Howard's Ashlyn Moynihan talks about the Lions' 3-0 victory over Hammond on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
When Howard played Hammond earlier this spring, a game it lost 4-1, the Lions failed to put a run on the scoreboard until the seventh inning.
So heading into Wednesday’s rematch with first-place in the county standings on the line, the entire focus for Howard was on being ready to go from the very beginning. And, as far as sophomore pitcher Samantha Hobert was concerned, the tone needed to be set long before the first pitch.
“This morning we all got together and decided we needed to get in the zone in right now, first period of the day. We needed our heads in the game and to have that focus the entire day,” Hobert said. “We knew we were capable of beating them, we just had to get ourselves in the right mindset.”
A winning mentality went a long way for the Lions, who scored a run in the top of the first to set the tone and then rode the arm of Hobert and the defense behind her the rest of the way to a 3-0 victory. The result creates a three-way tie for first place between Howard (13-2, 14-5), Hammond (13-2, 14-4) and River Hill (13-2, 13-3) with one game left in the regular season.
“We actually outhit them the first time, so confidence wasn’t a problem. But we knew this was a pressure game, so the key was being able to push that pressure down and being able to get ahead early really helped with that,” Howard coach Chuck Rice said. “The girls really came through today … pitching, defense and offense. We had all aspects of the game working.”
Hobert scattered four hits over seven innings, striking out seven and allowing two walks. Then offensively, Howard capitalized on clutch performances from Ashlyn Moynihan (3-4, RBI, run) and Jenna Unkle (2-3, double, 2 RBI).
It was a RBI single up the middle from Moynihan in the top of the first inning that scored Lindsey Smith (leadoff single) to put the Lions ahead right from the jump.
“Before, we didn’t really hit until the last inning. But I feel like today, we had everybody cheering, everybody was loud and everybody was pumped,” Moynihan said. “Getting that first hit really helped us throughout.”
Hammond threatened to answer right back in the bottom of the first inning with runners on second and third with one out, but a slow grounder to the Lions’ Smith at shortstop ended up with Brittany Brewer getting caught up between third and home for the second out of the inning. Hobert then picked up a strikeout to escape the jam.
Later, in the third inning, Hammond again put two runners on base. But a pop out to third ended that threat.
Golden Bears’ coach Russell Kovach said those little missed opportunities get magnified in a tight, low-scoring affair where both defenses are on top of their game.
“Props to both teams, they both played well and we had some chances I thought. I take some of the blame on that base-running play in the first inning … we score there and who knows how it changes the game,” Kovach said. “But big picture, this kind of game was great for us looking ahead to the playoffs. Outside of our games against Howard, we haven’t really played these kind of low-scoring match-ups and so being able to prove we can hang in and battle like we did today is something that we are going to have to do to make a run in the playoffs.”
Howard tacked on its second and third runs in the top of the fourth inning, with Moynihan leading off with a single and Sophie Morton following with a double. Then three batters later, with two outs, Unkle looped a double to the left centerfield gap that scored both runners.
Hobert then went to work, allowing just two runners to reach base over the final four innings. She said her screwball, high and inside, was her go-to-pitch all afternoon.
“At the beginning of the year, I was throwing mainly curveballs. But my coach noticed my screwball has been working better than my curve, so he started calling it more and today is was really working well.”
Howard closes the regular season against Wilde Lake Thursday afternoon, where a victory would secure a share of the county title.
Hammond still controls its destiny as well, with a win over Mt. Hebron on Thursday also securing it a share of the county title — what would be the first for the program since 2009.
“The girls are a little down right now, but we just talked in the postgame about how we absolutely can’t harp on this in our heads. We have to come back tomorrow ready to play against a Mt. Hebron team that took us to extra innings last time,” Kovach said. “The nice thing is, though, I’m extremely confident in this team and in their ability to bounce back. They’ve shown it all season.”
River Hill, which defeated Long Reach on Wednesday, can also secure a share of the county championship by defeating Marriotts Ridge in its regular-season finale Friday afternoon.
River Hill (13-2, 13-3) — 25, Long Reach (5-9, 5-9) — 3
The Hawks pounded out 18 hits and scored at least once in each of their four plate appearances to defeat the Lightning and move into a tie for first place in the county standings.
Brooke Gettier led the way at pitcher by allowing just six hits and striking out four. Jenna Kenyon (3-4), Delanie Vintz (4-4), Ella Wood (3-5, 2 doubles) and Ever Sheplee (3-4) all had big days offensively for River Hill.
Freshman Emma Behel led the way both offensively and at pitcher, helping the Vikings get the road win. She went 3-4 at the plate with 2 runs scored and a RBI, while also pitching the complete game and allowing just two earned runs.
Mt. Hebron scored seven times in the top of the second inning and three more times in the fourth, creating the cushion it held onto the rest of the way.
Grace Bennett, Jordan Hinz, Augusta Ruckdeshel and Esther Kim all had multiple hits in the loss for Centennial.
The Mustangs explode for 11 runs in the first inning and never looked back on the way to a five-inning victory. Molly Nies, Olivia Buchwald and Grace Filson all had multiple hits, with Buchwald and Filson each registering doubles.
Buchwald pitched the complete game and had five strikeouts.
The Gladiators scored at least once in every inning, including nine times in the second to set the stage for the road win. Shanoy Vassel had three hits and four RBI to lead the offense for Glenelg, while Amy Stetser added three RBI as well.
Juliet Nierle (3-3, 2 doubles, 3 RBI) led the offense for Atholton. Sydney Rhodes and Colleen Simmerly each also had doubles, while Riley Law, Haley Simmerly and Zoe Baskerville each went 2-3.