First-place Howard softball travels to Long Reach for a game against the fourth-place Lightning on Wednesday, April 27.

Howard's softball team found itself in the rare position this spring of having to play from behind in the early stages of its game Monday afternoon against Long Reach.

Yet, even with the first-place Lions trailing the Lightning 3-0 going into the third inning, the team's head coach Chuck Rice says he marveled at the composure his girls displayed.

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Howard (12-0 county, 13-2 overall) battled back to score at least once in each of the final five innings and pull away for an eventual 14-3 victory that keeps the team undefeated in league play this year.

"I thought the great thing was that we didn't blink and didn't show any panic," Rice said. "I was telling the girls that we were hitting everything hard, we just had to finish our swings and they would start falling in. I thought Long Reach had a great game plan, pitching us low and outside, but we countered and made adjustments."

Long Reach (7-5, 8-5) came into the game as one of the county's biggest success stories this spring after winning just three county games a season ago. And, through the opening two innings, the Lightning had all their talent on display.

Isa Carunungan allowed just two Howard hits the first time through the line-up and the Long Reach bats came alive to score three times in the bottom of the second inning.

Carunungan sparked the offensive rally with a lead-off triple and then, after Hailey Ramberg was hit by a pitch, Kamryn Walker came up and delivered a 2-RBI hit up the middle. Walker later scored on a RBI groundout by Allie Lerman.

But Howard regrouped, scoring once in the third to get on the board and then really broke through in the fourth inning. The Lions sent 10 batters to the plate, smacked five hits and took advantage of a handful of Long Reach errors to score five times and grab a 6-3 lead.

"Like I always say with us, it's completely mental at this point — we made four errors in that fourth inning and we just couldn't come back from that," Long Reach coach Melissa Boardman said. "Skill wise we are right there, but just mentally we just aren't quite there yet. I think we're still trying to get them to believe in themselves and believe that they deserve to be in the position they are this season as one of the better teams in the county."

In that fourth inning, Howard got RBI hits from Ally Wieman (2-3, 2 walks, 3 runs), Shanya Gordon (3-4, walk, 4 RBI, double, home run) and Jamie Bahrijczuk (2-2, walk, 2 runs, 2 RBI).

The Lions never slowed down after that, with three more runs in the fifth inning courtesy of a three-run shot over the fence in left field by Gordon. Then in the sixth, Rachel Oliver kick started things with a lead-off double on the way to three more runs to make it 12-3. Bahrijczuk and Steph Yarrish each collected RBI hits in the frame.

Then, for the icing on the cake, Julia Colton came through with a big 2-RBI hit to account for the final two Howard runs in the top of the seventh. Bahrijczuk and Katie Unkle (2-5, double) scored the runs.

"That's really hard to find, a good batting line-up one to nine and we have that this year," Oliver said. "I underestimated the team at the beginning of the year, but we're really hitting it well … if the first batter gets out, you know the second batter is going to come up and do their best to get back on."

While the offense heated up, the Lions' shut things down defensively. Wieman in the pitching circle finished with seven strikeouts in seven innings. Even more impressive was that she never allowed a Lightning base runner to get past second base following the second inning.

"Ally is getting a lot better about moving on and putting a bad inning behind her. You can see it, she's not putting pressure on herself with runners on base to make a perfect pitch and that makes a huge difference," Rice said. "She's relaxing and trusting her defense."

With five games left in the regular season, Howard maintains a three-game lead in the county standings on Mt. Hebron (9-3, 9-4) and Atholton (9-3, 9-4).

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"I think the girls feel at ease right now out on the field," Rice said. "They are out there having a good time and doing a great job picking one another up."

Howard 14, Long Reach 3

123 456 7        R-H-E

Ho       001 533 2        14-15-0
LR       030 000 0        3-3-6

Other scores:

Atholton 7, Reservoir 6

In a crazy game, featuring a wild seventh inning with seven combined runs, the Raiders ultimately won in walk-off fashion on a hit by Caitlyn Burmester (2-4, 2 RBI, home run) that scored Miranda Thompson (2-4, 2 runs).

Overall, Atholton scored three times in the bottom of the seventh after Reservoir had scored four times in the top of the inning to grab the lead.

