During its undefeated start to league play this spring, no hurdle has proven to be too high for Hammond.
That penchant for prevailing in the face of a little adversity was again the case Monday afternoon in a battle for county supremacy against River Hill.
After the visiting Hawks scored twice in the top of the second inning, the Golden Bears answered back with six runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame to take a lead they never lost the rest of the way en route to a convincing 12-2 victory. The bottom half of the lineup for Hammond (7-0, 7-1) got things going and the top half finished them off.
“Today we proved that we literally can do it from top to bottom and you could see just the whole energy change when we got that first run,” said Hammond first-year coach Russell Kovach. “Our last few hitters gave us that spark and then it was just lights out from there. I think them jumping on us, going ahead, woke us up a little bit and refocused us to the point where we started firing on all cylinders.”
Golden Bears’ leadoff hitter Brittany Brewer spearhead the offensive push with a 2-4 day that included a homerun, double and 5 RBI. But she also had plenty of help around her, with every single Hammond batter reaching base at least once.
The bottom third of the Golden Bears’ line-up — Kelly Noppenberger, Amanda Weirich and Kasey Smith — combined for two hits, three walks and five runs scored. During both of the team’s big innings, scoring six in the second and six more in the fourth, Hammond succeed in loading up the bases and turning things over for its power bats.
Brewer, who also pitched the complete game in the circle and allowed just five hits, said the positive culture around the team this spring has translated into success no matter what the situation.
“There’s a constant cheer, there’s picking up each other on the bench if someone is not having a good day. There’s a constant building up the team, rather than bringing it down and getting sad because we may be below [the other team],” Brewer said.
Hammond was below River Hill (6-2, 6-3) for a brief period during Monday’s match-up. After neither team scored in the first, the Hawks capitalized on RBI from Annabel McCullough (2-2) and Jenna Kenyon to score Ever Sheplee (1-2) and Quinn Kindbom for an early 2-0 advantage in the top of the second.
But Hammond wasted no time coming up with an answer, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring six runs in the bottom of that second inning. The Golden Bears had some big hits, including a 2-RBI double from Brewer and a 2-RBI single from Madison Berning. They also, however, successfully capitalized on three walks and an error.
River Hill coach Marni Rosenbaum said that self-induced mistakes — which also included a walk, hit by pitch and another error during the Golden Bears’ big fourth inning — proved to be too much to overcome against a good hitting team.
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“Obviously, once that momentum starts swinging in one team’s direction, it’s critical to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you … whether that be making an out, cutting down on the walks or making the heads up play,” Rosenbaum said. “Credit to Hammond, they capitalized today offensively and, on the other side, when they needed an out they made it.”
The fourth inning for Hammond, which ended up pushing the lead to double digits, started with a leadoff double from Taylor Liguori and later included a back-breaking three-run homerun from Brewer.
Afterward, Kovach said that he can see the confidence growing within this group with each passing day. Just shy of the midway point of the regular season, Hammond currently holds a one-game lead in the county standings over Howard (7-1, 7-2).
“We’ve shown that we can win in different ways, and I think that’s the biggest thing so far,” Kovach said. “Against Howard, in a low-scoring game, we showed we could pull out a tight game at the end. Today, we fell behind against a good team with a very good pitcher [Ella Wood] and we found that extra something to come back and score when we needed to. Really, I can’t say enough about what this group is doing right now.”
Hammond (7-0, 7-1) — 12, River Hill (6-2, 6-3) — 2
…….123 45 R-H-E
RH…020 00 2-5-2
Ha....060 6x 12-9-1