Earlier this season, following a 15-5 loss to Long Reach, Marriotts Ridge coach Karyn Curley said she sat her girls down and the team made a decision to start over.
"After losing that game to them, we kind of decided we were going to be a new team … it was a new season," Curley said. "It started that next day, where we beat Centennial and, honestly, I think that was kind of the turning point of our season. That's when we meshed as a group and everything changed."
On Friday, in the return meeting against the Lightning, the Mustangs got to showcase just how far they've come.
After falling behind 3-1 early, Marriotts Ridge (5-9, 7-9) rebounded to score two runs apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to earn what ended up being a comeback, 7-4, victory over Long Reach (5-9, 5-9) on the road.
"We're just a completely different team than the one we were the last time we played them," said Marriotts Ridge's Katie Smith, who earned the win at pitcher. "We've really focused a lot on our hitting and, for whatever reason, we've had a tendency to do better when we are down or with two outs. We find a way to battle back in games and today was an example of that."
Since losing to Long Reach on April 3, Marriotts Ridge has won six of its last 10 games.
Getting the victory in the return meeting with the Lightning, though, took battling through a little adversity in the early stages.
After the Mustangs got a run in the top of the first on an RBI double by Alex Cwalina that scored Jordan Stepke, Long Reach answered back with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the opening frame.
It all started with two outs, as Alina Milauskas and Christina Doshim roped back-to-back doubles for the team's first run. Some heads up base-running that took advantage of a trio of wild pitches, followed by an RBI hit by Samantha Samples plated the other two for the 3-1 lead.
"I mean yeah we knew they would be ready for us (after last game), but we were fired up and ready to go too," Long Reach coach Melissa Boardman said. "We got some hits early and never put our heads down at any point after that, which was huge for us."
Marriotts Ridge's offense didn't find its rhythm right away, but Smith did settle down after getting out of the first. She stranded runners in scoring position in the second and third innings to keep the Lightning from increasing their lead.
In fact, over the final six innings, Smith struck out six and allowed just a single run.
"We got a little overaggressive I thought and hit into some quick outs, but take nothing away from Katie … she gets better as she goes," Boardman said. "She was throwing good strikes and some of them we just couldn't get ahold of."
With Smith quieting the Long Reach bats, that set the stage for Marriotts Ridge to battle itself back into it.
In the fourth inning, the team didn't generate a single hit, yet still scored twice thanks to a couple walks, an error and heads up base running on wild pitches.
Then in the fifth, the Mustangs took the lead with another two runs. Katie O'Boyle had a big RBI single, with Stepke and Smith scoring the runs.
But Marriotts Ridge wasn't done. After Long Reach cut its deficit to 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Abby Bakunas to drive in Doshim (double), Marriotts Ridge created even more separation with another two runs in the top of the sixth.
Smith provided the big hit this time, doubling home Alex Cwalina.
"Coach always says we may be ahead but we're not ahead by enough … we've got to have more. I definitely feel like the more runs we score the more confident we are," Smith said. "It's huge to get those last few in."
Smith set Long Reach down 1-2-3 in each of the final two innings to secure the victory, getting a little defensive help along the way. In the seventh, a diving catch by O'Boyle in centerfield and an overhead catch by Stepke at shortstop helped close things out.
For Long Reach, while the loss was disappointing, Boardman was quick to point out just how far her team has come since this point last spring.
"It is a huge difference from last year. We have more wins right now than we did my first four seasons put together," Boardman said. "The girls are working so hard, they come out ready for practice every single day and they are just ready to play. They are enjoying it and having so much fun and even the games we are losing, we are so much more competitive in."
Marriotts Ridge 7, Long Reach 4
123 456 7 R
MR 100 222 0 7
LR 300 010 0 4
Glenelg 6, Reservoir 1
Alison Piwowarski went 3-3 with all singles at the plate, leading the Gladiators on their way to the five-run win over the Gators.
Glenelg's big inning was the fifth, where it scored five times. Brooke Redmond delivered the big hit, a 2-RBI single.
Tara Thompson ended up delivering Reservoir's lone run with an RBI double in the seventh inning.
Gina Netreba pitched the complete game for Glenelg, allowing six hits, one run and striking out five. Emily Wang struck out five as Reservoir's pitcher.
123 456 7 R-H-E
G 000 050 1 6-12-0
Re 000 000 1 1-6-2
River Hill 6, Atholton 2
Kristy Selby was a two-way star in the victory for the Hawks, as she not only pitched seven strong innings, but also delivered a home run.
Alex Herschman pitched for Atholton, while Maya Schwartz delivered a double for one of the visiting Raiders' offensive highlights.
123 456 7 R-H-E
A 200 000 0 2-6-1
RH 024 000 x 6-8-3
Mt. Hebron 12, Wilde Lake 0 (5 innings)
Maddie Bennett pitched the complete game, striking out 15 batters for the Vikings. Stephanie Bluhm, Rylee Kinsella and Sammi Cadigan each had two hits apiece to lead the offense. Julia Miller played well defensively for Mt. Hebron.
Wilde Lake didn't muster much offense, but Tiara Brown did make four huge catches in left field, including two diving grabs that prevented runs.
123 45 R-H-E
WL 000 00 0-0-2
MH 218 1x 12-13-1
Centennial 5, Hammond 1
Centennnial got a dominating performance from pitcher Emily Bowman (11 strikeouts, four hits against) on the way to the victory over the Golden Bears on the road.
Emily Speierman also struck out 11 batters at pitcher for Hammond, with Kelly Smith leading the Golden Bears' offense two singles.
123 456 7 R-H-E
Howard County Times: Top stories
C 121 001 0 5-7-2
Ha 100 000 0 1-4-3
Howard 16, Oakland Mills 0 (5 innings)
Courtney Merson pitched a no-hitter, giving up just one walk, to lead the way for the Lions. Kimmie Vaughn went 4-4 with 4 RBI, while Kayli Paugh launched a solo home run to lead Howard's offense.
123 45 R-H-E
Ho 471 40 16-25-0
OM 000 00 0-0-5