On the day, Bethy Medina joined Burmester and Thompson in terms of having a big day at the plate. She went 2-3 with a home run and 3 RBI. The team's only other hit came from Allison Orlosky, who ended up scoring twice.

On the other side, Reservoir had eight different players record at least one hit. Highlights included Breann Smith going 2-4 with 2 RBI, along with Holly Daum going 1-2 and scoring three runs.

Atholton (9-3, 9-4) stays in a tie for second place in the county standings with the win.

123 456 7        R-H-E

Re        001 010 4        6-9-6

A         020 020 3        7-7-5

Mt. Hebron 15, Wilde Lake 0

Evvie Buehlman pitched four hitless innings and struck out seven of the 14 batters she faced, while also reaching base four times offensively, to lead the Vikings to the shutout victory.

Rylee Kinsella, Rachel Cadigan and Megan Holquist all added three hits of their own. Kinsella and Buehlman led the way with 4 RBI apiece. Other highlights came from Eliza Munns (2-2, walk) and Maddie Wright getting her first varsity hit.

For Wilde Lake, Kayleigh Gladden had a double down the right field line in the fifth inning for the team's lone hit.

123 45             R-H-E

WL      000 00             0-1-2

MH     852 0x             15-15-1

Glenelg 13, Oakland Mills 3

Katie Dustin racked up 4 RBI on three hits, including a home run, to pace a Gladiators' offense that scored four times in the first and ended up scoring in five out of six innings.

Paige Hoeflich and Gabrielle Browne (2-RBI double) each drove in runs in the first inning to get things going after Oakland Mills had scored once in the top of the first. Later, Browne added another two RBI on a single in the fifth inning.

Amy Stetser had seven strikeouts and allowed just four hits and two walks in her six innings at pitcher for Glenelg.

Oakland Mills had closed its deficit to 5-3 with a pair of runs in the third inning courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Courtney Logon and a RBI double by Emily Yarn. Zoe Smith and Lizzie Yu also provided a spark at the top of the Scorpions' line-up.

123 456           R-H-E

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OM     102 000           3-4-3

G         412 024           13-12-4

Centennial 15, River Hill 5

Emily Allen had her best game of the season, going a perfect 4-4, launching two home runs, two doubles, driving in 6 and scoring four runs. With her second double of the day, clearing the bases in the fifth inning, she reached the 100-career RBI mark.

Centennial had started fast in the top of the first with Carrie Strott (2-4, double, 3 runs) leading off with a double and then coming home on Allen's first home run over the fence in center. Then in the top of the third, the Eagles scored six times. Tori Montanez, Grace Rockefeller (3-3, RBI) and Samantha Sterenberg (2-4, double, 2 runs) all had big RBI hits in the frame.

River Hill got on the board three times in the third inning and another two times in the fourth to keep things interesting. Delanie Vintz highlighted the Hawks' offensive attack with a triple.

But Centennial just was too much. Allen hit her second home run to left field in the fourth, then added the double with bases loaded as part of a five-run fifth. Grace Bennett also had a RBI hit in the inning.

Jordan Ciraolo started the game at pitcher for Centennial and was relieved by Celina Jensen in the fourth. Defensively, Rockefeller made a nice catch in center, Allen picked off a runner at first and the duo of Sterenberg and Montanez had to shift positions because of an injury. The duo excelled at shortstop and second base, respectively.

"It was a great team win today, everyone contributed on both sides of the ball," Centennial coach Katie Grimm said.

123 456           R-H-E

C         206 151           15-14-4

RH      003 200           5-10-6

Marriotts Ridge 8, Hammond 2

The Mustangs trailed 2-1 going to the bottom of the third before scoring four times to grab the lead for good. Jordan Stepke led the Marriotts Ridge offense by going 3-4 with a double. Mikayla Barnard, Samantha Miller and Shannon Burbank all added doubles as well.

Romy Lindahl pitched for Marriotts Ridge, finishing with nine strikeouts.

Taylor Liguori, Kelly Smith and Brittany Brewer all had singles to account for Hammond's three hits.

123 456 7        R-H-E

Ha       002 000 0        2-3-1

MR      104 021 x        8-12-3

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