciting this spring.
"I figured it was her time at that moment," Rice said. "I tell all the girls, because we have some really good players on our bench, give me time and I will make sure everyone gets their due. I'm going to do my best to put everyone in position to be successful."
As a team, Howard is quickly dispelling the notion that this was going to be a rebuilding season after graduating such a large and talented senior class from last year. Instead, as senior Kayla Devin points out, this is just a more balanced group with talented players that are simply still under the radar.
"We're obviously a very different team from last year, but we're still really strong. The whole line-up can hit, will hit and has hit for the last three games," said Devin, who finished 3-3 with a walk against Centennial. "I don't see us stopping. If we focus on each play and each pitch, we definitely have the talent to be right up there near the top again."
Evvie Buehlman pitched six shutout innings, striking out eight and giving up no hits going into the seventh. Maddie Bennett came on in the seventh to get the last three outs, striking out two batters while allowing one run.
Offensively, Rylee Kinsella tripled in the first inning to get things going and came home on Rachel Cadigan's single. In the fifth, a double by freshman Meghan Holquist and a single by Kinsella drove in two more runs.
Bennett, Kathryn Diaz and Stephanie Bluhm all had hits in the sixth to drive in three more runs.
For Glenelg, Claire Swan and Breanne Smith each had hits in the seventh inning. Smith's RBI single accounted for the team's lone run.
123 456 7 R-H-E
G 000 000 1 1-2-2
MH 100 023 x 6-9-0
Oakland Mills 14, Wilde Lake 12
In an offensive display that featured a combined 18 hits, it was ultimately the Scorpions prevailed on the strength of a seven-run fifth inning.
The Scorpions went up for good on an RBI single by Elizabeth Yu that scored Victoria Lee. Emily Yarn ended up getting the win at pitcher in relief, allowing three runs over the final 3 2/3 innings. She also had five strikeouts.
Lee finished with a team-high three hits, while Eugena Jones had a pair of his and 2 RBI.
For Wilde Lake, there were also standout performers. Senior Marissa Sciabarra went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI, Faith Leslie went 2-3 with a double, 2 runs scored and 3 RBI, while freshman Carly Espada went 1-3 with two runs scored and 2 RBI.
The game itself featured four lead changes.
123 456 7 R-H-E
WL 401 403 0 12-8-0
OM 322 070 x 14-10-1
River Hill 12, Marriotts Ridge 1 (5 innings)
It was a well-balanced effort from the Hawks, who got great pitching from Kristy Selby (8 strikeouts, 1 walk), great defense from Sara Mascone (two runners thrown out on the bases) and Mary Ellen Tokar (diving catch), along with great hitting that produced 12 runs.
At the plate, the stars were Courtney Colosimo (2-3, walk, double, 2 RBI and a run), Emily Hazzard (2-4, 2 runs, RBI), Kinsey Johnson (2-4, double, 2 runs), Sabrina Curtiss (2-3, walk, double, 3 RBI) and Caroline Hickey (2 walks, 2 runs).
For Marriotts Ridge, Mikayla Barnard had one of the offensive highlights with a double.
123 45 R-H-E
MR 100 00 1-5-1
RH 130 62 12-12-1
Atholton 14, Long Reach 4
The Raiders picked up their first win of the season and did it behind an offense that produced at least two runs in every inning.
Senior captain Amanda Petersen led the effort with a 4-4 day that included three doubles, 3 RBI, 4 runs scored and a walk. Freshman pitcher Patty Drumheller won her first varsity game, going five innings, striking out three and walking only one. Drumheller also went 2-4 at the plate with three runs scored and an RBI.
Sophomore second baseman Allison Orlosky went 3-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Sophomore shortstop Bethy Medina went 3-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Junior first baseman Caitlyn Burmester went 2-2 with an RBI and senior outfielder Jenny Mathews went 1-1 with three walks, a run scored and 2 RBI.
123 45 R-H-E
LR 220 00 4-6-0
A 423 23 14-15-0
Reservoir 21, Hammond 4 (5 innings)
Reservoir jumped on top early with a combined eight runs in the first two innings. Then the Gators put things away with another nine in the fourth inning.
Carly Clarke had a particularly big day for the Gators, smashing a grand slam and also adding a triple to finish with 5 RBI. Other big efforts came from Anna Bennett (2-3, double and single) and Emily Wang (double, 4 RBI).
Hammond's lone scoring inning came in the bottom of the fourth, where the team plated four runners. The team finished with four singles, and there were a few notable highlights for the Golden Bears. Sophomore Karina LaCroix got her first varsity hit and freshman Sophie Baldwin had a hit for her third consecutive game.